Playing easy to get

Image by the awesome Stuart F Taylor

In a world where it seems like everyone plays ‘hard to get’, allow me to explain why being ‘easy to get’ can be miraculous.

This morning I read a tweet that made me giggle through my coffee:

The text from the dude reads “OK, I don’t want to set the expectation that I’ll be free tonight but I’ll let you know if I am. Have a good day!”

I haven’t heard anything that ridiculously, callously non-committal since … well, since a single friend last showed me a text from a guy she was seeing and asked me if she should text him back. My answer was ‘fuck that’, but she text back anyway because she liked him. The game continued for a week or so until she got bored and wandered back to Tinder.

It’s easy for me sitting here, in a relationship that makes me happy, to dispense faux wisdom about how to find good people to love you. But the reality is I have no idea. I don’t have a special bag of tricks that will help you meet your match, nor any clue really what makes some people run towards you and others run away. People all respond to different things, and the ‘hard to get’ game is successful enough sometimes, so who am I to judge?

But this tweet reminded me of something that my partner did when we first started dating, which I don’t think I’ve discussed much here before, and it’s a tactic the callous and non-committal might like to consider. My partner played easy to get.

What does it mean to be ‘easy to get’?

When I first started writing this the word I used was ‘persistence’, but he wasn’t persistent in the traditional sense. You know the sense I mean: the creepy one. Texts at 2am and emails all the time and flowers delivered to my office and an overeager desire to push the boundaries of early-date communication. Shudder. No, he wasn’t persistent, he was patient. And he made it clear he was easy to get.

When I was in a busy phase, with other dates and pub trips and karaoke scheduled almost every night, he’d show up occasionally in my email. There was no pressure, just a firm, enthusiastic commitment to seeing me. The morning after a particularly hot night he dropped a line to say:

“As you well know, it was more than ace to see you again and (as always) I’d like to do it again. My calendar (as always) is empty, but (as always) you are a girl in demand. So, when are you next free to do shagging, and talking shit, and generic hanging out type stuff?”

Note: the morning after. Not three days after, or a week, or a drunken text at one in the morning. The day after we’d fucked, he sent an email to say he’d had fun. And he’d like to do it again.

I realise that in saying this I risk looking like a show-off: look at me! This guy liked me! He liked me so much he used to tell me all the time! Look how cool and awesome I am!

Shameful. But also miraculous.

Because this guy does like me. He still likes me. He likes me so much that yesterday night he spent twenty minutes lying in the bed with me, semi-clothed, iterating on different versions of spooning cuddles so we could come up with the perfect position in which to optimise each other’s comfort. That is who he is.

He isn’t stingy with his love. He doesn’t mete it out carefully, lest I get too big for my boots. He pours it out whenever he feels it: I love you. You’re awesome. You’re brilliant. I miss you. I can’t wait for you to get home.

And again, I look like a show-off. I look like I’m telling you how great I am, and how worthy of love. I look smug and comfortable.

But here’s the thing: I had never been comfortable before I met him. Nor smug, either, except in fleeting moments when past boyfriends – those who were ‘hard to get’ or aloof or distant – would deign to bestow an afternoon or a night on me. I’d briefly glow with happiness, before being crushed by the next let-down. The next ‘well the sex is great but I can’t see myself in a relationship with you’ or ‘I met this girl over the weekend. We’re going out now‘. I certainly never felt like I’d get too big for my boots: that an excess of love would cause high self-esteem issues.

My partner is easy to get. He is always ready to love: openly and without shame or tricks or manipulation. He doesn’t try to set expectations to keep me guessing as to whether he might love me or want to hang out: he’ll be entirely up front about the fact that he does.

He’s easy to get because he likes me. And while I know that sounds arrogant, that’s sort of the whole point: I spent a lifetime questioning whether I was worthy of love, and expecting to have to fight for every single kiss and fuck and cuddle. So by the time I met him, the most effective trick in the book was the one no one else had ever tried.

When you play hard to get you keep people guessing and fretting and worrying over you, and maybe that works to keep you in their minds. It makes you look cool and aloof and intriguing. The opposite, though – playing easy to get – made me feel special and worthwhile.

Not everyone will respond well to you playing easy to get, and you won’t want to be like this for everyone. But it’s not insignificant, this gesture. After years of guessing and wondering and asking ‘do you like me?’, I never expected anyone to simply tell me ‘yes.’


  • Ivy says:

    Gods, yes! I have very little time for all of that Rules, game-playing, “is she/he really that into me?” stuff. In my experience, if someone is keen to spend time with you and you are also keen, it’s generally pretty straightforward. All concerned make an effort and there’s much less in the way of navel-gazing or endless analysis of every text, or every lack thereof. I’m extraordinarily single right now, but I’ve learned that I can and should expect to have someone behave as if they want me. Anything else just isn’t worth the effort.

  • AnonyMan says:

    I weep when I think of all the potential relationships I (as a man) probably wasted in my 20s because I didn’t want to appear too eager, and so didn’t reveal my true feelings. So yes, open and honest, every time. Still not as good at that as I should be…

    • Girl on the net says:

      Don’t beat yourself up for not being good at it! I still *suck* at it, and it’s something I’m working on every day. I think the ways in which people express love are often incredibly complicated, and based on how they’ve seen love expressed in other relationships throughout their life. So this ‘playing easy to get’ isn’t an easy thing for everyone to do – I’d love to be better at it as well. Just wanted to chip in and say this because I don’t want my post to look like I’m telling everyone they should be exactly like this: everyone’s got their own stuff to deal with, and while we can definitely take inspiration from things we like and work to become a little more loving, it’s not as easy as flicking a switch in your head! <3

  • New to this says:

    Ah, lovely story – he really does sound like an absolute dude! x

  • Jo says:

    I identify with every word of this – I spent so much of my life agonizing over how people I dated potentially felt about me that finding someone who tells me how much they care – and often – has been life-changing.

  • james says:

    I’ve only had a few relationships. they were pretty frictionless in blossoming though.
    I’ve driven myself nuts over-analysing and worrying about women who probably didn’t think about me at all.

  • Oh yes, yes, yes. Easy to get isn’t exactly rocket science is it? But I guess it involves a vulnerability that non-committal aloofness doesn’t quite have. But it really is lovely to have someone just say it as it is and not make you guess at it.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Definitely! And I think that being able to show vulnerability (in so many different ways!) is incredibly sexy. I can remember quite a few times where seeing someone I love reaching out and exposing their worries/woes/loves/desires in a really raw way just made me melt with love for them. And lust too, of course =)

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