It all started with a 30-day trial package of premium cable.
I had just moved into my apartment and was enjoying the temporary pleasures of HBO On Demand. In the midst of Million Dollar Baby, I realized there were only two weeks left in my free trial period, just two weeks before a decision was required of me.
Apparently, the suits at the cable company felt that by the end of 30 days, I would have had ample time to figure out if premium cable was worth the investment. Either way, after 30 days, I'd no longer get premium services for free.
I can dig that strategy.
It's not an uncommon marketing ploy—try it, then buy it. The old woman in front of Manchu Wok in the food court hands you a toothpick pierced with a tenth of an ounce of bourbon chicken. The toothy salesman at the dealership lets you take the Camry for a test drive down the street. The cable company gave me 30 days to figure out if I wanted premium cable. And for the average person it only takes one bite, one ride or one month to decide if you're still interested.
So, when "in like," why do we stick around for ridiculous amounts of time only to find out that a relationship isn't meant to be?
We're waiting for the person's feelings to catch up. We think they need time. And they give us something—attention, sex, conversation, company—that convinces us we're not waiting in vain.
We drop nuggets and clues along the way so the person can't say they didn't know. If business continues as usual, we take this as a good sign. After all, they know what's up, and if they don't agree, they'll speak up…right?
And so, we kick. And push. And coast. Six months later, we're in the same spot. No man land.
My girlfriends and I have spent many a night lamenting over these treadmill relationships of love-and-like lost—or worse—stagnated. Why does he call me every other day if he doesn't like me? Why would he tell his mom about me? Why would he…I don't know…remember my freaking birthday?
"The fact that the guy doesn't want you to get any farther away than you are doesn't mean he's ever going to let you any closer either," said Evan Katz and Linda Holmes, authors of Why You're Still Single: Things Your Friends Would Tell You if You Promised Not to Get Mad. "He may just leave you in that very lonely place right where you've been for months or years for as long as you are willing to stay."
Sounds like the tried-and-true "stringin' along" routine. Yet, the amazing thing about words is that you can flip them and get an entirely different connotation: Just because a guy [or girl] doesn't let you any closer doesn't mean he or she wants you to get any farther away.
In other words, play your position. Everybody can't be quarterback.
I don't know about the fellas, but this is hard for women. Our proverbial ego cannot comprehend why a man that we're interested in (operative phrase) would spend time with us, call us, communicate with us, vibe with us, sleep with us (or not)…and not want to be with us. It's like we expect a man to either want to be the boyfriend or leave us alone. "If you don't want me then don't talk to me," Fantasia croons. That's pretty much it. No gray area.
And really, it's not fair because there is a gray area; the idea only seems harsh when you're the "liker" as opposed to the "likee." The calls, the conversations, the attention can be confusing, cruel even. Yet, we all have people in our circles who we're not trying to get with, and it doesn't mean they need to disappear. History calls these people "friends," guys or girls you like—or love—but with whom you don't wish to procreate or elope.
It's not always ill will, malice, or an attempt to play games. Unreciprocated advances toward coupledom don't mean you ain't jack; it could just mean that the person is fine with you playing the position you play—the cool chick he can vent to, the hilarious homeboy that makes her laugh, etc. It also seems that if you have to ask what your role is, then it's probably a good time to evaluate your positioning.
If you don't like where you are, put the ball down and walk the hell off the court.
Faith Maginley is a freelance writer and journalist in Central Florida.