My question comes from the very early stages of potential romance. This has come up a few times when I’ve been hanging out with girls in the non-dating stage, but when there may be some interest…
Why would a girl tell me about other guys who ended up having some unrequited feelings for her? Why bring up guys whose advances she shut down, or who kept fruitlessly pursuing her? Or laid it on the line in some way, past the point when she thinks her lack of interest should’ve been clear to them?
What does it mean? Am I reading too much into it? Do women just think this makes a good story? Or, is it a warning against making an awkward move? Or could it be some kind of invitation, a subtle reminder that she’s single (but with high standards!)?
I’ve usually responded by thinking to myself, “Well, I don’t want to be a story foryou with the next dude you hang out with, so…” And then I try to move on. But would love the female perspective.
I’m Cooler Than Those Other Guys, Right??
First – I’d like to take a quick moment to point out that my very second Ask Jess query was submitted by a guy! Ladies, since starting this project, I can’t tell you how many emails, texts, Gchats and in-person ambushes I’ve received from confused, frustrated, well-meaning men who are looking for advice or clarity. They may not overthink their romantic interactions to the same extent that we do, but I PROMISE YOU that most of them have their own doubts and insecurities as well. So when you catch a guy staring into his drink, don’t just assume that he’s trying to guess your bra size or asking himself whether you’re going to finish that last slice of pizza (although these thoughts are probably in there somewhere). Instead, he may be wondering what you’re thinking, how to impress you, and why you seem to be smiling a lot at his roommate. No one is 100% confident all the time!
Anyway, ICTTOGR, great question. And great news: you can rest assured that these girls are simply trying to impress you and heighten your interest in them. They are NOT trying to subtly scare you off with stories of guys who didn’t take the hint and get lost. At the very, very least, these girls are trying to prove to you that they are attractive and desirable to other men. And that’s never a bad thing.
To understand this behavior, you have to understand one of the key romantic messages that us women often receive. We grow up being told that guys are testosterone-driven cavemen who are fueled by competition and jealousy. This competition may usually play out on sports fields, political arenas and promotion tracks, but it can also show up in the romantic universe. We hear supposed truths like “Men want what they can’t have” and “Guys like the thrill of the chase.” And we’ve all noticed that having a boyfriend seems to be the easiest way to get OTHER guys to hit on you. Weird.
So when we want you to like us, we assume that we have to incite your competitive spirit and make you aware that other guys are into us, too. We try to make you feel jealous of the attention that we purportedly get when you’re not around – but we make sure to seem open and available and uninterested in these guys, lest you think we’re committed to someone else and move on to a more available girl. If we have any doubt that you’re attracted to us, then we hope the realization that other guys find us hot will lead you to commit to pursuing us.
To be honest, we blatantly tell you about other guys from a place of insecurity. Probably not one of our finer tactics, but appreciate it for what it is. And please continue to pursue us.
WTF?! BOTTOM LINE: Girls tell you about other guys who were into them because they want to evoke your manly competitive spirit and ensure that you see them as attractive and universally desirable. This is because they want you to be interested in them. Nice work!
Now, a quick word of advice for the ladies. We – yes, of course, I as well! – need to stop being so blatant and obvious in our efforts to prove to guys that we’re desirable. After talking to many guys about this, I’ve discovered something surprising. Bragging about other men, gushing about how much our ex-boyfriends loved us, and pushing other guys’ interest in their faces really turns them off! Many see it as lame or desperate, while others have trouble putting their distaste into words, but have explained that “it just makes me less into her.” Who knew??
Of course, we’ve all seen men act more attracted to us when they know that other guys are also into us. However, this shouldn’t be happening because you are explicitly telling guys about allllll the other men who are their competition. “You won’t believe what this guy just said to me at the bar!” “So yesterday, I was hanging out with my friend Tim – he’s kind of been in love with me for a while, but I’m just not feeling it – and we saw the funniest movie. Have you heard of Hot Tub Time Machine?” Dropping these little “guys like me! so should you!” hints actually makes you appear LESS confident and likable, and therefore less appealing, to new men. So say many of the men who I’ve spoken to about this.
The fact is, you don’t need to shove it in their faces – you DO know other men! You have a dah. You should be so solid and secure in that knowledge that you don’t NEED to work hard to make guys jealous and competitive. If you’re just living your life, cultivating and managing your dah, and keeping yourself busy by keeping your options open, then guys will naturally pick up on that confidence and relaxed attitude and assume that you’re the kind of chick that other guys like.
Maintain a little mystery, and their minds will do all the work for you. Trust that they’ll notice the guy flirting with you from across the table, or they’ll hear your phone go off, or their co-worker will mention that you’re hot, or they’ll ask who accompanied you to the movie – and THEN you can mention your friend Tim. The wheels will start turning in their heads, and you’ll be able to watch as they make the connections without you having to shove your relationships down their throats. That way, you come off as desirable AND cool. And guys will compete for you because they want to, not because they feel like you’re forcing them to. Jackpot.
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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