The Hooking Up Thing: A bartender's take on the games we play

Sexy young couple

When it comes to being on the prowl, we all know the game: you head over to a trendy bar with your friends, spot your target and prepare to pounce if you're going to get them to notice you by the end of the night. If you're a guy, you probably get your boys to play the role of good wingmen before putting the moves on your target. And, if you're a lady, you're likely going to make sure you're just obvious enough so the object of your attraction can approach. Either way, what ensues is a game of cat and mouse, each side pulling in a silent tug-of-war, while the promise of some type of hook up lingers on both parties' minds...

Yes, this scenario sounds all too familiar to many of us. And in large city like Chicago, it's especially common. It keeps our weekends filled with the hope of finding a new prospect to date or even just to spend the night if we so desire.

I have to admit, I've played this game far too often. After all, it is the way of the jungle. But, just this weekend I got a new spin on it, thanks to a very cool bartender while I was out in the ever popular Old Town section of Chicago.

It all started at the bar, right after I had ordered a drink. I was there, talking with a small group about socializing in Chicago's bar scene when the bartender -- I'll call him George -- joined in. Nothing intense, just light banter. At that point, one of the guys in the little group asked the bartender about his observations.

"Yes," I said. "What have you noticed? I'm sure the stories are many."

He simply smiled. Oh, he had already thought about this.

"See, the thing that kills me is when women play this whole chase game with guys," he said. "You know, kind of playing coy but hoping he bites. The thing is, that is exactly the kind of thing a guy wants, to feel like he earned it."

"Ok," I said. " So what are you getting at?"

"Well," he said. "It's simple. By a girl playing hard-to-get, a guy is empowered. It's like he's thinking, 'If I could make you give me sex, then what else can I make you do?' Suddenly, he's entitled because it's like he's taken something."

At this point, I have to admit, I found his thought process interesting.

"Basically, this whole thing starts when men are allowed to feel like they earned something, or got something. But, if a woman owns her own sexuality, you know, pursues what she wants and treats it like 'I gave you something,' then it kind of keeps a man's ego at bay. She's calling the shots and suddenly the guy doesn't have the control."

This kind of thinking was new to me. After all, I'd been socialized into the school of thought that you play hard-to-get, that I as a woman am worth it. And, when it comes to the relationship thing, I still think that has some merit, as long as one doesn't play impossible-to-get or unresponsive. I mean, a little bit of chase seems OK. A guy will go a little further if he's digging someone. After all, if he's into a woman, then it doesn't seem like work. Same goes for women.

What it came down to? I walked away thinking that if I'm out on a Saturday night and looking to play the field, score some digits or land a nice kiss, then George's approach may make sense: seize the day, as long as I'm realistic about the expectations (it is what it is). But, if I want to find a little more substance, then I should be honest about that with myself and with the guy, as long as I keep in check any signals I may send that assume intimacy is a given right away (as appealing as that may seem sometimes!).

I'm not 100% sure if I'll apply George's approach to my own dating habits. But, I do know that only I can get the ball in motion for who and what I want as long as I play it straight with any potential short-term or long-term dates. The rest is up to circumstance, chemistry and the guy of course. Then, let the chips fall where they may, right?

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