In "The Telephone Call" Dorothy Parker transcribed the lament passionate women still make when they feel rejected by men: "They don't like you to tell them they've made you cry. They don't like you to tell them you're unhappy because of them. If you do, they think you're possessive and exacting. And then they hate you. They hate you whenever you say anything you really think. You always have to keep playing little games. Oh, I thought we didn't have to; I thought this was so big I could say whatever I meant. I guess you can't, ever. I guess there isn't ever anything big enough for that."
My girlfriends and I would read that story to each other out loud--in high school, in college, in grad school, until we found our life-partners (and--occasionally--even after) because Parker put it all in perspective. The narrator WANTS to play hard to get, but she can't.
She wants to be an ice-queen. She wants to be aloof and cool and distant and casual, but she can't pull it off because....
BECAUSE SHE IS AN ACTUAL HUMAN BEING AND NOT A FACSIMILE.
Real human beings have real emotions. Emotions--deep, authentic, unedited, and awesome-- aren't very pretty. They aren't cute.
They aren't tame; they are wild; they are feral; they are untamed; they are trouble to themselves and others.
Nice girls aren't supposed to be any of those things, remember. So it's tough for nice girls to show real emotions.
And when emotions turn painful, they aren't the stuff of greeting cards (unless your greeting cards are designed by Lady Macbeth and Lucretia Borgia, with Lizzie Borden doing the graphics).
When emotions are strong--as they should be during courtship--even when they're GOOD, they aren't easy to contain.
And yet--hard as it is to believe--you shouldn't waste your time trying to pretend not to care when you do.
Listen to me: I'm serious here. Stop pretending not to care. If you're fairly stable, then work hard on learning to overcome the culture's training and do the hardest thing in the world: trust yourself.
As good girls, we're taught never to trust our own reactions. We can't tell if we're hungry; we only know what we shouldn't eat. We don't know if we're tired; we only know we're not getting enough sleep. We aren't sure that we're fit, we only know we're not sleek. We don't know what our hair color is because we've been dying it since we were fourteen. Half of us don't know what our weight is because we don't get on a scale. The other half know what our weight is every half-hour because we can't get off one.
Life is too short to put up with this rigmarole. If you can't tell somebody you love him or her without inciting fear and loathing, get out of that relationship-and fast. If you spend all your time crying, get into therapy-and fast. If you fear you're "too much" because you're passionate, energetic, generous, and gregarious, then start figuring out why you're in a place where the world has "too little" for you.
For me, playing "hard to get" has always been hard to comprehend and impossible to justify.