Almost three years ago, in the middle of The Love Project, I was having a conversation with a male friend over lunch. He complained to me about a girl he started seeing that took hours to respond to his texts and sometimes even days.
‘I don’t understand,’ he said. ‘It’s not like she doesn’t like me, she does respond to my text eventually, it’s just frustrating sometimes,’ he confessed. ‘For instance, I invited her to a concert with me, but if she can’t make it, I wanted to invite a friend.’
‘It looks like she’s doing The Rules on you,’ I suggested.
‘The Rules?’ he asked. “what are those?’
So I proceeded to telling him about the dating rules made famous by the eponymous book by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider in the nineties. About how women should act aloof, inaccessible, mysterious and hard to get, whether they felt like it or not. That only by acting this way, they will ensure everlasting love and respect from men.
The book was a bestseller and a worldwide success. An equivalent book aimed at men, The Game, also found its way to success and soon everybody was more or less playing by ‘The Rules’. And even though they were the darlings of the work hard, play hard yuppie generation, they somehow made it into the Millennial playground.
I want to make a clear distinction between playing and games. Playing is fun and free and it doesn’t have to serve a purpose. Games are the opposite; they require strategy, concentration and have an end goal in sight.
Playing is fun and healthy. The ability to play is what we’ve come completely equipped with when we first came into this world. Nobody taught us how to play. What we’re been taught though, is to stop playing and to start gaming.
You gathered by now that I’m not a big fan of games, when it comes to dating. In fact, I’m not a big fan of games when it comes to anything. Games don’t come naturally, they must be learnt and abode by, they cripple our true nature in pursuit of a specific target. By their very nature, games inspire competitiveness (you will either compete with the person you’re dating for the who outsmarts who prize or against others that are just like you, looking for the ’perfect’ partner). Playing on another hand (for instance, flirting is one way of playing when it comes to dating) is charismatic, fun, light and incredibly attractive.
Strange statements, you must think, from someone who used project management to find love. I must confess that when I first came up with The Love Project, I was focused on the end goal: being in a relationship at all costs. I even went as far as studying The Rules and trying to employ them. Only to fail miserably. A few months into The Love Project I reconsidered my situation and decided to focus on the journey rather than on the destination. I let go of games and started playing more. I began to have more fun in life, whether out dating, or simply going about my day-to-day. I took away the pressure and found myself happier, more confident, more creative and ten times more attractive.
When I met my fiancée I was in full swing of being joyful and playful. It was because of this new attitude that we clicked immediately. And yet, two months into dating, something went wrong. He distanced himself from me and I found myself desperately clinging to The Rules again, pretending to be unavailable and not to contact him either, to ’give him space’. It didn’t work and I was beyond heartbroken but didn’t know what to do. My last resort was to be open and tell the truth. We reconnected because I stopped playing games.
We are all unique and lovable. We will all find someone who likes our face, or bum, our love handles, our nose, our laugh, our pancakes or our dreams. There’s no point in playing games. If we hide behind layers of ‘shoulds’ and ‘shouldn’ts’, if we can’t be who we are and tell the world about it, then chances are the right person won’t be able to find us.