Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Rules of Engagement

Advice from a Tomboy

This is a bit of advice that I offer from the position of having been close friends with a number of excellent guys and also from having five stunning sisters, who attract the attention of many a hopeful young man. I realize that I am not infallible. This is my opinion, which I have formed through many conversations with both of the aforementioned parties and much observation.

For many (hopefully most) of y'all, this will seem like common sense, and I thank God for you. For those who are surprised by this advice, all I ask is that, before you decide it isn't for you, take some time to actually think it over—it just might help spare you and those you love from years of unnecessary grief.

An additional disclaimer: these pieces of advice are a bit gender stereotyped because of my personal experience with these situations. Really these rules are for everyone and if you're breaking them, then you may want to rethink that decision.

For the Boys:

1. Don't be the “nice guy”.

I am not saying don't be a nice guy. I am saying don't be the “nice guy.” In case you don't have a computer or you spend little to no time online and are not familiar with the term “nice guy,” allow me to elaborate.

The nice guy is the guy who falls for a girl and then decides that she “owes” him a chance to win her in the context of a romantic relationship.

Here's the thing, gents: if you were not able to win her heart in the context of a friendship, a romantic relationship is not going to change that. If having known you for some length of time does not turn her heart in your direction, no amount of awkward dates, late night conversations, or charming gestures is going to change that. *Disclaimer: There are exceptions to this but it is generally best to assume you are the rule not the exception.*

No means no. If the girl turns you down, you need to let it go. Move on. You made a valiant effort, which she will respect you for—that is, unless you make yourself pathetic by repeatedly pleading at her feet for just one more chance.

Do not pretend to move on and hope that if you just keep doing nice, friendly things for her, she will suddenly see that you're the one for her.

Do not try again every year.

Do not tell all/any of your common friends how much you're in love with her. (They will most likely tell her and then she will be distressed and start to think that you're creepy. See #4.) Also, there is a high chance that your friends will find this type of confidence to be more than a little irritating.

Do move on. Let her go. Even if it means that you have to constantly remind yourself to abandon that dream, at some point you will really move on. Your feelings may be strong, but that doesn't mean they are her responsibility [or your eternal fate].

2. If you see a girl regularly, don't ask her out without actually getting to know her.

It's insulting to her and beneath you. While girls love it when their beauty is appreciated, they are not fans of the guys who project their ideal onto them and then never take the time to actually know the person. In other words, if a girl seems to be the perfect image of your fantasy girl, then you probably haven't gotten to know the girl that well. Fantasy people are not real (hence “fantasy”). The sooner to accept this, the better. (Really this applies to girls just as much...)

In a similar vein, do not confess your “undying love” to a girl that you don't know. Same reason as above.

3. Do not assume what hasn't been said. I know that girls are the queens of mixed signals and this is largely due to the fact that they believe in “hinting.” That said, if you haven't asked and she hasn't actually said that she likes you, do not assume that she does.

Every girl is different and that means the “sparkly eyes,” hair-twirling, special smile, sarcasm, random acts of kindness, etc. might not mean what you're thinking it means. Some girls really do put that much thought into every gesture—although I suspect that even those girls might only think that much about it when they're around the guy they like—but most girls are more like y'all than you'd think insofar as they just do whatever feels natural.

So, that time when your hands touched when you sat side by side could have been her sneaky way of letting you know that she thinks the world of you, but it's much more likely that she just wasn't paying attention to where her hand was resting. Don't over think it.

If you think she might like you and you like her, ask her out. If she says no, then leave it at that, no matter what your buddies tell you about the way her face “lights up” when you enter the room. Your buddies are WRONG. She told you herself. Listen to her.

4. Don't tell a girl when one of your buddies is thinking about asking her out. You are not Cupid. No matter how certain you are that your buddy needs an assist, resist that impulse.

Interference cannot be undone and your helpful heads-up may have just killed your pal's chances with the lady in question. And if you should happen to discover that the lady is not interested, do not keep apprising her of your pal's feelings for her.

These are not the actions of a wing man; these are the actions of a petty gossip. If he's going to ask her out, then he will man up and do it, and she will answer. Being the go-between just creates drama, diminishes your buddy's credibility as a man, and causes the gal to read into everything he does. All this because you decided that your pal couldn't handle this on his own.

For the Girls:

1. Enough with the hinting. 

If you want a gentleman to know something, just tell the poor guy. Don't create this intricate treasure map of clues for him to figure out that you're having a bad day, not interested, very interested, or whatever you're trying to clue him in to.

If it's not something that is appropriate for you to tell him, then you probably shouldn't be hinting about it either. If it's something that he must know, hinting is insufficient. I'm not talking about making the first move here (see #2); I'm talking about reciprocation, resolving conflict, reminding him of important dates, etc.

He probably won't figure out that you like him just because you wore his favorite color the other day—and meanwhile that “nice guy” in whom you have no interest will be reading into that fact because it’s also his favorite color. If you make it a rule to communicate in a straightforward way, then he'll get the message—and you'll have a clear precedent to fall back on when said “nice guy” accuses you of flirting with him.

2. You cannot answer a question that has not been asked

No matter how hard you try, it will not work. Telling that “nice guy” that you're not interested before he even asks you out will only result in the awkward, “Oh, I know! I completely understand where you're at and I'm not interested either” conversation.

If a guy is unrelentingly pursuing you in the passive manner that is so typical of “nice guys,” you may address the behaviors, but not the assumptions that you have drawn from said behaviors. In other words, if he keeps trying to hold your hand, the proper response is, “I do not like it when you try to hold my hand and would appreciate it if you stop,” not “Now, I hope that we're clearly understood that we are just friends and I am not romantically interested in you.”

I mean, you can try the second response, but you're either going to end up looking like an idiot when he tells you you've completely misread the situation or he's probably not going to listen to you and continue pining anyway.

Let him do the asking and you just deal with what is, not with what he might do.

Similarly, it is generally best to let the guy make the first move. If you want to date/marry a strong man, then you have to let him lead. This means not telling that guy you've secretly had a crush on for years that you like him. If he seems content to leave it at friendship, then just leave it at friendship. Or, tell him and risk losing the friendship or dating someone who's taking the “well, why not give it a try?” approach. In most cases, whoever starts in the lead stays in the lead.

3. Don't do the pity date. 

A man is a man and deserves to be treated like one. He is not a child. He can handle rejection, and you are not doing him any service by letting him believe that he stands a chance if you already know that he does not.

Imagine how emasculated he will feel when the awkward pity dates inevitably culminate in your confession to having gone out with him because he was so nice and you just “didn't want to hurt him.”

Rejection does hurt and he won't like it, but if you're not interested give the guy enough respect to treat him like an adult.

That doesn't mean that you have to be harsh about it, but be honest and clear. Don't use phrases like “not right now” and “maybe if things were different.” This leaves room for false hope. Just tell him thank you, but no, and only offer further explanation if he asks for it.

Consoling him is not your job. That's the job of his family and the idiot friends who convinced him that you loved him in the first place.

4. Don't listen to gossip about whether or not some guy likes you.

Whoever is telling you (even his best buddy) may be wrong and then you'll be all anxious and/or excited for no real reason. If he likes you and is serious about you, then he will make a move in his own good time.

What everyone else thinks or “knows” is irrelevant. If you catch your friends or his friends speculating about the two of you, shut it down and politely thank them not to meddle. Just discussing it may seem harmless but may also negatively alter the way that you think about that guy. Only deal with facts and your thoughts/feelings.

For all y'all crazy people:

1. Feelings < Thoughts

Yes, feelings are strong, distracting, and overwhelming. They also should not dictate your decisions, your actions, or really much else. You must be the master of yourself and let reason prevail (also discipline).

You ought not do something or abstain from doing simply because of how you feel. Feelings are not a sufficient reason. They are too changeable, too selfish, and many times have very poor timing. Listen to your heart (your heart, in this case, is not your emotions, but that deeper love that leads you to deny yourself and sacrifice your desires for the good of others), consider the solid advice of the wise people in your life, and let your conscience be your guide.

By all means, factor your feelings into your decisions, but don't let them dominate your interior forum. Logic, humility, and self-denying love should always take precedence. Trust me, they'll keep you out of a lot of trouble. And of course, as a friend added, the goal is happiness, not just pleasure.

Well, that's all folks!


1 comment:

Todd Russell said...

Yeah, the no pity date suggestion is really important. I can't stress enough that this is the most horrible thing a girl can do to a guy (well, aside from killing and eating him like a mantis).