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Men: Masters of the Romantic Curveball

October 13, 2009

When it comes to romance, the less you think, the more off the cuff you are, the more devastating you can be. Men have the art of the underthought play down pat. Take my friend Pete, who I met up with last night. Recently split from his long-term girlfriend, he was flirting with a cute-seeming neighbour, but wasn’t sure he liked her – or was ready to move on. She, clearly, liked him – he’s debonaire and the perfect catch and I happen to know she was keen. Anyway, he proposed brunch, but prefaced it with: “this doesn’t have to be a romantic date- let’s just have brunch.” What he did in that single line was put her on the double wrong foot: he was telling her it wasn’t a romantic date, but he was still, erm, asking her out on a date. WTF?

She, he told me, was ambiguous in turn, leaning away from him during brunch, then towards him on the Tube. By then he’d decided he didn’t fancy her and was planning to say: “too soon” if she made a move. What Pete did was throw a classic curveball, the very thing that leaves us scratching our head. “Did he ask for brunch because he likes me and he was just flirting and being shy with the whole ‘doesn’t have to be romantic’ thing? Or does he just think we’re friends? Then, was his neutrality a sign of disinterest? Or was he waiting for me to make the move? And most important: is it too soon after his breakup to date? Would I just be a rebound? Then why did he ask me out?”

Just a few questions Pete’s email and subsequent comportment almost certainly generated. He – bless him – was mystified by her demeanor on the date. But as I told him, she was just watching her back. He’d thrown her a classic male curveball and she didn’t fancy dropping it and then falling over, winding up with mud on her face.

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