The other night, I happened to meet up with some male friends who had gathered at a great local bar here in Brooklyn. The dudes had been there for three hours when I arrived — and a few of them were a little tipsy, particularly one twenty-something pal who had had plenty of Old-Fashioneds. At a certain point, he went to the bar for another round, where, as we could see from our table, he got into an animated conversation with a young lady on the stool next to the opening he'd found. When he returned with the drinks, we teased him about whether he'd gotten her number. As it turned out, he knew the girl fairly well — she was a friend of a friend — and a year of two before, he'd asked her out, only to be turned down. Whereupon he almost immediately started fooling around with one of her friends — and as soon as he did, the woman who had negged him initially showed sudden interest. (Mimetic desire, anyone?)
From there, the conversation quickly progressed to the point where Mr. Old-Fashioned was saying, "I swear, there's nothing like treating a woman kind of badly to make her more into you. It's only when you act like kind of an asshole that they perk up. It's really depressing, actually, because it trains men to think that women like it when you treat them badly."
I tried to talk to him out of this bad attitude. "First of all, earlier in the week you told me that you believe that women respond to persistent men — so how could that possibly square with what you're saying now?"
"Women giving in to men who put a lot of sexual pressure on them? I think that squares perfectly. Because any guy who puts a lot of sexual pressure on you is a douchebag — who is going to disappear once he gets what he wants, which is sex."
"Fair enough," I said. "I was thinking more of a guy who persists in expressing his interest even after you turn him down initially — but when I try to think of real-world examples of guys who do that, I can only think of guys who were kind of insecure or really f*cking annoying. So let's go at this from a different angle. And let me say that there have been plenty of situations in which I find a guy somewhat interesting at first, but I'm not totally convinced I'm into him — and then he starts doing all the right things, like always setting up the next date right after the first one, taking me out to nice places, expressing his affection for me openly but not too melodramatically, and so on. And if I'm already somewhat interested, all those kinds of things only help to make me more interested. On the flip side, when I was younger, I could get neurotically 'obsessed with' — or kind of frantic about — a guy who doesn't call after a great date, or three ... or some dude who keeps me guessing in some way, early on in the courtship. But my being more frantic or anxious about a situation doesn't translate into me being more interested in a long-term relationship with a guy. It just means that in the first two or three weeks of a thing, I might be more riled up than not. And at this point in my life, if a guy isn't doing the work, taking the lead, and making it clear he's into it, I write him off pretty quickly."
"It's only because you're older and wiser that you like dudes who treat you well now," he said. "Do I need to remind you that it wasn't long ago that you were a commitment-phobe who preferred aloof guys to all others?"
"Well, just because I used to be kind of screwed up doesn't mean everyone is," I said. "Also, when you're younger, it can be hard to tell when a guy is being a jerk. You think, Oh, maybe he's just really busy with work. Or, Maybe he's insecure and he's not sure that I like him — I'll be patient."
But my friend didn't seem convinced. He insisted that most women are more likely to respond to a guy lacking in sweetness and consideration than they are to fall for the proverbial nice guy.
Ladies out there: Can you give me some good arguments to take to my friend?
And gents, what do you think?
(Also, you guys might be interested in a related blog post: Should Men Play Hard to Get?)