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By: Sarah Fowler

Boys will be boys. Hearing that phrase when I was younger my mind conjured up images of snips and snails and puppy dog tails. Little boys covered in dirt from head to toe from hours spent outside playing baseball, chasing frogs and making mud pies. Now, as an adult, I am all too familiar with what that phrase can mean: Little boys who have grown into men but are still playing games. And even though these grown up games have a different set of rules, they can still get very, very dirty. Which begs me to wonder…when it comes to dating, what game are we playing? And what are the rules?

Years ago, I met a man and promptly fell for him. (I really should work on that little trait of mine.)The night I met him he was wearing a shirt with big bold letters emblazoned across his chest that said ever so discreetly: “Don’t hate the player. Hate the game.” In my mind that shirt might as well have read: “I am unattainable. It’s now your mission to tame my wild ways and make me a one woman man.” Ah, the naivety of a 19 year old. Shockingly, that relationship wasn’t the stuff that hopes dreams and a Tiffany wedding registry were made out of. So the logical conclusion here would be that I can now identify a true “player” and not only know his rules to the game, but make up my own rules as well. Right? Wrong.

I went out with a guy a few months ago and I am still impressed with the caliber of man he was. The date was going wonderfully; we had a lot in common, we shared the same interests in art, music, books and politics…it was perfect. And that’s when I made a crucial mistake. I mentioned that I wanted to get married again. Not to him, not right this minute, not even in the next five years, but I had said it. It was like DEFCON 5 had just hit our table. I swear I could see the wheels in his head turning and I might as well have been sitting there in a wedding dress for the terror that came over this man. (At least the white of my dress would have matched the chalky white of his continuously paling complexion.) In one brief moment, my perfect date went from “Should we get another drink?” to “Check, please!” And it’s my fault. I forgot to play the game.

A while back, I met one of the most captivating men I’ve met in a long time. So much so in fact, that he even made it into a column or two. Which he promptly got pissed about. I tried to pretend in mock astonishment that I had no idea why he was so upset; I had just exclaimed to the greater tri state area how amazing he was. Who wouldn’t love that? But I knew the reason behind his overly dramatic response. He’s a player. And he’s incredibly good at it. But my little proclamation could have potentially ruined his game. Well we can’t have that now, can we? One of the first conversations he and I ever had he told me: “Do you know how many women I talk to in a day? You can’t possibly think that you’re the only one, can you?” Wow. There are a lot of ways to play the game but his outright honesty approach had never even occurred to me. At first, it irritated me. Just who in the heck did he think he was?! But then, I realized he was brilliant. And I ate it up. In most cases, if you tell a woman that she’s not the only one you’re seeing, that she’s competing for your attention against countless other women, one of two things will happen: 1) She will either slap you or laugh in your face, never speaking to you again or 2) Her instinct to win will take over. This means that Prince Charming can behave any way he likes and the woman he’s playing will be on her best behavior, not complaining when he doesn’t call, not questioning his whereaboutits and then fawning all over him when he does pay her the slightest amount of attention. Talk about mastering the game! Brilliant, I tell you. Just brilliant.

I long for the days when you only had to worry about “The Three Day Rule”. Now you have to deal with cryptic text messages and wondering if he meant to send you that winking emoticon or if it’s just a smiley face with a droopy eyelid. No matter how many dates you go on and no matter how many times you hear: “I’m so over the game playing, you know?” I have come to the conclusion that it’s just not true. Men and women alike play games. It’s what we do. I bet you could go back to the cave man era and find markings on the inside of a cave saying something along the lines of “I’ll call you.” and next to it the skeleton of a woman who died banging her head against the wall. But as frustrating and down right maddening as it is sometimes, maybe all the game playing can lead to a sweet victory. Or maybe the only people who ever really win in dating are those who make up their own rules and start playing a new game. And as for me, that’s one game I can’t wait to play.

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