“Men – they say they’ll call; they never do.“
Grace, ‘Grace Under Fire’
We walked together along the bank of the river, the sky an indigo-orange hue as the sun was setting. What had turned out to be an introductory cup of coffee turned into a leisurely three, followed by a stroll along London’s Southbank. We mused over interests (we both loved musicals and valiant causes); he laughed at my jokes. We marvelled at the vibrancy of the riverside: the bars brimming with rambunctious laughter; live music ringing out over the Thames; interactive art displays inviting Londoners to recklessly abandon inhibition.
Suddenly we were across the road from Waterloo train station where he had to depart. He told me had a great afternoon and that he would see me soon. He gave me three sweet pecks on the cheek.
That was three years ago and I am yet to hear from him.
This is a hard post to write. It’s hard because I try to keep my blog quite gender neutral – as in I think the lessons I’ve learnt have universal appeal and application. But this post – and I’m sorry male readers – is about men who are just not that into the women they date. Now, I know there are women who are just not that into the men they date as well, and blow them off in similarly spectacular fashion, but I think the effect on the rejected party is different. I believe this is true from experience: my own and that of my friends; from reading Dear Mariella, Private Lives, Baggage Reclaim; from watching talk shows; films and Oprah. Unlike men (and I know there are exceptions), women tend not to take these rejections easily. In fact, sometimes they take them quite badly.
When I was 25, I told myself that things had to change. I had just fallen for another guy who was just not that into me. He gave me scraps of his time. He was always too busy to call. When I called (and it was almost always invariably me who did the calling) I tried to be cool: “So what if he’s not calling me, nor making a solid arrangement to see me?” I’d assure myself, “He’s really busy: he’s just started a new course, he’s in a different city. He’s a guy – they can’t multi-task. Besides, I’ll be that cool girl that doesn’t bother him. I’m breeeeeezy!”
The truth is, I wasn’t that cool girl. I couldn’t be breezy. Because deep down, I was hurt. I was hurt that the person I liked didn’t really like me that much. So instead of walking away and letting him be, I tried to make him like me more. And guess what? That didn’t work.
It was shortly after this episode that a friend lent me the book, ‘He’s Just Not That Into You’ by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo. I decided that if I had any decent chance of finding a great relationship, I would have to start separating the wheat from the chaff (figuratively speaking) and figure out pretty quickly how to do this.
The book made me laugh and cry because it was so true. Every man I dated who was just not that into me was an example in it: the guy that was just too busy to call; the guy that I asked out first and then he went cold on me; the guy who couldn’t do long distance; the guy who didn’t want to call me his girlfriend; the guy who was still into his ex-girlfriend. They were all in there (sometimes they were the same person). I made excuses for them all: they’re scared; they’ve been hurt before; they are going through a difficult time at the moment; they are intimidated by me, blah blah blah.
No. They just weren’t that into me. Or they may have been. But either way, the outcome was the same.
I want to return to what I said above about how women tend to take this type of rejection hard. Blame evolution; blame living in a patriarchal society; blame our body clocks; blame absent fathers. There could be a whole host of reasons as to why we take it badly. But, whatever social or scientific reason may be the cause, the sole consequence of it all is this: we don’t love or respect ourselves enough. It’s because of this deficient self-worth that we are made hostage to accepting very little.
What I’ve learnt from both this book and experience is how to read the signs, accept them and move on. Most importantly, I know that it’s not personal. That these men are human. They are somebody’s friend, brother or son. They are not evil, nor arseholes. They are just trying to get on in this world just as much as I am. And once I realise that it is not a reflection on me, I am able to let go.
In the big, bad world of dating, it can be exhausting not to feel upset when another guy is just not that into you…again. Yet, I must strike the balance of following dating etiquette and putting myself out there. So yes, sometimes I’ll ask the guy out, sometimes I will buy the drink, sometimes I will make him a French mix tape. And I don’t regret it! But as soon as I get that feeling: that sinking pang of disappointment when I am waiting for his call because he said he would, or when I don’t hear from him after three days and I end up texting him, or when he says he really cares about me but does not love me; then I know. I always knew but now I’m braver at admitting it, and faster at moving on.
So here I am, just me and my standards. Of course, the better person for me may not come regardless of me and my standards. But, perhaps by breaking the status quo, by expecting more and not accepting less, I am at least nearer to finding him than I was before.
And surely, I cannot ask for more than that?