Does Playing Hard-to-Get Really Work?

Does Playing Hard-to-Get Really Work?Dear Veronica,

I’m a straight guy in New York, which is supposed to be easy, but I haven’t had much luck meeting women lately, mostly because I work really long hours. (At least I hope that’s the reason!) I recently started dating online using OKCupid, and I think it’s been going okay. I had a few dud dates, but the last girl I went out with was awesome, gorgeous, sweet, and laughed at pretty much everything I said — it was great! Or at least, I thought it was great. I thought she thought so too. We spent more time together than planned and when we said goodbye, she said “I’ll see you soon,” which I thought was a shy way of encouraging me to pursue her. (She seems a little shy, and she’s only had a few OKCupid dates before this one, which she hinted didn’t go well.)

I was all set to ask her out again, but then she texted me the next day, so I texted her back, and we got into a little text conversation. The thing is, every time I texted her, it took her 5-1o hours to text me back. At first, I responded quickly, but after a while I started to think that was too aggressive and started trying to match her pace. My friends told me not to seem too enthusiastic if I can’t tell how she’s feeling. However, given that we met on the internet, I can’t help but feel that if she weren’t into me, she’d just ignore my messages — right? Or is she just too nice for that?

I guess my question is really: is there any truth to the “playing hard to get” platitude? I’d like to think that there isn’t, and I certainly like it when girls like me, but if I’m honest with myself I have to admit that despite having genuine interest in her, I think the anxiety she’s provoked just by being so unavailable has made me a little more interested. I can’t tell how much because I don’t know how I’d feel if she were really enthusiastic.

I really don’t think of myself as a “playing games” guy; I have no idea what women’s “signals” mean (I mean, I think I do, but then I’m usually wrong) and I don’t like guessing or waiting. But I know it can be hard for women — for anyone — to “put themselves out there,” and I don’t mind learning the language if that’s what they need.

Is that what it takes? Should I learn how to play hard to get? Should I show up with roses? Should I just stay single forever?

- aidez-moi s’il vous plait!

Dear Aid,

I’m not sure there’s a global answer to your question, but I think there are partial answers. I think, for instance, that being too distant can be off-putting — there’s no point in trying to force a relationship with someone whom you don’t think really likes you. It’s a wasted effort.

On the other hand, being overeager when you don’t know someone too well can be off-putting as well — especially in New York, where everyone’s constantly afraid that everyone else is crazy. Especially straight women, because the risk of rape is so much higher for us (to put it bluntly).

I once went out with a guy who had an odd tic. He kept referencing the “relationship” we were going to have, over and over again, on our first date, telling me he “liked everything about me” and had been “waiting for someone like you my whole life.” I begged off when he asked for another date — I felt obligated to send him a candid breakup letter, even though I’d only seen him once — and I found out later that he’d taken the same approach with a friend of mine the same week. I guess the guy’s strategy was to “canvas” manhattan magazine parties (where we’d met — all three of us) and imagine as many relationships as possible, in the hope that one of them would eventually realize itself.

The thing about extreme approaches, to my mind, is that even when they don’t scream “insane,” they always whisper “insincere.” No guy who’s just met you can really be that crazy about you, no matter how great you are; it wouldn’t make sense. He could be optimistic, of course, and enthusiastic — but when you get to “adoring,” you’ve gone too far. (Maybe avoid the French at first, too, aidez-moi.) Same with the guy who seems interested when you meet him, but makes sure to show up fifteen minutes late every time you meet, or ignores your texts.

So I guess my advice is to avoid these extremes — and do a little check-in if you find yourself inclined to cross them naturally — but to shoot for sincerity above all. If you want to call and ask her out, go for it. Prepare what you want to say, so you won’t be nervous, and then call her up. Say it straight: “Listen, Shirley, I had a great time with you last week and I’d love to go out again some time. I heard about this awesome lazer tag arcade in queens. Would you be into that?”

The worst that can happen is that she’ll say she’s busy. If she’s “busy” more than once, then I’m afraid you’ve received the only signal you really need to learn: thanks-but-no-thanks. It sucks, but at least you’ll know. But if she likes you, I’m sure she’ll be impressed with your confidence.

One last word of advice, though: if you’re the kind of guy that has trouble interpreting women’s behavior, you might want to consider avoiding texting. Texting is a really ambiguous form of communication and it can cause a lot of anxiety, even for pros (or so I’m told). Phone calls are sexier, anyway. Perfect the skill of asking girls leading questions and you’ll find yourself covering the same ground much more quickly.

Good luck!


Submit your College Advice questions to Veronica anonymously by writing to

Veronica Mittnacht is a lifelong New Yorker. She has written for,, Soap Opera Digest, Flavorwire, Boldtype, The New York Egotist, and Human Rights First, and once attend more


Follow Us