Should You Play Hard to Get?

My friend Harry Berkely thinks it's always a good idea, and advises you should never write back to a guy more quickly than it's taken him to write you. Some of my other guy friends had different opinions ... What do you think?

Hi, guys. So, yes, there are a few updates from the weekend ... but I'm going to leave off on them till tomorrow. Today, let's talk about the question of playing hard to get. My friend Harry Berkely* claims it is always a good idea. "The first rule of relationship fight club: Wait as long as he took to write before you reply to his email, and never write more than he wrote," Harry advises. "I think men who are achievers are always are enticed by women who are harder to 'capture.' If it's too easy, we doubt their worth." Kinda ... yuck, right? (FYI: Harry, 30, is a Harvard grad and writer, whose first novel is coming out soon.)

And yet another friend of mine, a 34-year-old playwright named Smith Sutton, agreed somewhat with Harry — but doesn't think that a woman should assume a completely passive role when she's playing hard to get. "If a woman ignores my text completely one day, yes, that does drive me crazy and get me more obsessed with her. But I like some push and pull. I like it when, on another day, she'll give me the full-court press: texting nonstop, saying she's thinking about me and can't wait to see me. I like it when I feel like she's in control, and I'm in full pursuit."

A number of my other "high-achieving" male friends had different perspectives ...

Like my friend Drew Virginia* — a 33-year-old architect whom I used to date. When I told him what Harry said, Drew's reaction was: "That sounds like crap." He continued: "Back in my early twenties, yes, 'hard to get' was great. But now, I'm too tired after work, so 'easy to get' is preferable, although I can handle 'moderately challenging' on weekends." He adds: "I dig ladies who will pursue." (Please note that Drew recently got married — and Harry isn't even seriously dating anyone. So it could be that the guys who like women who play hard have commitment issues.)

Some of my other guys friends were even more outraged than Drew about Harry's outlook on the romance game. Take my sexy-yet-sweet pal Kermie Ottawa, 31, who has a big job at one of the remaining investment banks — and is the most unusual finance guy you'll ever meet. He says it absolutely doesn't make him more interested when a woman plays hard to get or makes him do all the work. "In fact, if she seems to be only reacting tit-for-tat, I quickly lose interest," he says. That's the exact opposite of Harry, who recently told me he's been all the more "impressed" with a young woman he's courting because he can tell that she likes him but is refusing to make any moves, except in response to his.

More from Kermie: "I think the woman should be making suggestions from the get-go about what to do next." Drew agrees, saying: "As early as the first date, I think the girl should take any kind of initiative she feels like taking. Who cares, really, as long as we're having fun?"

A fourth guy I know, Dan Thurman, a novelist who also manages a magazine, spoke from the middle ground on this issue of playing hard to get. He admits that sometimes his interest will go up if a woman seems hard to win over — but only if he's interested in the first place. And he says that he finds he pretty annoying when the woman always waits for him to be the one to call, the one to come up with a plan, the one to move things forward. "I don't mind pursuing the first few dates, but I'm not interested in hanging out with a woman who seems to be obviously playing games," he says. Dan adds: "In general, I think mind-games don't work, period. A man wants to be with a woman who is strong and independent — or at least I do — but that's not the same thing, ultimately, as wanting to be played with."

Interestingly, Drew, Dan, and Kermie all said they thought that there was a good chance they'd mistake "playing hard to get" for "not interested."

One last thing: Drew, Dan, and Kermie all said that they never like to get the feeling a chick is too anxious. As my bud Mike Parkwood, a 34-year-old professor, puts it: "It's a real attraction-killer if a woman comes off like she'll take whatever she can get — and you happen to be her current target. If playing hard to get works at all, maybe it's only because it sends an obvious signal a woman isn't desperate."

***BREAKING NEWS UPDATE!: This just came in (at 3:45 p.m.) from my friend Sheriff Leonard*:

"Playing hard to get might work — only if I wouldn't otherwise be interested in the girl, and I thought that she ought to be interested in me. Then, even if she was resisting, I might keep trying (for a tiny bit) as a matter of pride. But once she came around, I would stop trying."

Boys and girls out there, myself and the other readers would love to hear your thoughts on the hard-to-get topic. So comment away!

(And here's a quick hello to my most faithful commenters, Edwinna, Christina, and Fancy Nance. I'm hearing you, lovelies. And Edwinna, thank you for the tough love! Help me keep it real.)



From the classic novel Middlemarch, by George Eliot (who was a woman, but still had brilliant insights into men):

"Although Sir James was a sportsman, he had some other feelings towards women than towards grouse and foxes, and did not regard his future wife in the light of prey, valuable chiefly for the excitements of the chase. Neither was he so well acquainted with the habits of primitive races as to feel that an ideal combat for her, tomahawk in hand, so to speak, was necessary to the historical continuity of the marriage-tie. On the contrary, having the amiable vanity which knits us to those who are fond of us, and disinclines us to those who are indifferent, and also a good grateful nature, the mere idea that a woman had a kindness towards him spun little threads of tenderness from out his heart towards hers."

Translation: This Sir James character is not exactly interested in chicks who play hard to get. He hunts game — grouse and fox — not women. He's a well-adjusted dude who likes women who like him back!

*All names used here are porn-star names.