Please Stop Playing the Game

It’s confusing, it’s sexist, and it’s dangerous.

Photo by Lu Gu on Unsplash

Reasons I’ve Never Wanted to Play

Once upon a time in college, I was trying to order myself a drink in a bar when a man in one of the highly coveted barstools swiveled so that his knee very deliberately brushed against my thigh.

As the place was crowded, I thought nothing of this, and many a long-practiced technique of not inviting undesired attention from potentially predatory male strangers dictated that I ignore him.

Barstool guy had other ideas. The instant he knocked into me, he stared over and said, “Were you trying to get my attention?”


No, sir. No, I absolutely was not.

And I know a play when I see one, because, you know… eyeballs.

“Nice try,” I told him, still not looking over and still trying to order myself a drink.

“What?” he went on, acting as though he was trying to hear me over the bar’s music. “Did you need something?”

“Does that ever work for you?” I asked incredulously, finally making eye contact. “Bumping into girls and trying to trick them into thinking it’s their fault? Have you had any luck with that so far?”

Even in the darkly lit room, I watched him flush to his roots at being called out. I’m also fairly certain I heard him mutter a dejected “bitch” under his breath as he swiveled back around again.

I got my drink. I shuffled carefully away.

And I saw him do the exact same thing to a girl from one of my Critical Theory classes just moments later.

She didn’t buy it either.

The game sucks.

I hate the game. I’ve never wanted to play, and it’s because the rules are infinite and the players are either horrifyingly conniving or fumbling and desperate. Often all of the above.

And because I don’t want to play, I have to know at least some of the rules. I need to know how to avoid situations I want no part of.

Around the same time I encountered barstool guy, I was quasi-dating a guy who revealed a certain book to me.

If you’ve heard of The Game by Neil Strauss, chances are you are also aware of its infamy. Touted as undercover journalism with the guise of penetrating the underground world of pick-up artists, it has become (whether intentionally or not) a cringeworthy step-by-step for slighted incels and sexual predators everywhere.

Better yet, even after supposedly achieving some level of self-discovery, Strauss pins the blame on his mother for how he viewed/views the objectification and manipulation of women.

Pardon me while I vomit.

This is not okay.

Human beings are not chess pieces. We are not faces to flip up and down on a board of Guess Who? and we are not voodoo dolls to stick pins in on the twisted whims of spurned ex-lovers.

I hate the game. And it goes so much further than simple pick-up nonsense.

The no texting until a certain number of days after the first date is garbage. The sex on the third date rule is horrible. The women don’t eat on dates rule is not only tragic and sad, it’s absolutely maddening — and in many cases, beautifully untrue.

I will text when I feel it’s appropriate, and I will stop when someone expresses their disinterest or when I become disinterested myself. It should go without saying that I will not allow myself to be pressured into any variety of sexual activity until I feel all parties are ready.

And you’d better believe I will eat exactly what I am hungry for when I want it.

You may also notice that a great deal of these rules have a particularly misogynistic slant. Why am I expected to order a salad while a gentleman counterpart has a steak? Why is it surprising I should reach for the check? Why, if sex does not occur on the infamous third date, must it be assumed that I am stingy and uptight and frigid? That I owe some piece of myself?

Even from afar, it looks dangerous.

I am in a healthy, long-term, committed relationship, and have been for some years. I thank God all the time that I have not had to deal with actual dating in this sphere since my early twenties.

That said, I have most certainly dealt with my share of unwanted advances.

And I’d like to murder whomsoever decided that a new part of the game involved sending unsolicited nude photos to strangers and demanding the same in return.

So I have not encountered nearly as much game playing garbage as most other women I know have, and it is still far too much. If I were single and if I were also the sort to go out on the weekends instead of remain safely at home with my books and wine (where Instagram undesirables still manage to steal away such precious commodities as my time, sanity, and peace), I’d more than likely have a better personal understanding of the intricacies of breaking another human being’s nose.

Instead, I must hear secondhand about such horrors as the time a guest bartender decided that since he wasn’t in danger of getting fired from the place he was serving, he would insult every woman customer awaiting a drink and then oh-so-casually-and-acting-so-very-surprised, say “Oh, you looking for my number, huh? What will you do to get it?”

Or how about the self-identified “nice guy” who thought it would be funny to pretend to slip something in my friend’s drink before laughing with a “aw, come on, you think I’m like that?”

Y’all, we don’t know what you’re like. You’re a stranger in a bar.

This stuff is dangerous. It’s wrong and it’s ugly and it’s time it ends.

Instead of insisting that you are a good guy, try actually being good. Quit playing at chivalry and maybe try looking up the word and putting what you learn into practice.

Because not only are we done watching you play the game, we’re also waking up to one simple, horrible, eye-rolling fact.

You’re bad at it.

Writer, Runner, Baker, Mother. Over caffeinated with my nose in a book.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store