The Dating Game We Need To Stop Playing

It's morning, you're waking up next to someone you don't know that well, but you want to see them again. Maybe it's a one-night stand that you're hoping will turn into something more, or perhaps it's the beginning stages of a courtship. Your rings are lying on the table next to the bed, partially hidden by this new person's stack of books or spray of flowers or collection of electronics wires. A few necklaces adorn the floor. Perhaps the thought strikes that you could just leave those rings or necklaces there, pull on your clothes, and walk out the door, with a foolproof excuse for another rendezvous. Whether the jewelry is your grandmother's or is of no real value, this is a terrible idea. No matter what the case may be, I'd strongly caution against caving to the temptation. Put the rings back on your fingers, sling those necklaces around your neck and wrap any bracelets around your wrists, because there's a better way to foster romance, and playing games in dating is not the way.

I think it's natural to want to have a bird in the hand in the early days. When you've just met someone, you don't know how they feel about you — and you're still figuring out what you think of them. Of course the thought might cross your mind. And something of the reverse can happen too: Your bed partner might offer you a clean t-shirt or a cozy flannel to get you home more comfortably, without having to skulk back into your dirty silk top from last night. That's cool.

That really is cool, because it's honest. To give someone a shirt is to say, I want to see you again. To leave behind a necklace (or a pair of sunglasses, or a phone charger, or a book) is sneaky. And I don't believe in sneakiness when it comes to love, or like, or lust, or what have you.

A quick jaunt through the internet yields a strong indication that people seem to think this kind of thing is a good idea. From a Yelp thread titled, "Ladies, do you ever intentionally leave personal items at a guys [sic] house?" to a dubious guide to "parlaying your one night stand into a second date," many believe that an errant earring flung casually to the side before departure ensures more face time.

It could, in that you might have an awkward reason to see the person again. But a text announcing that you "forgot" something at their place is incredibly transparent. And it's much more exciting (and likable) to send a message after a fun night with someone relating that you had a good time, and that you'd like to see them again. Or give them a chance to pursue you and ask for another date.

This is tied in with confidence. If you know your worth, there are much better odds that you won't hesitate to ask for what you want, or will let the other person come to you, instead of pulling semi-invisible strings and manipulating your way into someone's heart (or back into their bed).

There's an even more powerful part to all of this: Relationships are fragile, and the people in them deserve to be treated with respect and grace. If you start things off on a dishonest foot, this can snowball. What's to stop you from snooping through someone's stuff or fabricating information later on? It might seem harmless to leave a charm bracelet on a nightstand, but this kind of action is often followed by disaster.

And disaster can be subtle. It might not look like a confrontation or a blowout fight or even not seeing someone again. You might leave behind a class ring and wind up with the desired outcome. You might meet up at a bar for a quick drink to retrieve your ring, and drinks might turn to dinner, and dinner might turn to a barefoot slow-dance session in someone's living room. You never know. You might wake up the next morning with sleep in your eyes next to this person, this beautiful crush, and you might eat eggs and drink strong coffee with them at the diner nearby and laugh about the same cartoons in the paper. But if that kind of thing happens, this person is probably into you, and would have been happy to have a second round (or third, or fourth, or whatever the case may be) without any slight of hand.

Especially because these strategies might look like tricks to you, but they're pretty see-through. At this point, we all know the jewelry-on-the-bedside-table maneuver. If your new admirer chooses to disregard it, they are being polite — and they want to see you again anyway.

I've never been guilty of this ruse. To be sure, I am not perfect. I've pulled some strange moves over the years. I haven't always been honest, and it's taken a lot of work for me to allow myself to open up and be vulnerable with another human being. But I do believe in the truth, and this means I don't leave jewelry on anyone's nightstand. Even if I am tempted to do so.

Images: lauren rushing/Flickr; WiffleGif (4)