Don’t you love this photo, taken by the wonderful photogapher Pam Barkentin Blackburn? It illustrates the mood of The Power of the Least Interested in a way few other pictures do.
In a perfect dating world, you’d never have to play games. You’d meet a guy, he’d like you, you’d like him, you’d date, you’d fall in love. You’d be honest; so would he. In time, one of you would ask straight out for a commitment; the other would say, “I’m yours.”
Dream on. When it comes to love, we’re all a little perverse, and it’s clear that elusiveness increases desire; being busy earns respect; and there’s nothing like someone else’s interest in you to perk up that guy who’s taking you for granted. Men do respond to the idea that a woman has a life and could find another man in a second.
Women respond to the same game. Married men? The appeal is that they’re taken. You’re best friend’s love affair? It’s appeal is that it’s not yours; that the sex sounds sexier. We attribute to an unavailable man extraordinary qualities we’ve fantasized about—blissfully free from the danger of finding out that he doesn’t have them.
Some male writers have recently written odious How To Win A Woman books urging readers to seduce by using the allegedly foolproof technique of alternately seeming interested and then disinterested. The “disinterest” advised in these primers is punctuated by rudeness and outright punishment: Disappearing for days; criticizing the woman’s appearance; flaunting other sexual exploits. The predatory premise, of course, is to confuse the woman; to suggest to her that the man’s available and interested….but then, suddenly, not. In theory, the hard-to-get idea stimulates interest through the notion of possible scarcity—like the waitlisted Hermes handbags I mentioned in an earlier blog. It’s a way, if it’s genuine or used subtly, of saying, “Hey, don’t take me for granted. Others are interested in me, too.” The meanness in these books has nothing to do with courtship, nor with increasing interest. They may cause a frenzy of confusion, but only a masochist would be turned on by it. If some guy uses it on you, I say, be really hard to get and get rid of him.
Pulling back a bit in a new relationship isn’t always mean, nor is it even necessarily artificial and coy; a silly game that manufactures jealousy and manipulates desire just for the hell of it. Sometimes it’s a way of controlling the anxiety that’s always loosed in a new love affair; a way of controlling the sudden urge to merge. Displaying a little less interest, instead of total, intense focus and desire, doesn’t have to be a game, but a gift. To your own self-esteem. To that fragile entity that is a new relationship. I’m all for understanding the power of the less interested, but as a technique, I’d worry about controlling your own urges and passions, not about manipulating someone else’s.