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December 22, 2010

Girls with No Game: Are You a Dating Virgin?

woman sitting in a coffee shop

Photo Credit: Merri Cyr/Workbook Stock

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Luckily, he wanted to see her again. And she wanted to see him—all the time, calling and e-mailing constantly and jonesing to spend every night with him. He lived one state away; she dropped everything to see him.

After a month, he dumped her, claiming the relationship had too much drama. She was crushed but finally realized what went wrong. "I was this freight train when I should have been a limo," she says. "I expected too much."

"When you've had deep intimacy with someone, all you want to do is re-establish that bond right away," says Eli Finkel, Ph.D., associate professor of social psychology at Northwestern University. "But you have to calibrate the pace with the person."

And for women leaving early marriages, interacting with a new guy can be hard, too. After JoVann Seals, 31, a former NFL cheerleader in San Diego, divorced her husband of five years—whom she'd dated since high school—she found herself unprepared for the bar scene. One night a man she was talking to leaned over and kissed her. She was mortified. "I'd never kissed anyone besides my husband," she recalls.

Clueless to the secret signals of the dating world, Seals had been blinking "green" all night: She latched on to the man early and engaged in intimate chitchat, ignoring everyone else. Naturally friendly, she laughed, joked, and smiled freely. And she left to go with him to a second bar, a sign to any red-blooded male that sex is inevitable. Her behavior screamed I'm hot for you! "I just thought we were talking," she says.

"Dating is a skill," says Finkel. "The more you do it, the better you get." Finkel suggests women ask friends for help—yet that can bring pitfalls, too.

While Moster's friends love hearing about her dating pursuits, "They get frustrated when I cry about the same problem again and again," she says. They tell her a guy's indecision is a bad sign or that she's rushing into things.

But taking any advice isn't easy, especially when you're tethered to a ticking biological clock. "I want to have kids right away, and I know it gets harder to conceive with age," says Seals. And Katie Gill, a 27-year-old copy editor in Arlington, Virginia, who recently landed on the market for the first time since age 20, is dating under similar constraints. "If I hadn't been in two long-term relationships, I would be married by now," she says. "Sometimes I worry that I won't find The One."

The newly single face challenges in the bedroom, too. For Gill, the hardest part has been resetting her libido. "I had sex every day for seven years," she says. Resisting that was hard for Gill, having learned that "guys lose interest if you give it up too early."

Stanley suggests that after a few dates, women clarify the relationship so they know how to act. "Yet some women don't do this because they're worried they'll get the wrong answer," he says.

In the end, dating is a marathon, not a sprint. And Moster learned that you can't force things. "Panicking isn't going to help me find him," she says.

As for me, I met Jason on okcupid.com. I liked the photo of him nose to nose with a kangaroo. He liked my Decemberists T-shirt. We talked for hours on our first date. But soon Jason grew cagey about the length of his last relationship.

When he finally gave the number—nine years—I laughed.

OK, I might have been a girl without game. But here's what I've learned. For every one of us out there, there's a boy, newly single and guileless, just waiting to sweep us off our feet.

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