Here’s a little secret – women don’t want to put men in the friend zone any more than men want to be there. And the only thing that decides which men are friends and which ones aren’t is the level of chemistry – the ‘spark’ – that is generated when two people meet. Tell any single woman about an absolutely great guy who is funny, smart, quirky, gets the jokes, has a nice voice, is single and straight, that woman is already thinking about what you look like and how you kiss. And if you show up, looking presentable and smelling nice, and she discovers that all she’s heard about you is almost true, you’re home free. Knowing that, why do so many guys NOT make that tiny bit of effort to pull them through to atleast close to the finishing line? Our imaginations have already done a lot of the work.. But just... like... a little help?
To be clear, I like men who have the ability to not only make my brains quiver with excitement, but also my loins jump in anticipation. They’re BOTH important. One without the other will never work on the longish-term scale of things.
I get that it’s hard enough to engage me at an intellectual level – you have to know the right movie and book references, you have to be able to chat easily and without aggravation and all of the fun stuff – but if you’ve got me there, that’s 71% of the job done. Well done you! If this was a round of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, you’d be just two steps short of being one for the long haul. But whether that long haul is going to be with me as a friend or as a sex-kitten depends entirely on how the remaining 29% pans out. And that 29% needs you to bring your A-game to the table. Come on!
I’ve recently gone out with a couple of people - semi-blind dates, if you will. At first go – the run-up to the “date” – it’s so much fun. The jokes are spot on, the conversations are meaningful. And finally, there’s the “Let’s meet” moment. Now, I’ve never had a problem meeting strangers. Compound fun conversations with my almost-vice for new people, and the stage is set for all sorts of mayhem. Except for one thing. BOTH of them – let’s call them Tweedledum and Tweedledee - show up as if they’re attending the losers’ party, wearing pins that say, “Yawn! What’s the point?” And then I show up. Without going into conceit territory, I know I make an impact.
Tweedledum, after months of chasing me up on Facebook, finally asks me out for a movie – Avengers. This is a particularly fun thing because T’dum works in the movie industry, has in fact worked with some of the people who have worked on the film. All very exciting, particularly if you’re in the business. I land up, casual chic, to meet a guy who’s in gym sweats. No, not the street-wear gym sweats, but the “I just left my gym 10 minutes ago and didn’t shower” kind of gym sweats. His gym, and the movie theatre, are 15 minutes away from his house. But instead, it’s like he wanted me to see the worst of him – the kind of stuff women hope men they like will never discover about them, this chap brought it all to the first meeting. And, after the movie, where we chatted about stories, filmmaking and everything we love about it, he didn’t walk me to my car in the deserted basement parking lot. Instead he said, “So, I’ll leave you here (in the elevator) because otherwise, I’ll have to go through the whole security bag check and everything.” Points dropped from 71% to 43% in the space of 50 real-time minutes. And as we all know, that kind of drop in the market is unrecoverable.
Tweedledee, in comparison, was not so awful. The conversation continued to be free-flowing, and easy. But has anyone ever noticed the awkward way slightly clumsy guys try and make physical contact when there’s no road to help you cross, no steps to help you down? It’s a poke on the arm, or this really weird hand tapping on shoulder thing. Well, T’dee was exactly like that. With unkempt messy hair (no, not the sexy bed-head we all love) that desperately needed renewed acquaintanceship with a pair of scissors, ill-fitting jeans and too-tight to be comfortable plaid shirt, his chances seemed slim. And the final stroke was one-sided gushing. He ended the evening with “You look really pretty... I feel like an ogre next to you... I mean, you’re so pretty that, if this wasn’t the first time we were meeting, I’d definitely be doing more than just shaking your hand when I say goodbye.” Sweet, huh? Not. Because – ewww! – would I want more than a handshake from you after this first meeting? Shudder. So I smiled, acknowledged the compliment, and then said, “That’s sweet, but you assume way too much.”
Yes, deep down, under layers of patience and humour and kindness (yes, it's there even if you don't see it in this post), I am shallow. But I’m not looking for Ryan Gosling (No, wait. I AM looking for Ryan Gosling, but I’m working on the realistic probability that I may not get him. Lots of issues – he’s in LA, I’m in India. Long distance, as we all know, can be a bitch. Also, can never really trust actors – you never know when they’re performing for the imaginary cameras, and when they’re being real people. Those kind of pesky things. Moving on.) And more importantly, I’m not going to compare every guy I meet with Ryan Gosling, or even his look-alike. But I am interested in meeting men who can make my knees just a little weak. Luckily for most people out there, many women are more into what’s in a man’s head than outside it. But really, that particular trait does not make us completely blind.
So there I am, with one more potential sexual mate pushed closer and more firmly into friend zone. The really irritating part of it is that guy read my interest correctly. He knows I was into him. Maybe that’s the reason he figured that the 29% was already in the bag and decided to bring his much-hidden sloth to the party. But after last night, he’ll always wonder why he doesn’t feel that vibe coming off me anymore. He’ll try harder, he’ll stay in touch more often, he’ll send me beautiful poetry in texts, he’ll assume that he just needs to give me space to come to terms with this whole new feeling of being in love. He’ll try to fix me, assume that my fear of being abandoned is what has made me recoil from him, and he’ll assure me that he’s not going anywhere. It’ll all be very sweet and desperate.
And me? I’ll just slowly back away, meet him but more often in groups, chat with him as easily but about spark-neutral subjects. I’ll ask him about whether he’s seeing someone and then tell him that I’ve got the perfect person to set him up with. Because he is a wonderful person, and deserves love. And then, one morning, he’ll wake up to get a call from me about some other guy whom I went out for dinner with and really liked. And how I want us all to meet together, so he can judge if that guy is really good, or if my hormones are making my decisions for me. And then it’ll dawn on him that he’s my friend. And nothing more.
Like Bryan Adams, I too will try anything twice. I’m acutely aware that first times are fraught with too many pitfalls – pitfalls of expectation, of the general weirdness of meeting a stranger, of the pressure to quickly sift through multiple inputs to make sense of it all. The second time, everyone is more prepared and you can genuinely gauge if your knees are shaking because of excitement or boredom. So, with a certain amount of trepidation, I schedule another meeting, this time at a club. There will be dancing, drinking and all sorts of hedonistic opportunities. And yet, if after all this, he can’t bring his A-game to the table, maybe he just needs to be sitting at the kiddie table and leave dating to the grown ups..
It’s not pretty. It’s bloody, messy and often cruel. But it’s real.