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“You know I -
Thug ‘em, hug ‘em, love ‘em, leave ‘em
But I don’t trust or need ‘em”
Most of us think we can spot a player – right?
We’ve seen the music videos and the movies. We’ve scrolled through the endless list of girls in their phones. We’ve caught them with their omnipresent harem of ladies at the bar. We’ve received the “Hey, what are u up to?” mass texts at 9pm on Saturday night. We’ve gotten the message – loud and clear, thanks! – after hearing their claims of, “I’m just not looking for anything serious right now.”
We know a player when we see one.
The Charming Player. The Sketchy Player. The Drunk Player. The Sexy Player. The Rich Player. The Player Who Won’t Make Eye Contact. The Traveling Player. The Entitled Player. The Commitment-Phobic Player. The MIA Player. The Cheating Player. The Player Everyone Warned You About.
Come one, come all! We modern women can take it. We know your games, and we know how to handle you.
Or so we thought.
Out of the ambiguous abyss of the post-dating world, a new form of player has emerged. We have Darwin to thank – for this new species of player has evolved from the simple-minded, sex-driven players of yore into a sophisticated, persuasive, mind-f*cking man who may prove to be the most dangerous of them all. He is an obvious product of the key tenets of thoughtfulness, innovation and self-actualization that define our Millennial generation.
Ladies, meet the Self-Justifying Player. Let’s call him the SJP, for short (sorry, Sarah Jessica Parker…but we told you that we were ready for something new!).
THE SELF-JUSTIFYING PLAYER (SJP)
“I don’t wanna be a playa no more
I’m not a playa, I just crush a lot”
What’s the main difference between a regular player and an SJP? Simple: SJP’s don’t think they’re players. They think that they are highly evolved and complex specimens of manhood who would never stoop to the level of playerdom. Not only do they not own up to the fact that they are players, but they don’t even realize it. They swear to the high heavens that they are looking for L.O.V.E.
They may act like Jay-Z circa 2000, but they believe they’re simply trying to find their Beyonce.
It’s only when you look at their actions – and not their words – that you see the truth. WTF?! They’re players. They’re just the next evolution in the species. Somewhere along the line (back in 2008, maybe?), they figured out how to justify their decisions with complex and seemingly logical beliefs, theories and rationalizations about love and commitment.
Whatever helps you sleep at night, fellas.
HOW TO RECOGNIZE AN SJP
“Half of my heart is a shotgun wedding to a bride with a paper ring
And half of my heart is the part of a man who’s never truly loved anything”
SJP’s can be difficult to point out, hidden as they are in their swirling haze of self-righteousness and heartfelt proclamations about love, soulmates and “The One.” But here are some hints that you’re dealing with an SJP:
*He swears that he is the only decent guy in all of humanity. According to him, he’s not hanging out (and hooking up) with so many girls because he’s playing them – never! He simply can’t help the fact that other dudes make him look so damn appealing by acting like their brutish, insensitive selves. That’s also why he would never set you up with any of his friends. So, what can he do?! Women are just drawn to his sanity and normalcy. As our very own guest blogger jmtnyc put it, “I’ve been told that I happen to be one of the only straight and ‘normal’ guys that these women encounter in a city full of snobs, slobs and men not interested in the opposite sex.” Oops! Lucky him.
*He goes out with girls all the time – even on seemingly traditional dates! – but never seems to actually, truly like any of them. Which he loves to explain to you…while you’re on a non-date with him. First, he tells you about how hot/cool/fun a girl is. Then, he laughs in your face when you ask if there is any long-term potential and tells you everything that is wrong with her. And finally, he implies that you are so much cooler than her. Lather, rinse, repeat.
*He claims to be interested in falling in love and being in a relationship – but spends most of his time with girls who he’d never call his girlfriend. Girls who live out of town, girls who are too young, girls who have boyfriends, girls who are crazy, girls who don’t speak English, girls who – as he is proud to admit – would never make it home to his mother…in short, girls who are not girlfriend material, by his very own standards.
*He is convinced that he is looking for true, everlasting love. The woman of his dreams. The love to end all loves. A love that is better, and more real, and more passionate, than the love of every couple he knows. Truth be told, he’s sure that he’s the only guy out there who knows what genuine love is. In fact, he is so busy waxing poetic about the love of his life that he never seems to have the time to find her.
*He likes to boast about being the only guy who is capable of having female “friends.” He’s not a dog looking to get action from every chick he meets (like all his buddies – see above). He’s capable of real friendship and conversation. He also draws a distinct line between the girls he dates, and the girls he friends. Except - you can’t help but notice that his female friends all happen to be attractive and awesome, the kind of women that lesser guys would absolutely want to date. And you get the feeling that these ladies are never quite off the table in his mind, either.
*He insists that all of his questionable non-relationships are completely mutual. Of course the girls are on the same page as him!…? They’re all really cool and confident and modern, he explains. So that chick flying in from Miami to hook up with him knows it’s nothing serious. That co-worker who goes home with him once every couple of months wants it that way. That girl who has been sleeping with him for three months but hasn’t met his friends yet – that was her idea! Um, right.
*He has no doubt that he will immediately know when the right girl comes along. Timing doesn’t matter at all, he says – that’s just a concept girls use to make themselves feel better when being rejected. But he knows that someday, the lightning bolt of love will hit him, and suddenly he will know! And if he doesn’t have that instantly lovesick feeling for a girl? Well, then she’s not the one. Of course, he never actually has that feeling about anyone…all the more reason to stay single and keep looking!
WHY SJP’S ARE DANGEROUS
“You better take it from me
That boy is like a disease
You’re trying to hide
And you’re wondering why you can’t get free”
Why are SJP’s so dangerous? We’re all smart, empowered, bullshit-savvy women – so why do they get us into so much trouble?
Because they speak the same language as us.
We don’t want to settle either! We’re looking for an intense and amazing connection, too! We’re in favor of eschewing traditional labels and expectations for the sake of our unique, idiosyncratic paths to love! We also think that we’ve got it all figured out, much more than those baby boomers who spend all day bickering and cheating on each other and screwing up the sanctity of marriage!
Listening to the SJP share his romantic theories and beliefs, you can’t help but think – he’s like the male version of me!
Stop right there.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that the SJP may just be the only guy in the world who has the same hopes and dreams as you do. As Michael Lockwood astutely explains in his new dad-knows-best relationship advice book, Women Have All the Power, Too Bad They Don’t Know It,
“…a playa’s objective isn’t always about having sex with a multitude of women; it’s about knowing he could if he wanted to—the thrill of the hunt. Ultimately, a playa’s MO is about control. He wants his kryptonite to beat down your God-given power.”
Lockwood is correct about the power dynamics at play, but what he doesn’t realize is that he’s talking about the players of yesteryear. The player of 2010, the player of the Millennial generation, the player of the post-dating world – the SJP – doesn’t stop at knowing that he could have sex with you, if he wanted to. He wants to know that he can make you fall in love with him. That’s the new “thrill of the hunt.” That’s where he gets all his power. That’s how he has responded and adapted to the ever-increasing strength of the modern woman. And that’s where we get screwed.
The SJP knows and understands that, at the end of the day (or at least at the end of our youth), most of us are looking for love. Sure, we’re all about fun and hot sex and self-exploration as well. But, at some point, we’d like to find love. So without even necessarily doing it on purpose (how easy it is to be self-aware when convenient!), the SJP tells you what you want to hear. He tells you that he’s looking for all the same things that you’re looking for. He implies that maybe – just maybe – you might be the Beyonce to his Jay-Z. Because, as he has made perfectly clear, those other girls he’s dating certainly aren’t.
And then we buy it. How could we not?!
BUT WAIT…AREN’T WOMEN WITH dahS SJP’S, TOO?
“Go melt back into the night, babe
Everything inside is made of stone
There’s nothing in here moving
An’ anyway I’m not alone”
Now, you might be thinking – where does Jess get off yelling at SJP’s, when she’s the one telling girls to cultivate their dahs and explore themselves through their relationships with different types of men and friend request every new guy on Facebook? How can she advise women to stop looking so obsessively for “The One,” while chastising guys for doing the same thing?
There’s a thin line between being a girl with a dah and a player, surely. But the key to staying on the right side of the divide is to DIVERSIFY, DIVERSIFY, DIVERSIFY. The goal of Dating & Hookup is not simply to feel good about yourself, or to find that you hold power over men and their desires, or to overwhelm yourself with casual, superficial relationships so that you don’t have to face the fact that you’re not truly investing in any of the romantic prospects in your life. The goal is to learn about yourself, and your needs and your wants, and to use that knowledge to move closer to finding the right guy and relationship for you. And obviously to have some fun and live a little, in the process.
This is why we must all commit to diversifying our dahs. A male player may have 10 Hot Sex Prospects, thereby getting most of his immediate needs fulfilled and indulging in relationships that afford instant gratification of his most primal desires. Likewise, a female player might keep 10 Ego Boosters around to compliment her and make her feel attractive and desirable. Both players are certain that they are not going to end up with any of their playees, but they awaken each morning with a sense of calm content and go to bed with a superficial feeling of satisfaction.
They allow others to invest in them – not because there is true romantic potential to explore, or because they are discovering parts of themselves within these relationships, but because it’s easy and fun. And if their playees get hurt…well, they never promised anything to them anyway.
These days, no one wants to be that player (hence all the self-justification). So how can we all avoid becoming players – while still playing with our dahs? By making sure that our actions follow our words. You want love? Then look for love, or at least leave some time in your romantic schedule for it to pop up. You say that you’re hoping to learn more about yourself as you wait for “The One” to come along? Then cultivate a dah that challenges you and forces you to experiment outside of your comfort zone. You’re bored by all your romantic prospects? Then dump them and find more intriguing ones.
Simply put, commit yourself to practicing what you preach. And if you diverge from the sermon? Fine. Just own it, so that the rest of us know what we’re dealing with.
CAN WE FIND LOVE AMIDST ALL THESE SJP’S?
“Beautiful girls all over the world
I could be chasing
But my time would be wasted
They got nothing on you, baby
Nothing on you, baby”
Players often look at non-players and see desperate, ready-to-settle traditionalists who are eager to fit any romantic prospect into the Mr./Mrs. Right category. On the other end, non-players often look at players and see detached, delusional manipulators who think they are entitled to have their cake and eat it, too. So how can we wade through all these murky stereotypes and find love among the differing viewpoints? Can players ever change??
Yes, but we’ll need to meet in the middle first.
Players need to stop fearing investment and commitment and overemphasizing the possibility that they may miss out on some options. Non-players need to stop fearing loneliness and judgment and listening to their mothers’ pleas for grandchildren. Some of us need to separate ourselves from the all-encompassing desire to be in a committed relationship, while others of us need to take a long, deep breath and honestly open ourselves up to the possibility that romantically investing in someone, in a real and focused way, can be an incredible experience.
When we meet our perfect match, we should meet as two people who aren’t obsessed with commitment for its own sake, but who are also willing to consider it. In action, as well as words. And not only on a hypothetical level. This openness of mind might succeed in pushing back some of the walls that we’ve built and the issues that we’ve accumulated, and instead allow us to focus on each individual relationship, and on our core connections and compatibilities – and not on our pre-disposed tendencies towards fear or desperation.
Only then – when we are able to accept love without needing it – will we be able to truly see who and what is right for us. And only then will the SJP’s finally find what they are (supposedly) looking for.
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Jess is the co-creator of Dating & Hookup, alongside her childhood best friend Becky Lynch, and is the author of the book - yep! - Dating & Hookup. She never tires of hearing your post-dating stories. She wants you to enjoy your love life, and is full of advice on how to do so.
datingandhookup.com is a website that explores modern romance in the Millennial era – which, let’s be honest, looks nothing like we were taught to expect. We feature essays, advice and social commentary with humor, compassion and brains, and we vow never, ever to publish a piece called “The 10 Best Ways to Satisfy Your Man in Bed”. Do click to submit your work to us. We love you.
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