The Sport of Dating

Getting played and playing the field.

Q: Blane, I met this guy over a year ago. We hit it off immediately and started dating right away. We spent every day together for a month until his ex-girlfriend found out and called him crying with a story about her granddad being sick and how she needed him. He, of course, broke things off with me and tried to work things out with her.Shortly after, he found out she lied about the whole thing and did it to get us apart. He apologized, of course, and explained everything, but after that, we were still on and off in three-week increments. About three months ago, he called and said, “You make me the happiest I’ve ever been, and I’m tired of fighting it.” When we’re together, it’s amazing on all levels. He tells me things in confidence and constantly reminds me how strong our connection is. But as soon as I leave, he acts like we’re just friends and will occasionally e-mail, call or text. Every time I bring it up, he says we’re too perfect when we’re together and he gets freaked out and is messed up in the head when it comes to women. I feel like it’s a cop-out, but for some reason, I can’t kick this bad habit. I try and go on dates with other guys who are extremely nice, but I always end up reverting back to him. Am I a total idiot?—Frustrated

A: You haven’t sunk to the depths of total idiocy yet, Frustrated. But if in a month, you’re still singing this sad little tale, you’ll have certainly earned the dishonor of that description.

You’ve already outlined all the things that are just plain wrong about this situation. His running back to his ex. His mixed signals. And especially (if I read it correctly) his self-described “messed up in the head” M.O. (Which works like pick-up pixie dust, by the way.) Wanna get laid until you’re cross-eyed, guys? Then proclaim the following: “I’m messed up in the head when it comes to women.” The ladies, each sure that they’re the only one who can crack your emotional epoxy, will be catfighting for your attention faster than you can say push-up bra.

Forget what he’s saying—like that you “make him the happiest [he’s] ever been” (puh-lease, what gives with the friend treatment then?) —and focus instead on what he’s doing: dropping you the instant his ex comes a’ callin’ (she’s likely still in the picture, by the way, among others); keeping you guessing; and generally treating you like the floor mat of a Manhattan cab. You can do so much better. And you can kick this bad habit, but you gotta do it cold turkey.

So focus on the three Ds of moving on: defriend, delete and decline. That means no calling, no texting, NO SEXING. And don’t think you have to overcompensate on letting yourself get treated poorly by dating guys who invoke Mr. Rogers in the nice department. There are plenty of mature, well-adjusted men who, instead of putting women down or putting them on a pedestal, simply treat them with respect. Go and find your newly empowered self one.

Q: I’m a single, professional gal. Lately, I have been tending to fall for the younger guys. OK—maybe fall is too heavy of a word. They are the boys that I take interest in and end up making out with at the end of the night (but I do hear from them afterward and have kept in contact—although both live out of town—which is a whole other problem). I am 36 (gulp) and the last two have been 25 and 27—way below what society says is OK (or maybe it’s just my friends). I am having fun, but shouldn’t I be sticking to my own age group? Could anything good come of this?—Robbing the Cradle

A: Sure, plenty good could come of it: deliciously flirty phone conversations, great weekend visits, rollicking good sex—maybe even a real love connection. Why stifle all the potential positives because of what your friends think? They’re probably just secretly jealous that you, Miss Thang, are romping with the young bucks while they’re sitting around knitting cell phone covers for their hubbies.

First of all, 36 is not an age that requires a gulp or an exclamation point—shame on you! Neither do gaps of nine and 11 years, especially not when the younger party is in his mid- to late-20s. If you have fun and things in common with these guys (besides shared saliva at last call, that is) and your age difference isn’t the defining element in your connection (yes, Linda Hogan, I’m talking to you), then what’s the prob? Sure, you’re right that society rightfully recoils at the thought of Hogan and that teen peen, and the term “cougar” does have an ick factor connotation. But overall, I think there’s a “You go, girl!” vibe that continues to gain momentum along with the growing acceptance of women hooking up with younger men.

Now, if you’re continually chasing younger dudes as a sort of affirmation that, “Hell yeah! Girlfriend has still got it!,” then we might have a little problem. But if not, I say carry on, you saucy Cradle Robber, you.

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