"I don't want someone who puts mind games higher on the list than honesty."
When you're out at the bar and you spot a cutie, playing coy and making eye contact from across the room is one way to get his attention. So you brush past him, make eye contact and dangle the bait—but then you walk way. What comes next?
Studies have confirmed it works—if you play it right. Playing hard to get is 'practiced by women' all the time, both subconsciously or deliberately. The thing is: Guys do it too. Except when they do it, we call it "weighing their options" or "scared to settle down." If it happens at a bar, we just call him a jerk who can't make his mind up—or a slew of other NSFW language.
We asked guys if reading the signs was really all that simple: Is playing hard to get a turn on, a turn off, or just plain confusing? Here's what they said.
Every Woman Does It—And They Like It
Generalizing for all females, Cody, 24, says that "I don't think I've ever met a girl who doesn't play hard to get, at least in some way—and I like that. I'm a guy, I want to feel like I worked hard to get your attention and that you're not just paying attention to me because I'm the last one at the bar before last call."
"Playing hard to get?," asks Jason, 28, "It's like the tried-and-true way to get a guy to notice you. I mean, don't get me wrong, I like it when girls are straight forward too, but there's just something about a girl who teases you before letting you know she's interested that just really appeals to me, both at a bar and at home."
"Nothing hotter than a girl who makes me work for it," says Jamal, 24.
"Here's the thing," Cole, 33, says. "I like the idea of playing hard to get, but when the time comes, I can't tell if you're just messing with me to get a free drink or if you're trying to let me know you're into me. Girls in general are really hard to read! So something like teasing and tempting me but then backing off isn't really helping me feel confident and wanted in the situation."
"OK, at a bar, I like it—outside of the bar, it's a dealbreaker for me. If you're playing hard to get at a bar because you noticed me and want to me to make the first move, fine, that works for me," Alex, 26, says, "but once we've started dating and you wait days to return my calls and keep telling me that I have to 'work really hard to keep you', it’s a really big turn-off. I feel like for guys, after that initial take-home, we want to the validation that you want to be with us too, not that you're just waiting for a better guy to come along to play games with you."
They're Completely Over It
"I'm not a super confident guy to begin with," says Ryder, 25, "so when a girl is playing mind games—intentional or not—that doesn't say to me 'Hey, I'm interested in you.' It actually says 'You're the guy on the bar I'm going to f*ck around with until the guy I want to come arrives.' And that’s insulting."
Pete, 30, tells me flat out, "No, I can't compete when a girl plays hard to get. I did it for years, I fought the battle like so many other guys, but as I've gotten older, I've realized that the type of girl I want isn't out to mess with my head or my emotions."
Jimmy, 27, jokes, "Isn't that why we have online dating?!" Um, sort of.
Lastly, Devin, 29 says that playing hard to get has been the reason he's ended relationships. "After being with so many girls, I don't want someone who puts mind games higher on the list than honesty. I've been the jerk that plays games with girls' emotions; I've been the guy that's hard to get. When the shoe's on the other foot, it's not fun."
I agree that playing hard to get sometimes tips the scale too far in the direction of downright confusing, but you can't fault us for wanting to take back a little bit of the power that was resigned to us when we thought that a guy's holy rite was to make the first move.
Online dating might have leveled the playing field—and made it easier to meet someone who shares your interests, but it's yet to obliterate playing hard to get.