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When should a woman call,
and how 'bout a little tenderness?

From a recent conversation with a reader...

Reader: I recently went out with this guy I am pretty interested in (which doesn't happen very often). It's probably not going anywhere, which is kind of depressing. I don't know if I wanted a heavy-duty relationship with him, but just to date him and get to know him would've been nice.

BG: That's always difficult, but you can't make a guy want something he doesn't. Did you try talking openly with him about it? Something light, like, "hey, we've been dating for a while and I was just wondering how you feel about me?" At least then you can get a clearer idea of where things stand.

Reader: What do you think Bachelor Girl would say about the age-old debate about how much a woman should call a man to go out? The truth is, I deal with it every freakin' time I'm interested in someone and happen to have their phone number.

BG: I'm definitely NOT a "Rules" girl, but my first reaction is, on the surface, pretty traditional: Don't call a man to initiate a date more than one time. After that, he knows you're interested. If he doesn't pick up from there, if you don't sense enthusiasm for further dates on his part, if he's not calling and asking you out at least 50% of the time (and that's only if you have real dating momentum – not if it's once a month), then he's not into it.

Use the "pit of the stomach test": If, when you pick up the phone to call him, you feel like you're doing something wrong or giving more than you should, hang up!

I didn't always feel this way – I used to call guys all the time. But the truth is, most guys either can't handle being pursued or are less inclined to do any work if you're doing it all. Let a guy work for you. You're worth it!

Why do so many women spend so much time chasing guys who are unavailable and treat women like shit? That's an obvious symptom of poor self-esteem, and not a healthy foundation for a relationship of any kind – even if it's just dating and not "heavy-duty."

Think of it another way: if he doesn't think you're worth working for, why do you need him?

After years of dating the "same guy" – an unavailable, inappropriate, usually crazy type who treated me badly but was the best I thought I could do, a friend advised me not to go out with men I was attracted to. I laughed at the time – what a bizarre concept, I thought. Why would I go out with guys to whom I wasn't attracted? But it was the single most important piece of advice I've ever received.

The truth was: I was only attracted to men who were bad for me, and I really needed to reorient/rewire myself. That, in turn, meant seeing myself as good, attractive, worthwhile, because only then could I attract a man who treated me that way. Soon, you stop even noticing the ones who don't treat you nice because you realize they're just wasting your time.

Reader: I went out with this guy only once – he offered to show me around Williamsburg, Brooklyn, when I met him at a friend's party... I took him up on it and called him. I had a great time – a whole day of exploring, playing, good conversation, and at the end, a really sexy kiss. Thought he had a great day, too... Could have sworn he did. He was disappointed when I had to go home.

BG: This reminds me of a fix-up I once had...we spent a whole day exploring NYC (12 hours) and I coulda sworn he had a great time. Then three weeks went by and he didn't call. So, prompted by a friend, I called and left a nasty message on his answering machine. Not that it would have made any difference, but I wish I hadn't. Showed a real lack of class on my part (even if he was a putz).

Reader: Meanwhile, that was Saturday and today's Thursday and he still hasn't called. Following the "one-time ask him out, he has to work for me, too-rule," I sort of decided I wasn't going to pursue it unless I heard from him. Still, I have this nagging feeling of "but maybe there's something else going on; he lost my number; my asking him was really just a follow-up to his invitation..." Yuck. Does this scenario qualify for an exemption to the "one-time ask him out, he has to work for me, too-rule" – or am I just fishing here?

BG: You're fishing. This falls under "if he really wants to get in touch with you and has lost your number, he will find a way." If there's something else going in, and he's really interested, he'll figure it out, unless he's sub-intelligent, in which case, do you really want to date him?

Reader: I like the pit of the stomach test idea, though sometimes it's hard to know whether it's just nausea, fear, or real intuition talking.

BG: It's always intuition, dahling. It means: don't do anything and let the universe take over. If it's meant to happen, it will.

Reader: I think I would welcome a "heavy-duty thing." And, I believe, at least at a conscious level, that my self-esteem is pretty good, most of the time. But, with this guy, in particular, I'm not sure he's the one to have a heavy-duty relationship with. Anyway, I really just want to date someone before I can figure out whether a serious relationship would be welcome. And I would love to have a little tenderness in my life, even if it is short-lived and even if he isn't going to be marriage material.

BG: Yeah – I know what you mean, but I think that's a trap we tend to fall into. I think tenderness with some guy who has no interest in a "heavy-duty" or long-term relationship, if that's what you ultimately want, is cheating yourself out of the possibility of the real thing. I told myself many times (and I've heard girlfriends say it many, many times): "oh, I just want a little sex, or someone to hang out with – I won't let my heart get involved." But it almost invariably does. You'll have some good times together; you'll show him what an intelligent, fun, sexy dame you can be; and this really cute, interesting guy probably still will show no intention of ever falling in love with you. And then, even if you went into knowing it would be short-lived, knowing he wasn't marriage material, just looking for a little tenderness, my dear, your heart will be hurting. Tenderness is fleeting. Try love – if you're lucky, it'll last.


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DUCTS summer issue 2001
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