I think it needs to be said that I was basically a boy for the better part of my youth. I was a young tomboy, and not in the way Joey Potter from Dawson’s Creek or P.J. from My Boys were. I was not a lithe and graceful low-maintenance beauty who could prance around in t-shirts, jeans, and no make up and look like I belonged on a magazine cover. I was not fresh-faced and good to go with just a berry lipstick trotted out on special occasions. I was awkward and frizzy-haired with hips and breasts at a young age, taller than everyone, routinely putting on 20 pounds before a growth spurt in which I sprouted up 4 inches. My guy friends weren’t attracted to me, didn’t harbor secret crushes on me, and didn’t end up as my friends-with-benefits (aside from those one or two sloppy, drunken bad ideas).
This was so much the case that I actually had one of my friends say, “Yeah, you’re a girl, but I don’t really think of you as one. So you don’t count.” (Cha-ching. That was like 6 years’ worth of therapy right there. Dude, you owe me one big fat check. Or a massive cocktail.) But the cool thing about it – besides having wonderful friends and pressure-free escorts to any last minute events – was that I eventually got to experience how guys talk to each other when all the girls leave the room. Most of you girls think you know what that sounds like, but trust me -you don’t. I heard the shocking, the ugly, the depressing, the infuriating, and even the surprisingly poignant. It was… educational. Sort of. It certainly was ethnographic, at the very least.
So as I believe in turning growing pains into something useful, I figured I’d shared the lessons I’ve gleaned whilst in the other team’s locker room (which isn’t totally a metaphor when the guys get comfortable enough to shower and change in front of you – true story). And what’s basically the only reason you’d want to know what guys are thinking? Dating.
The following are a few dating truths I’ve uncovered, in semi-He’s Just Not That into You style. I’ll preface this with the caveat that there are, of course, exceptions to every one of these rules:
1. The one week rule is true. I once read that if a guy doesn’t call you within a week, he’s not interested. The rationale being that no one is so busy that they can’t stop for 5 minutes to call within 7 days, even if it’s just to say that they’re swamped. And with text, email, and nuclear launch codes available from phones these days, this is even more true.
If a guy’s interested he will call within a week (with a suitable waiting period so as to seem aloof and interesting). Plus who wants a guy whose so lukewarm about you it took him 12 days to bother to contact you? So if it’s been 8 days plus and he still hasn’t called, do yourself a favor and delete him from your phone and move on. I’m serious, go now! I’ll wait.
Did you do it? Good, onto the next.
2. So you slept with him on the first date? Yeah, you’re never hearing from him again. And while I’m sure there are relationships out there which started this way, I haven’t heard of any since college. Ah yes, the Madonna/whore complex is alive and well. As one of my guys so sagely put it: “There are the girls you sleep with and the girls you date.”
I’ll give that a second to sink in.
Once I verified that I had not, in fact, stumbled into the 1950’s, I never forgot this moment. I’m not saying it’s right or fair because it definitely isn’t. But if you want a long-term relationship out of the deal (and you may not, which is cool), you’re not gonna get it. The best you can hope for out of this guy now is a booty call and even that’s iffy.
3. Don’t friend him on Facebook. It just weirds him out. I’m not 100% sure why, but it does. Wait an acceptable period of time (like, say, right before your rehearsal dinner). The added benefit of this is that you can maintain some mystery for a while and not let yourself get psyched out by every friend of his who leaves a flirty message on his wall but turns out to be a lesbian with a glass eye.
4. And while we’re on the topic of mystery… keep it going. Don’t lie or withhold, but keep some stuff to yourself. Never mention ex’s (in his head, he’s still playing the no-other-man-has-ever-existed-besides-your-dad game), money, personal problems, body issues, diets, work drama, or friends you can’t stand. As a rule, just stay away from any negative topics in general.
It’s easy to get carried away when you feel a true connection with someone. As a chronic sufferer of verbal diarrhea, I sympathize. But at the crucial beginning stage oversharing = death. If it’s a relevant topic, try to spin it positive: “Yeah my grandfather passed away last year too – but my family is so supportive and we got through it together. Plus having a giant rack and no gag reflex really helped.” (Just kidding about that last part. Kind of.) You’ve got to realize that the more you bitch about the bad stuff, the more he’s seeing “PROJECT” stamped across your forehead.
5. Asking men out is tricky. Sure guys say they love it when girls ask them out because it seems cool and ballsy, but in their head they’re picturing Brooklyn Decker doing the asking. It requires a keen ability to read the situation and the guy, because some men are really into the chase while others are shy. Some men may be on the fence about a girl and then immediately turned off when she seems too eager. It’s a very case-specific thing. But when in doubt, honestly, I say go for it. I know from experience that whatever regret you have from not going for it will far outweigh the temporary embarrassment you feel if things don’t go well. Wondering “what if” will just kill you.
6. For the love of all things holy, never ever ever EVER EV-ER use the “B” word until you’ve had the official talk. I don’t care if he calls you every night before bed and willingly lets you eat french fries off his plate, reads you his high school poetry and skips Sunday football to go shopping with you – don’t call him your boyfriend until he’s actually said yes, he is your boyfriend. You wouldn’t start printing up business cards before you got the job, so don’t jump the gun on this one. It’s presumptuous and could scare him away. But mostly it just annoys me, as I’m sure it does everyone else, when we have to listen to those ridiculous girls who think every guy they grab drinks with after work is their boyfriend.
7. Stop assuming everything has a hidden meaning. Men are simple. They’re even more simple than you assume they are. Don’t parse voicemail messages for hidden subtext or analyze a four-word text with your friends for half an hour. Don’t pick apart everything they said on your date as if it had some great insight into his thought process. There’s really not much of a thought process at all outside “Sex sex sex, beer, food, sex, video games, sex sex sex, repeat.”
Men do not put the time and thought and effort women usually do into how they speak and behave. And they’re not subtle either. If they want to ask you out, they will. If they like you, they’ll call. If they want to sleep with you, they’ll try to sleep with you. If they don’t like you or they’re not interested, they’ll disappear. Right now you’re saying, “But what if…”
No. No “but what if.” There are no but’s. There are no what-if’s. Don’t make yourself insane trying to figure it out. He’s not that interesting and you’ve got a busy life to go live. So put down the cell phone and walk away.
8. And the final rule: you’re gonna fuck up. You’re gonna fuck up, he’s gonna fuck up. We all fuck up, myself especially. I have violated every single one of these rules in one way or another. Even when, at the time, I knew I was doing something stupid (and did it anyway). Sometimes you get excited by someone truly unique and you forget your common sense. As hard as it is, take a beat and remember that you know better.
And on the inevitable day that you mess up and break one of these rules, remember the last one: if he really has feelings for you, none of these mistakes are anything you can’t recover from. The cliche that when you meet the right person things are just easy is a cliche for a reason – it’s true. The first part of the relationship is so amazing. Don’t waste it stressing over what he’s thinking.
But seriously, for the love of God, don’t sleep with him on the first date if you’re looking for a relationship. Just… bad.