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Hot then cold: how to snare a woman

2012 May 10
by Zoe Strimpel

Just by losing interest in you, even this guy will become an object of obsession.

The shift of power has a very specific noise. It’s the screech of tables turning. A distant grind at first, then a sharp and swift squuueeeaaaaakkkk! Men are particularly masterful at moving the tables of romantic power. It’s a fairly simple maneuver, admittedly, but it doesn’t work without two things on the opposite side: one, an easily inflamed vanity and two, an open-ness to being wooed. And so, it is with the sad verity of experience that I say that women are the perfect victims. All a man has to do is blow hot…then cold.  The woman will instantly forget her original, authentic assessment of the man – eg “not for me” or “not that great/bit spotty/arrogant/dim” – and instead become obsessed with him.

Let’s take the case of my friend Mary, a 30 year old consultant. One night when she was drunk at her favourite bar she decided to go and flirt with the very friendly barman. He was nothing to look at, really, but Mary likes oddballs sometimes. And this was one of those times, largely because she was tipsy, but also because she was seeking distraction from a recent failed romance, and because she felt like it.

Make no mistake: Mary is quite a catch. She’s intelligent, well-dressed, and (often) sensible, the sort who rarely falls over when drunk, doesn’t do stupid things with strangers, and never pulls sickies. She’s pretty, too. There is no reason an intelligent, successful, cultured, good looking man – a catch, like her, in other words – wouldn’t be within her grasp. And yet her flings and romances have tended to be with a crew that could at best be described as motley.

It was the antics of a purposefully unemployed “film-maker” who had almost driven her to medication that she was trying to forget about when she strode up to Barman Pete that night.

Barman Pete is young – about 23. He is chubby – sporting a double chin and a hint of man boob. He has big blubbery lips. His English is extremely ropey – he spoke absolutely none a year and a half ago when he arrived in London off a boat from near Dieppe. Regarded in the light of his attentiveness – he was always smiling at Mary, always paying her cocktails special attention – Pete appeared to Mary that night as a cheeky chappy whose attentiveness she suddenly fancied testing out a bit further. The wine coursing through her body, she suddenly saw a good smile, spiky black hair and nice big blue eyes. Man boobs, double chin and slightly bestial expression – mostly contained in those blubber-lips – remained in the back of her mind, but quite far in the back.

She strode up to him and asked him about himself, leaning over the bar. He could only understand about half of what she said so she had to keep it simple: “where are you from?” and so on. His now ravenous-seeming grin grew ever wider as she teased and questioned him. Her ego gloriously expanded as her sense of power grew. And so, later that night after drinks somewhere else, she rang the bar back and asked to speak to him. They exchanged numbers and next thing she knew, Mary was suggesting a drink.

Clear-headedness kicked in at the last minute. WHAT, she asked herself, AM I DOING??? We were appalled – I told her to steer clear of “junk food love” as there was no way Barman Pete was a potential boyfriend of any description and “just sex” was never “just sex”.  Another friend Caroline said: “Mary honey, can’t you go for the clientele instead?”

It all hit home and just in time, she ducked the drink, the next day pleading tiredness in a distinctly cold text, and hoped that would be an end of it. When she’d woken up there had been four texts asking where she was. This both horrified and flattered her. Distaste overpowered flattery this time: even for zany-tasted Mary, texts as devoid of style and punctuation as these – “wher r u” for instance, sent at 3:30AM – were a stark reminder of how unwise any further contact would be.

It was clear: Pete was not some idealized image of an adoring, ardent cheeky chappy barman, he was the flesh embodiment of a worryingly close, very flawed reality. The double chin, the hungry look, the voracious lips, the elementary English, the childish age and demeanour, the background so different a dog and turtle had more in common than they – it all came back to her. A suspicion emerged too that – like most young men bred on a digital diet of porn – he would have embarrassingly unrealistic inclinations and tastes.

A woman, receiving such an excuse and tone of text, would have hung her head in shame and never contacted the man again. Barman Pete, however, didn’t register even a hint of rejection. Morning after morning, afternoon after afternoon, Pete would pop up with texts ranging from the “how are you” type to the “when can I see you”. The longer she held off…well, you know the drill.

It still seemed like a bad idea. But the fact was, Mary felt she’d opened the can of worms herself and now really ought to sup from it. She had a bad feeling about it – his pushiness was worrying – but she was curious, too. And if she was honest, she didn’t exactly what him to stop texting and asking. So one night, she let him come round.

She expected the worst: wham bam. But it was rather nice in all senses; decent chat, cosy atmosphere, and best of all, Pete was UTTERLY THRILLED TO BE WITH HER.

He couldn’t wait for a repeat and they had three more, always at odd hours, but he regularly texted her in the day, after his shifts…he was smitten.

A bit too smitten, she worried. It seemed for a bit – between sessions two and three (and don’t forget that she’d see him regularly at the bar, too, where they would exchange flirtatious looks and coy asides) – that he might be thinking of her as a GIRLFRIEND. She panicked about the “talking to” she’d have to give him since this was already further than it should have gone.

And then, poof. The day after the third sleepover, he was quiet. That night, she went to the bar, as she’d done previously a mere 10 hours after he’d been in her bed (it was becoming a rather enjoyable scenario), and he spotted her a martini.

But later, no text. Next day, nothing.

What? Where was he? Why had he gone quiet?

Barman Pete had gone cool on her. She knew it.

She knew it was for the best.

But she loathed it. Suddenly, her doubts about him  – and his potential over keenness – seemed laughable. She vastly preferred that to this. Well, rationally this was for the best. It really was. The sex was a dead end.

But now, without his texts, his fervent interest, she wanted him and badly.

“Mary,” we told her. “He’s a cocky 23 year old barman. Move on, you can do better.” But she kept obsessing. It was bizarre: when they’d started sleeping together, she’d said to us all that the great thing about it was that there was absolutely no chance of her agonizing over Pete. She had the power, he should be so lucky, and she could do what she wanted, when she wanted. He wasn’t the person to expend subtleties on. And there she was, flummoxed, texting him then hating herself when he either didn’t reply or was busy, worrying about strategy. Rather than the only minimal respect and a flimsy initial attraction she’d felt at first, Mary now felt a tidal wave of emotion. Pete might as well have been Brad Pitt.

If women could woo men (or at least, text them repeatedly at 3AM without being considered repellent psychopaths), we might be able to try the Dance of the Table Turn. But in general, we can’t. And so until further notice, ladies: pack an extra sweater. It gets damned chilly out there – and fast.


One Response leave one →
  1. wilma james permalink
    June 5, 2012

    i read alot of novels….in fact when i picked up your book in my library i thought it was one……i would not normally read books like your new book..the man diet..but i did and i just wanted to tell you that i loved fact i wished i had read it a few years ago!!!…in better place now!..will look out for your future books .

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