One sticky summer afternoon in 1993 — about a month before I started seventh grade — my mother knocked on my bedroom door to tell me that a card had arrived for me in the mail. I’d been very busy trying to memorize the choreography from Janet Jackson’s “If” video, but if there was one thing I found more compelling at 12 years old than awkwardly dancing to a song containing sexual undertones I didn’t fully understand, it was getting mail. When my mom handed me what looked like a ransom note — an envelope with purposely disguised handwriting resembling the Halloween-style font on Prodigy — I knew whatever lie inside was not from one of my four pen pals around the country. I opened it to find a Create-a-Card with the following message:
Noone, nowhere, nohow loves you more than me!
Your Secret Admirer”
I was intrigued. Like most kids going through puberty, I was quite fetching in middle school — with a nose that was too large for my face and braces I proudly decorated with multi-colored brackets — so the card could have come from any number of potential suitors. I immediately eliminated the 15 boys in my class at St. James because they’d known me too long to misspell my name — plus, it was more their style to pass notes that asked girls to go out with them by “checking yes or no.” I supposed it could have been the cute boy I’d danced with to a P.M. Dawn song one night at Rock Haven when I was decked out in my best plaid bodysuit. Or a young chap who held my hand during the “couples skate” at Universal Skating Rink on one of the many Friday nights I went with my friend, Meghan. Or maybe even someone from my swim team.
But, after about 10 minutes of deliberation, I decided that it didn’t really matter who sent the card because any guy who was going to send an anonymous card professing his love for me should at least spell my name correctly. (Unless it was Joey Lawrence, in which case it would have been a totally forgivable offense.) Even at 12-years-old, I knew negative game when I saw it.
Over the years, I’ve both experienced and witnessed more cringe-worthy behavior from men than I’d like to remember — but the ones who always stand out are the negative gamers. You see, women go on plenty of bad dates and boring dates, but it’s the negative gamers — guys who act desperate, are completely clueless about how dating works, play all the wrong cards and engage in truly lame behavior — who always tend to overstay their welcome and make the biggest mistakes. It’s the guy who once played “You’re Beautiful” for me on repeat as he tried to convince me we should keep dating. And the guy who talked incessantly about his failed relationships on a first date. And the guy who never once asked me a question about my life over an hour-long dinner.
Since I recently devoted an entire column to enlightening women on their crazy behavior, I feel it’s only fair to help out my male readers. So, men, read up because the following behaviors (which — let’s admit it — many of you have probably engaged in) will forever make you unflattering characters in stories that women recount while laughing over wine about the lame guys they dated.
Overcontacting. It’s no secret that the only thing I find more annoying than Duran Duran is clingy men. I don’t recommend game-playing when it comes to contacting women — in fact, I think that if a guy had a great time on a date, it’s nice for him to send a simple next-day text or e-mail saying so — but there’s no need for constant texting or phone calls every day. There’s something to be said for maintaining some mystery to keep a woman’s attention and appearing overeager is just never attractive. In addition to the guy who once sang “We Are the Champions” into my answering machine, one weirdo sent me daily “Good morning!” MMS messages containing pictures of him at work — needless to say, I never gave either of them second dates. (Of course, both of those guys look normal compared to this chick.)
Sending gifts and flowers to women who are not that into you. I have a friend who — God bless him — tries to woo girls who have clearly shown indifference toward dating him by sending gifts and flowers to their homes and offices. Although I’ve gently pointed out a couple of times that many girls probably find it overwhelming (and weird), he’s managed to break a couple down and get them to go out with him. These women are apparently nicer than me because when I recently returned home from a weekend away to find a stuffed monkey with a heart on its stomach placed by my door, I threw it on my couch and tried to pretend like it didn’t exist until my dog took care of business for me by gutting it. I wasn’t entirely sure who left it and I didn’t really care — there was no one I’d shown enough interest in over the past few months to warrant leaving me gifts (especially tacky stuffed animals) while I was out of town. It wasn’t cute — it was negative game.
Talking about a weird obsession. It’s ok (well, mostly ok) that you’re into collecting Garbage Pail Kids cards from the 1980’s — I mean, when I was six years old, I totally loved those, too. But that doesn’t mean I need to hear a 20-minute story on the history behind your collection, complete with excited vocal inflections and hand gestures that make me feel like I’m in a Richard Simmons video instead of on a first date at a very chic restaurant. At least save it for the third date when I feel comfortable enough getting tipsy in front of you so I’ll find your story hysterical. Not that this has ever happened to me.
Laying it all out there … literally. A friend recently told me about a disastrous first date with a man she met out one night. Nothing about the evening went well and she was relieved when he finally took her home. When she politely thanked him for dinner and started to dart out of the car, he asked if he could come up to use her bathroom and — not wanting to be rude — she obliged. My friend sat in the living room waiting for about 10 minutes before she heard someone seductively calling her name from the bedroom — and she walked in to find the guy completely naked on her bed. Believe it or not, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard a story like this. Men of the world, this is not a good idea — it won’t get you laid and it definitely won’t get you a second date. And it might label you as a date rapist.
Acting like you’re “soulmates” when a girl is clearly ignoring you. I recently hung out a few times with a guy I decided to stop seeing because I wasn’t feeling it. However, apparently he was feeling it because after a couple of weeks of no-contact, I received a series of text messages asking when we could hang out again that ended with “I miss us.” Because I wasn’t even sure how to respond to such a ridiculous statement, I didn’t. Luckily, attempts to cut him off have not yet resulted in coming home to find a pet rabbit boiling on my stove, but the guy has refused to be ignored and just a couple of weeks ago sent me another text asking if “our time has passed.” Although I was willing to stay friendly, I’ve reached the point where I wish he’d permanently lose my number and leave town. And he’s a perfect case study on why attractive men in their early-30’s who want relationships are single: extreme negative game.
Forgetting important details. Men have horrible memories. While this is usually fairly harmless, if you ask me to dinner but fail to recall that I’m a vegetarian until I mention it as you pull into Ruth’s Chris or insist it would be very romantic to drive up along a narrow mountain to a lookout point even though I told you I’m afraid of heights, you’re definitely going into my “negative game” pile. And I’ll also probably spend that drive up the mountain crying and sitting in the fetal position with my eyes squeezed shut. (Again, not that this has ever happened to me.)
Now that I’ve officially scared every single man in Orlando away from dating me for fear of meeting my seemingly minimal qualifications for being a negative gamer, I think my work here is done.