One of the worst things my therapist has ever done was when she recommended that I read “The Rules,” that 1995 book on how playing hard to get will capture the heart of Mr. Right. She suggested it after some guy didn’t text me back after a first date.
I love my therapist. She is a genius who has helped me solve a lot of problems in my life. She says I did it on my own, but I know better. Her waiting room is full of people I recommended to her because I can’t stop talking about how wonderful she is.
So when she said “find a guy who will play by ‘The Rules,’ “ I ran out, bought the book, memorized every word and started to play by the rules.
Some of the rules include “Be happy, light and giggly,” “Never speak to a man first” and “Wait 4 hours between every text he sends you.” They seemed to set women back at least 50 years. But I believed these rules would help me find someone, because I don’t seem to know how to do that on my own.
I did all the things the book told me and got nowhere. So I ditched most of the Rules, but others have been hard to quit. For example, I am hesitant to text a guy first, set up a date or to appear too eager. I’ve tried my hardest to play it safe and follow some rules.
A few weeks ago, I started chatting with a guy online. He seemed interesting: He had a good job, was into outdoorsy stuff and liked tacos. His only visible flaw was that he owned a bunny. But I wasn’t going to call that a deal breaker.
As we chatted more, I found out that we both liked running and Thai food. But I also found out we would not meet up anytime soon. I was busy that week, and he was headed to Montana for a week-long vacation.
Meanwhile, we would probably lose momentum. You can’t text a stranger for over two weeks and keep the conversation interesting. Or at least I can’t.
After two drinks at a happy hour, my friend and I wandered around a bit. Suddenly I realized I was in his neighborhood. I fired off a quick text: “So this is totally last minute, I know. But I’m kind of in your area … want to grab a drink?”
It was 9 p.m. on a Wednesday. My expectations were low. If someone sent me that text, I would have pretended not to see it until the next morning. I am a planner. I also don’t ask anyone out first. Ever.
Luckily, this guy wasn’t like me at all. He said yes. We met about 45 minutes after my initial text. And there I was, in a sports bra, tank top and messy hair.
Usually, I have a specific outfit that I wear to every first date — a summer/spring first-date outfit and a winter/fall one. I may change a few accessories, but mostly it stays the same. It makes my life easier when I don’t have to overthink what to wear. But here I was, not wearing my first-date outfit.
I also have a two-drink maximum for first dates. (Thank you, “The Millionaire Matchmaker,” for implanting this rule in my head!) By the time we met up, I was already three drinks in. And then I kept drinking. I blew that rule out of the water.
I have go-to stories I tell on first dates, too. These stories make me sound charming, smart and funny. I told none of them on this date. I blame the six beers for making me forget all my charming, witty stories.
Instead, we talked about whatever came up naturally. Our conversation rolled to why we both hated high school to different race dynamics I see playing out in the schools where I teach. We also had a silly discussion of what would be more dangerous to encounter: a bear or a moose? A moose, we decided.
We left the bar at midnight. I always get into bed at 10 p.m. But not this night. I went on an impromptu date, broke all the rules and had a wonderful time.
On the Uber ride home, I wondered : Maybe I should break one more rule and text first. But he beat me to it. When the Uber pulled up to my place, at 1 a.m., I had a text from him saying he wanted to see me again post-Montana trip. (Unless, of course, a moose gets to him.)
From now on, I’ll stop following or breaking “The Rules.” Instead, I’ll do exactly what I want to do.

Abby Green is a writer in D.C. who works for a national literacy non-profit. 

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