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This one time, in gigolo camp…

I’d like to relay a conversation I had with a past lover who asked a very pointed question as we were strolling along a riverbank (yes, really! Hallmark called and wanted their moment back), in hopes that it will impart a valuable lesson for the next generation of pussy houndlings. Our love ended when she moved far away, but she later returned for a few weeks and met with me to wax nostalgic over old times. The pertinent part of our convo follows:

Her: Did you use game on me?

Me: (momentarily rattled) What do you mean?

Her: I mean did you say things that would make me fall for you? Were your feelings real?

After a few seconds pause to collect myself and stop from blurting an ill-formed, self-incriminating reply, I stowed my easy smile and summoned my Very Serious Face.

Me: Since when did you become so cynical? One thing I’ll always regret is turning a woman like you into a cynic. It doesn’t suit you.

Her: I’m not cynical. I was just wondering if you meant what you said to me.

Me: Tell me, was I a bad influence on you?

Her: No.

Me: But I was. You sound like a different girl today. That’s not good. You’ve lost something, and it kills me inside.

Our conversation took a detour at that juncture, as we passed a store that reminded her of the place where I picked her up. When we returned to the subject, she asked me what I meant when I said she was different now than when I met her. All talk of “game” had ceased.

Note three themes: 1) I never answered her question directly. 2) I redirected the conversation so that she was put on the defensive, having to reconcile both a possible change in her personality for the worse, and blame for making me feel like “it was killing me inside”. 3) The “bad influence” assumption fed her desire for JERKBOY drama.

The wild-eyed feminist reader shrieks, “That’s manipulation!” Is it? Substantively, nothing I said was false. Her fling with me really did provoke in her a small measure of cynicism. It’s also true that she was a naturally big-hearted girl for whom cynicism conflicted with those temperamental attributes that made her special to me. And finally, I did in fact feel kind of bad for arousing in her dark suspicions. And it is a fact as well that women welcome a bit of badboy excitement in their love lives.

But there would’ve been no gain to be had, for either of us, from admitting under interrogation that I had used game on her or from expressing regret for the use of game rather than regret for the effect that it had on her uncorrupted, trusting love. Because I knew from experience that when women ask seemingly pointed questions, what they really want to know goes much deeper, to primal feelings that women hold near and dear, like, for instance, the nature of loving reciprocation. Directing my replies to those deeper feelings in her, as if I was talking to a separate being or the real woman behind the curtain, would yield fuller intimacy.

So I had used game. And I meant what I had said to her when we first met. The two aren’t mutually exclusive. Game was the best way to persuade her that my feelings for her were genuine, because I knew that she would need that professionally administered seduction to be open to receiving my sincere message of love. Yes, you evade tough questioning from a woman to sidestep discomfort and bad feelings, but you also evade her dead end inquisitions to grapple with the turbulence of her hidden, animating emotions. The art and science of seduction can be as enlightening as it can be bewildering. And there’s no woman in the world who doesn’t love it for both reasons.

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