Everyone, including me, has conformed to the social norm of seeing a text, a Snapchat, or even an Instagram DM from someone we have a crush on, and then waiting juuust the perfect amount of time to respond. I want to show I’m interested—but not so much so that I crave their attention—even though I definitely do.
In response, if they respond in too little time, they are desperate, but if they wait too long, they’re playing games. If they post a Snapchat story and leave the selfie of me with a dog filter unopened, they’re playing games. If I see them in Usdan on their phone, and my text still doesn’t have “read” under it, they’re playing games. And the worst part is, we anger ourselves if we suspect our crush of playing games with us, because we want to be in control. We want to be the one running the show.
We desire the power to dictate the conversation, asking questions so that we can trigger a response because we want to see that name–that name you just can’t get out of your head–pop up on your lock screen. But we can’t express that we value that split second, that moment where we feel like we’ve won a small victory that day.
We consider that a win because honestly, there are winners and losers in these situations. That’s why we call them texting “games.” Winners get what they want and losers don’t, just like anything else in life. But in texting, there are two types of losers: the ones who respond too quickly because they think they’re catching their crush on their phone, and those who do not receive responses. The winners are those who dictate. They could receive a text fifteen seconds after sending one and pretend they didn’t see it for hours. They choose to make it obvious they’re playing games because they know it tortures their crush into wanting them. Or maybe they just don’t care.
Also, as if we write our replies on our own: Have you ever been hanging out with your best friend, and received a text from your crush and been so excited the first thing you did—after letting out a sigh of relief that they actually texted you—is tell your best friend what it said? Then, they ask, “what you are going to respond?” and before you know it, you and your best friend are using the locked room feature on Houseparty with your three other best friends asking for help. You want your text to make you seem like the suave man who has got it all figured out, even though you are just trying to elicit a response. You are secretly beyond anxious, scared you just blew any chance of getting a text back. They respond. You breathe again. You wait 45 minutes. The same cycle ensues.
But these texts are never of any substance. We send meaningless messages to those people who we want to mean the most to us, like texting them: “hey, what r u up to?” when you just saw them standing in line at Pi Café or sending a snap of your feet. What’s the point of that? Is it because we are scared to open up? Maybe. Or is it that we are worried they just don’t care about what we have to say? Could be.
But that’s just how it starts, and then something happens. Things get simpler. There is some spark that makes you both want each other and not care if the other one knows it. The “perfect amount of time” I used to wait in between texts without looking desperate becomes an idea of the past. The anxiety I used to get after hitting send is also gone. The only emotion that remains is that moment of bliss when their name pops up on your lock screen. My friends don’t need to formulate my texts, because I’m finally comfortable enough to do it myself. It’s liberating.
I don’t have game. And while that might seem like an issue, it doesn’t have to be. Because you can win with nothing but one lucky shot. You can be the greatest in the world and still strikeout. It doesn’t matter how many times you are the loser in this game, because all it takes is one great win.