The Games We Must Play For Love

The Games We Must Play For Love

In this week’s Hola Papi!, the advice column by writer, Twitterer, and prolific Grindr user John Paul Brammer, a reader writes in that he had the most wonderful date this past summer…but afterwards it went nowhere.

He knows that we must ‘play the game’ when just starting to get to know someone, but honestly would rather do anything else than play said games.

And now he’s afraid that by not doing so he will keep having wonderful first date and none after.

If you want his advice, just email him at [email protected] with your question. Just be sure to include SPECIFICS, and don’t forget to start out your letter with Hola Papi!

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Hola Papi!

This past summer, I went on a date with a guy I considered to be top notch. He was in law school, handsome, well spoken, and above all else, compassionate. This was definitely a guy I wanted to pursue a relationship with.

But his communication was not direct, and it turns out nothing developed between us (aside from now communicating as friends on occasion).

I suppose my question is, in the future, how do I go from a very solid first date to something more? How do I go about expressing emotions and interest in someone?

I know sometimes we must “play the game” so as to not seem desperate. But at the same time, sometimes I think one of the largest problems within the gay community is that too many play that game. What should I do?

Signed,

Player One

Ah, yes, the game. I’m glad someone finally asked this question. Most of us have participated in the blood sport that is gay dating: Two queens enter, but only one will leave with their dignity in tact because they never double texted.

Isn’t it funny, Player One? After our loveliest, most promising first dates, it’s like a trap door opens and drops us into the Homosexual Hunger Games, where we must overanalyze text messages and strategize about when to ask for a second date.

You want to text him right away, but you worry if you do you will reveal yourself to be a clingy loser with no life of your own beyond waiting on tenterhooks for him to answer you. The kind of person who watches true crime documentaries alone in his room while answering letters from strangers on the Internet by the dull glow of his laptop at 3 am. Truly the worst kind of human being!

But then again you worry if you don’t text him, he will forget about you. That spark you felt with him will fade and he will replace his memories of your lovely conversation (in which you discovered a mutual interest in Steven Universe and Geena Davis’ post-2000 career) with Grindr chats and private messages with Instagram Chad, who will inevitably become his Instagram Husband.

And anyway, why isn’t he the one texting you first? Shouldn’t you wait for him to make the first move? Wouldn’t that be the cool guy thing to do? How do we win here?

Well, fear not, Katniss Everkween. There is definitely a way to win the game. But just like in the Hunger Games and in the Communist Manifesto, the moral of the story is to remember it’s the game itself that is your enemy, not the guy you think you’re playing against.

Don’t get me wrong. There are levels to this dating shit that it would benefit you to get a grasp on. Identifying that you seem to be the one making all the plans while he never takes the initiative, for example, is something to be aware of. Feeling out what kind of texter he is (is he easier to get ahold of another way, or is he just not reciprocating your enthusiasm?) is another.

These things are best navigated with finesse and do require some degree of, as one could call it, “playing.” But I think this idea that we need to be coy about what we want in order to keep our cards close to our chest is rooted in a fear of vulnerability and rejection.

It’s an inherently vulnerable thing, telling another person you want to see them again. And being vulnerable can be scary, especially if we’ve been hurt before. But being vulnerable is also a powerful thing, Player One. It represents emotional maturity and a willingness to put yourself out there for what you want in life.

But you don’t need to be a jaded, Bitter Betty to protect your heart in the process. When putting yourself out there, it will be helpful to keep the following things in mind.

First, you need to know what you want. You don’t need to know if this is the guy you want to marry. You just need to know what kind of relationship you want, whether or not you have room for it in your life, and if you want to pursue it further with this person.

Next, you need to make sure you’re not projecting your idea of a perfect relationship onto this person, or hinging your self-worth on whether or not they fulfill it for you.

If after the first date you have already started building a fantasy life with this person, for example, then you’re setting yourself up for failure. These expectations will not only smother the dynamic, but will also lead to unnecessary heartache when you have to say goodbye to cozy evenings at home together and joint road trips that were never going to happen in the first place.

Finally, this above all: be upfront. Despite my quip earlier, there’s no dignity to be lost in being honest with your feelings or in being forthcoming about wanting to see someone again. Personally, I’ll let a guy know I want to see him again during the first date if I’m feeling it.

If they don’t reciprocate that, well, now you know. That was always going to be their response whether you dared to find out or not. And isn’t it better to know?

Ultimately, Player One, I don’t like to think of it as a game. Calling it that implies winners and losers. I prefer to think of it as a dance. This is a time to check to see if you can sync up with someone, if your rhythms complement each other. If they don’t, that doesn’t mean you “lost.” It means what it means. This guy isn’t the guy right now.

Also, did you say handsome and in law school? So like are you still pursuing that or is he, you know, a free agent?

Just thought I’d ask a question for once.