Ask Kayy

Dear Kayy,

I’m sick of getting played. I always feel like a guy really likes me, and in some cases they have actually told me that they do, and then the situation goes nowhere. I’m not saying I expect to meet my soulmate; I’d just like someone to hang out with and hook up with and then see where it goes. I feel like any time I start to open up, the guy goes running.

Everyone always tells me that there’s nothing “wrong” with me – they tell me I’m pretty, outgoing and fun to be around. I don’t have any weird habits. What my guy friends and some girls are always just telling me is that if I let people in too soon and don’t “play games” with guys then they won’t stick around – that if I make it too easy for them it’s no fun.

I guess it’s dumb to ask this, but can you help me learn the rules of the “game” so I’m not alone the rest of my college life?

In Need of Game

Dear In Need of Game,

Here’s a radical thought: Don’t even bother playing games! If you actually like someone, what’s the harm in being straight up? The song I used for the headline of this column is by Third Eye Blind (pardon my love for ’90s angst). It’s simply called “I Want You,” not “You’re Cute But I Won’t Tell You That” or “I’m Going to Pretend I Don’t Want You So That You Want Me More.”

I think we could all take a page out of Stephan Jenkins’ book and take a stab at vulnerability. It may suck right now, but eventually you’ll find someone who gets you. Pretending to be someone you’re not will just frustrate you in the end. Playing with someone’s head will only lead to miscommunications and hurt feelings. Let’s consider why someone might want to play games with someone: for attention, out of insecurity or boredom, to intentionally hurt someone, etc.

Or maybe because it’s fun?

Alright, alright, I’ll stop preaching. I guess it’s unfair to advise you to not get tangled up in the ridiculous college sport of hooking up. I’ll admit that it can be fun flirting with someone you know likes you, dating more than one person at a time, playing hard to get and saying you’ll call and then you don’t. After all, “Lying is the most fun a girl could have without taking her clothes off,” right?

Ask Natalie Portman and Panic at the Disco and they’d say hell no . and I’d have to agree in most cases. It’s a good way to kill boredom and something fun to talk about over lunch in Eickhoff. But keep in mind that playing with people is not just a pastime – you are investing real feelings and others’ emotions, no matter how aloof the participating parties may seem. Chances are, one or both of you will get hurt, which leads to hurt feelings and the perpetuation of the whole evil, yet amusing, cycle.

That’s because playing “the game” is simply an expression of power dynamics. The more you mess with someone’s head, the more you hold back, the more power you hold over that other person. Don’t get me wrong, having power is certainly attractive, but how good is it if it’s holding you back from the possibility of a happy, healthy relationship?

I’m not saying I’m against hook-ups, casual dating, having fun or being somewhat mysterious. I mean, confessing your love to someone on the first date usually isn’t the best idea, but dissing someone for no real reason in spite of yourself is a waste of time and energy. We’re still so young – there’s no absolute need to commit to another person (at least I think so). I’m just suggesting that people be more honest while they’re out there.

Honesty goes a long way. I wish I had a nickel every time I’ve heard a friend say “For better or worse, I wish she’d just tell me how she really feels” or “If he doesn’t want to be my boyfriend, that’s fine, I’d just like to know either way.” Taking part in these silly traditions means that you’re not only clouding communication (one of the cornerstones of successful romantic interaction) but you’re veiling the truth – you’re veiling the real you and what lies beneath the top shallow layers of your personality.

It’s nice to go through life not letting people get to know the real you, because then you can’t get hurt. That’s great, except if you never let yourself get hurt, you’ll never truly experience a lot of things in life – like intimacy. I don’t just mean the type of intimacy that grows over a lifetime; I mean the scary and exhilarating feeling of being totally open to someone and just waiting for what’s next.

If I said playing games wasn’t exciting, I would be lying. I’m not saying I’ve left a long path of heartbroken, sobbing boys behind me. I’m not na’ve enough to believe that every person I’ve not been totally honest and fair with is in therapy – but I do feel bad sometimes. How could you not?

I hate to end this column with a love your neighbor, everybody has feelings Barney sentiment, so I’ll stop by saying it’s okay to be scared and confused and not know how the hell to be real with people. In fact, it took me awhile to adjust to being in a serious relationship in which you actually trust someone and say “I like you” with no cruel intentions.

Speaking of “Cruel Intentions,” if my advice hasn’t helped, use that movie as a precautionary tale. The two slightly incestual, oversexed step-siblings Sebastian and Kathryn make a life out of ruining relationships and hurting people. Where are they when the movie’s over? Sebastian dies after having his heart broken and Kathryn is a dethroned class president with a cocaine problem.

If that doesn’t do it for you, I guess all I can say is: Play on, playette.