How to Not Fuck it Up When You Meet a Guy You Like

guy-yawning-pic

When I was in my twenties, fresh out of university with an impressive list of degrees to my name and dumber than a box of hair, I was lucky enough to land a job at a glossy women’s magazine. Only the tea girl was lower in the pecking order than I was, but coming straight from the hallowed walls of my ivy league-ish university and having read every hard book ever written twice, I fancied myself to be rather smart, and also believed that I had something of great significance to contribute to our monthly features meetings where we (they) decided on the content of the next mag.

It took me about five minutes to realise that you can quote Germaine Greer till you’re eleventy shades of purple, but when it comes to men and courtship (yes, we are still in the fifties) well… we are still in the fifties. All that stuff about equality of the genders is deeply true and correct, but it doesn’t help a sister one smidgen of an iota when she is Dating Seriously and trying her damnedest to not fuck it up with The Guy.

Through the one decade older and entire lives wiser women I worked alongside I learnt some deeply important truths, truths that have, over the decades, proved themselves to be truly true. And their trueness is ridiculous because we should be above all this by now and able to be honest and upfront about what we want and how we feel. But, you know how little boys at playschool show up in their pyjamas and dribble and hit things while the girls wear matching outfits, have good hair and make complicated social arrangements? It kind of stays like that forever (sorry, boys, and also sorry for what’s about to come, I know you’ll tell me off properly in the comments section).

The truth is that, for the most part, we women meet a man and want to marry him and also breed by about next Thursday. Men, for the most part, are still wondering if it’s strictly necessary to change out of their pyjamas that day. Which is why, in the early days, we girls need to manage ourselves and our expectations of fledgling relationships if we don’t want said guy to run away crying in fear. And managing ourselves and the situation requires a bit of self-discipline, but is actually much easier to implement than one would expect. You just have to pretend you’re a character in a Jane Austen novel for a while and everything – including Mr Darcy – will go your way.

  1. WWJAD (What Would Jane Austen Do?)

What indeed (see, I knew all those hard books would pay off somehow in the end). What Jane definitely wouldn’t do is sleep over in the first few weeks. It’s soooo tempting because all that Mulderbosch and tomorrow’s Sunday and he made lamb shank for you and everything’s so cosy. This, by the way, does not mean not shagging. You can shag to your heart’s content (if you are a few weeks in, that is. Never, ever do that thing on the first or the second date. I promise. Take it from Jane). But staying the night is too familiar and what’s going to happen is that after coffee and a walk to the bakery the next morning the temptation to stay the day is going to be enormous and next thing you know three days will have passed and you’re still in his t-shirt, only he’s gotten a bit jittery and has developed a nervous tic and keeps gazing longingly out the window because The Spookery has set in and all he wants is to GET AWAY. Do not let things get to this point. Get in your car and go home directly after the shank and the shag. Even if he begs you to stay. If you absolutely must stay the night, leave very early next morning. Because you know better than him what he needs. Go! Voetsek! Hamba! And don’t phone him either. Stalk him on Facebook and go to bed.

The Spookery 

Here’s what that is. On the whole, young men are not as eager to settle down as their female counterparts, ie within the first week of meeting. For this reason they tend to be skittish, excitable and easily spooked. These are the things that spook them:

  • The idea that you might need them for anything, ever.
  • The idea that their personal freedom might be curtailed in any minute way at any time in the near or distant future.
  • The idea that somebody might make a suggestion regarding their laundry and/or personal hygiene/lifestyle/eating habits and that they will feel obliged to change some aspect of themselves.

But The Spookery is really easy to avoid. All you need to do is not be scary. Being scary is knitting toilet seat covers for his digs, being available to hang out with him all the time and sending whatsapps asking him where he is and why he hasn’t whatsapped you. This last thing is very, very spookery-inducing, so I’m going to devote a whole paragraph to that.

3. The WhatsApp Thing

This is a zone of pure treachery, as is the whole social media domain. How people remain in relationships and get married in this era of who-the-fucks-that-girl-in-the-pic and the damning two blue ticks is a mystery and a miracle to me. I can tell you for free that I would be single and living amongst cats had I been dating in the time of Facebook. Again, the rules are simple and have to be adhered to.

  • you never send the first text. Let him send it. He needs to send it. If you don’t let him send it by sending yours first he’ll get confused. They are like that.
  • you never send the last text. If he says, ‘cool! Look forward to seeing you!’ You don’t say, ‘yes! Will be so awesome! Look so forward to seeing you too! You’re so adorable! I love you and I want to marry you! xxxx.’ You don’t say that thing. You say this thing: (               ). Nought words. You think the other things, but you put your phone away, eat some raisins and go for a walk. He might check his phone and think, hmmm, she didn’t answer. Did I come on too strong? Am I too much? Does she even like me? LET HIM THINK THESE THINGS. If he’s a little unsure of you he’ll be much less likely to dribble and show up in his pyjamas, metaphorically speaking. Let him work for you. He wants to. He likes that. It’s his job.
  • You never, ever send a second whatsapp. I’ve said this before here. If he doesn’t answer you, scream into your pillow, phone a friend, go for a run, slap yourself with a Havaiana but whatever you do, do not send a follow-up whatsapp. He will answer you in due course or he won’t. If no reply comes, he doesn’t like you enough. Move along swiftly and don’t humiliate yourself anymore.

4. Be a Green Birkin

Present yourself in increments. Like in the olden days, when you like the boy go slow. Not just for him, for you. This is not about giving up your power, it’s about stating your strength and acknowledging your independence and knowing that not for one second do you need a man to give your life meaning. It’s about not giving all your plans and your friends and everything else up the minute he crosses your threshold. We were all fed that nonsense about being half people without a man in our lives. And don’t berate yourself if you want to walk down the aisle so badly you can taste the tulle. It’s not a weakness, it’s just the way we were raised. But with all your being resist the urge to drop your life and move into his. Be who you were before you met him: fabulous and busy and a little bit unavailable. It’s the same with shoes and bags and apartments. The second you can’t have something that thing becomes insanely desirable. Remember that you are a rare creature of astounding magnificence, and any man would be deeply lucky to have you around, so don’t sell yourself cheap. Be that Birkin bag everybody wanted but nobody could buy. Allow him into your life. Take it from this lady who knows what she’s talking about.

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Why You Must Never, Ever Send a Guy a Second Whatsapp

It’s a good thing smart phones and social media hadn’t been invented when I met my husband because I can tell you, for free, we would not be together now. While I am fun and delightful, I am also mammothly needy and intense, and he would have taken one look at the 19 whatsapps I’d sent before 7am and run for those proverbial hills. Which would have been a shame, because we’re actually great together. He is logical and sensible and easygoing, while I am more, well… not any of those things. And therefore we balance each other nicely. But I can say with absolute certainly that I would not have managed that space and the whole instant accessibility thing well.

Back in those days (which are now pretty much regarded as the dark ages but was actually only about thirteen years ago) not even everyone had cell phones. You still relied on a landline which sometimes, but not always, had an answering machine. Therefore, when the guy you were crushing on madly didn’t answer it meant he wasn’t home and you had to go away and think about something else (Or drive past his house but that’s just nuts and I never, ever did that. At all.) Me, in my twenties, with a smart phone? It would have a mess on wheels. I would have been relentless – messaging, tagging, instagramming, whatsapping and then freaking out when he didn’t answer me instantaneously, as in the following second.

Instead, I was forced to be patient and wait till he came back from his dive/finished watching the game/ended his working day till I could impose myself on him again, which led him to believe that I was more reasonable than I really was. So, it’s with great empathy and tremendous referred pain (from them to me) that I watch my single girlfriends navigating the dating website space and conducting these agonizing exercises in torture otherwise known as chatting to a new guy. And I cannot judge their eagerness and concomitant devastation when he doesn’t take the bait for one nanosecond, because that would have been me.

But on Sunday I went for a walk with a new girlfriend who shared a simple, but very clever little analogy re the whole dating website/new guy fiasco. And, being a dispassionate observer who is not (god forbid) looking for a man, I can see how absolutely correct and appropriate it is, and share it with you. She said, when you meet a new guy, either in person or online, you’ve got to imagine a tennis court with two people on either side and a ball going back and forth. Back and forth is the only way. You serve, he returns your ball. You send it back to him, he sends it back to you, and so it goes on. If he does not return the ball to your court, you do not serve again. There is one ball in this game. It is tennis, not snooker. If that ball doesn’t come back to you, you wait. And wait. Still not coming? He’s on another court. Move on. Don’t ask him where the court is or what he’s doing on it – he doesn’t want to play with you, and that’s all you need to know.

And yet all the time I see the women sending that ball over, then sending another and then another still, and then asking, why doesn’t he answer? Was it something I said? What’s his problem? And then taking their communication apart word for word in an attempt to decipher its hidden message. There’s no hidden message – he doesn’t want to play ball with you so you must go away. It’s much simpler than we believe. We sit there over-analysing, picking things apart, second-guessing: what is he doing? Why is he online and not answering me? Who else is he talking to? When none of this matters. It’s irrelevant. Despite all this technology which (for better or for worse) keeps us connected 24/7 some things have stayed the same: if the boy likes the girl he will go and get her. And that’s the long and the short of it.

Stop sending more balls – it just makes you look desperate. Even if you just want to say this one thing – don’t. Even if it’s the funniest, cleverest thing anyone has ever said in the world – don’t do it. He’ll feel hounded and think you’re psycho and not like you anymore. True story. And it’s easy as hell for me to say this because my dude is chained to the net, bless his tennis socks, but at the same time this vantage point allows me to see things a lot more clearly than I would if I were waiting to see if the little yellow ball was coming my way anytime soon. And if this guy isn’t game, eff him; there are many more where he came from. You served, he missed, game over.