I know the BEST single women. Women who, if I was inclined (and hadn’t been married for 18 years) I would absolutely date. Maybe marry. For years I’ve been an active participant in the folly of “pick on the guy who has no game.” Rolling my eyes with my single pals when a man clearly needs a shopping trip in this decade, giggling when a man stammers through a corny come on, laughing at desperate online dating fail-attempts, and joining in the sidelong judgy glance when a shy guy tries to edge into our group in an obvious play to indoctrinate through proximity.
Here’s the thing, though–I’m also a mom. Of two teenaged boys. As they grow to be men, I have to figure out, is it better to help them learn “game” or to let them find someone who will love them for exactly who they are? Who they are, by the way, is brilliant, polite, well mannered, chivalrous, funny, hard working, dedicated and adorable (but in kind of a kooky and interesting way) but man o man, they have absolutely NO game. I am watching it unfold awkwardly at their high school every day. The guys who are less quirky and more comfortable in their skin are already getting the girls who never look twice despite my sons’ attempts to walk next to them, engage them in a funny conversation, heck, just make eye contact. They’re still malleable enough to coach. They wear clothes that I pick, still care whether I think a movie or song is “cool,” and genuinely try to curtail behavior that I frown on. Should I, in addition to training them to cook, clean, drive, study and vote with their conscience be teaching them “game?”
I’ve thought about it a lot and I’ve worried about it more than I probably should have lately because today, when my husband woke me with the standard method of quietly bringing me coffee in bed, I remembered something–I think that guys with NO GAME are BETTER than guys who have it! In observing friends who married guys like mine–It always seems that they work harder at relationships. They’re thankful for you. They’re not always “at practice,” if you know what I mean? These guys are usually self aware enough to know that they are a hot mess in this respect and they LISTEN to you in the hopes of catching on to what they should do next.
When I met my husband, he was everything I never wanted in a man. And he couldn’t even work up the nerve to ask me out. If online dating existed back then, he wouldn’t have looked twice at my profile and I would have scoffed at his. We were politically diametrically opposed, fiscally incompatible, our career trajectories were not even on the same chart, neither of us was even looking for a relationship, and halfway through our first date, we were both hooked. The chemistry that STILL sizzles whenever we’re in a room together might never have occurred if I hadn’t let my guard down that one time. I might have lived a life with a man who was everything I was looking for and nothing that I needed.
Then I think about my friends. I worry that I’ve aided and abetted the crime of judging a man based on his game. I wonder if, instead of laughing at online ice breaking attempts and seconding the immediate delete, should I have encouraged them to respond? To dig deeper? Instead of tightening ranks at the bar, should I have let the nervous guy become part of the conversation? By being an efficient wingman, was I pushing them away from the happiness that I stumbled into by accident?
So I’ve decided that my kids can live without “game.” Instead of teaching them the art of small talk and appropriate conversation, the skills of dressing to impress and thinning the herd, instead of coaching their game, I want to instill in them the idea that love isn’t something that you PLAY at. It’s something that you might stumble upon if you give more chances. Say yes to drinks. Have more first dates. Just because they live on the Internet and with a text message doesn’t mean that chemistry does. After all, if I had drawn the line at “game” all those years ago, I would have missed out on a man who dances with me in the kitchen every night and that, dear friends, would have been a true loss.