Players and Game Players

Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Life in the Third Degree.

Being a woman, I don’t find that age-old question of “What do women want?” to be so hard. I know perfectly well what I want, though I’ll admit that it took on-the-job-training to understand what I don’t want. What men want is another matter altogether.

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There are men who date just for the sex. Women, too, but that’s another story. Men of this sort know exactly what they want, and she’s usually under 21 and a nympho-virgin. When I was under 21 and a nympho-virgin, I would take one look at guys in their 30’s and 40’s and think, “Old geezer, get away from me—you’re scaring off the guys my age.” Most of the time, my friends and I regarded them with amusement, pity, and primarily disgust. I never once looked at a man over 30 and thought he was hot, though I did have friends who liked the fact that older men had jobs and money enough to take them out to dinner. These were usually the friends who excused themselves to powder their noses after dessert and climbed out the bathroom window to go party with the bus boys.

The men who want—or claim they want—a “real relationship” are a bit trickier. I know quite of few of these single men: family, friends, friends of friends, family of friends, co-workers, and in my social and spiritual circles. Talk to any of them for longer than five minutes and they’ll tell you their dating horror stories and how much they hate dating. The one common theme is that in order to get to a “real relationship,” they want a woman who doesn’t play games.

I don’t know why that specific phrase keeps coming up, but it does. The corollary to that is that they want a woman who speaks her mind and goes after what she wants, particularly if it’s them she wants.

“I’m tired of women playing coy and expecting me to read their minds,” a guy-friend told me recently when we were chatting about being newly divorced. He and his ex had been separated for a long time prior to their divorce and he’d dated a bit in the interim. “I’m tired of women who act like they want a relationship,” he told me, “but what they’re really wanting is for me to spend money on them. I’m tired of having to be the hunter all the time. Just once, I wish a woman would be open and honest and ask me out.”

So I took a deep breath, steeled my courage, and asked him out to dinner. I knew he liked me—he’d made that clear on several occasions, even before I was divorced, but especially afterward—and he knew I liked him though during my marriage I’d never thought about him in the romantic sense. Let’s just say, I found him interesting enough to spend a few hours getting to know him better. Considering the speech I’d just heard, I didn’t think I was taking much of a risk.

Apparently, I was. It took a few seconds for my words to sink in. Then he did a perfect impression of a deer caught in headlights. His eyes widened. His went still. He stopped breathing. Next, his hands started to shake. He just stared at me, then started mumbling something about checking his schedule and getting back to me. A couple of awkward seconds later, he found an excuse to leave.

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A friend told me later that he was so totally caught off-guard that he didn’t know how to handle it. No woman had ever asked him out before. To bed, yes, but not to anything that might lead to something longer lasting. Yes, he wanted a woman to be open with him (I had been) and honest with him (always) and ask him out (I had), but in reality, he was so used to traditional roles that he never expected it to happen and didn’t know what to do when it did. I gave him what he wanted, and he blew it. He liked the fantasy but couldn’t handle the reality.

I wonder about all the men I know who spend their time grumbling about women who play games. They all seem to have the woman of their dreams mapped out in their heads—she’s smart, open, honest, assertive, plus a slew of often unrealistic physical attributes that hearken back to under-21 nympho-virgins and aren’t very likely to be found in a woman their own age. What would any of them do with a woman who goes after what she wants? Run from it?

They say they want a woman who speaks her mind and doesn’t play games, but I think they just want to want that. They’re more comfortable with what they’re used to, and if that’s taking the lead in a relationship and then dealing with game players, so be it. I think they even like dating game players because at least with those women, they know the score. They may be losing at the game, but they know how it’s played. With a woman who sets her own rules, they’re clueless.

I haven’t seen my guy-friend since his panic attack. He avoids me and I no longer see him much at work. I’d still like to get to know him better, but if he’s the kind of guy who runs from what he wants, maybe I know him well enough.


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