How I can tell a woman wants me

My friend Troy looked pleased, so I knew something was wrong.

"Troy, old chum," I said while we were life-cycling at the fitness center, "why so un-chapfallen?" For indeed his chaps had not fallen. "You'd think you had something to be happy about, but I know you better than that."

"A wonderful thing has happened," he said. "I've just read The Rules, by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider, and my life has changed."

"The Rules?" I said. "You mean that instruction book for marriage-minded women on playing hard to get?"

"Tut," he said, which was the first time I heard a man say "tut."

"You do it a disservice." he said. "Yes, it's a book that coaches women on coyness. But it's also a book that will put things right, make the center hold again."


"Tons of women have read it," he said. "But you should too, old friend. Look what it's done for me."

I looked what The Rules had done for him: Watery eyes. Pot belly. Rumpled shirt. Same old Troy.

"Maybe you'd better explain," I said.

"Well, just consider the rules," he said. "`The time-tested secrets for capturing the heart of Mr. Right'."

"You're making me very nervous," I said.

"They are reason for happiness," he said. "They include guidelines for women like Rule Number 13: `Don't see him more often than once or twice a week.' Or Rule Number 2: `Don't talk to a man first and don't ask him to dance.' Or Number 5: `Don't call him and rarely return his calls'."

"I'm with you so far," I said. "But I'm ready to run."

"Well, this is a great leap forward, don't you think? Only ten years ago, the term 'marriage-minded' was banished from the vocabulary. But now, it's all right. Only ten years ago, it was bad form for a woman to profess a desire to marry. But now, those who want to can do so, without getting drummed out of the ranks of old-school constipated feminism and their epaulettes ripped off."

"Will you please keep your voice down?" I said. "You don't seem to notice we're outnumbered here."

Around the gym, women on stairclimbers climbed, women on cycles cycled, women on treadmills treaded. No one appeared to have heard us.

"But it's all right," Troy said. "Modern women are once again comfortable plying the ballet of advance and retreat, don't you see? We have entered the age of peace."

"I can't imagine we're in such placid waters as you make out," I said. "I'm not about to call a woman a girl or ask her to make coffee."

"Not the same thing at all," Troy said. "You still can't do those things if you hope to live. But you can be romantic again. That much has been approved in the popular court. The Rules  signal no relapse to old-style deference, but a conscious choice to seize control. They choose not to ignore differences but exploit them."

"Aggressive passivity," I said.

"If you like. At the very least, they show that the personal is no longer the political. Or rather say that the personal no longer depends on the political."

"I would certainly like to believe you," I said. "But I have a principle against expressing opinions that are likely to get me kneed in the groin."

"Believe me." he said. "We are entering a new age, a fun age, a second sexual revolution. Except this time around both sexes operate from positions of power."

"We'll here's to revolution," I said. "I take my martini dry."

"But I haven't yet told you the best part. I never before realized I was so attractive to women."

"I beg your pardon?"

"Women are fascinated with me," he said. "Can't you see it?"

Around us, women continued to climb, cycle, tread and sweat. No one looked at us.

"Yeah," I said. "They sure look taken with you, all right."

"But surely you understand they are not allowed to show interest in me," he said. "They're all doing The Rules. To show interest in me would sour our potential marriage. They are constrained from speaking by the highest hopes of our eventual union."

"I'm beginning to get it," I said. "These women are all playing hard to get with you."


"And that's why none of them calls you," I said.

"I can't think of another reason," he said.

"In fact, the reason that no woman has called you in more than a year is that they are interested in you."

"Of course," he said.

"But any woman who could avoid calling you for a whole year must be really bonkers over you," I said. "I don't know how they restrain themselves."

"Women are stronger than men," he said.

"Obviously. And the fact that so many women have not called you only suggests that thousands, maybe millions, of women have the hots for you."

"I don't know how you could escape that conclusion," he said.

"I'm beginning to like this idea," I said.

We lifted some weights and stretched. We raised our pulse rates. But mostly we basked in the glorious new awareness that we were objects of intense desire. The women at the reception counter, the women on the stationary bikes, the women in the weight room--all of them had read The Rules and were all just waiting for us to speak to them and eventually marry them.

How else could you explain such indifference?

© Rob Laymon 2002

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