I am not good at playing hard to get. It is yet another feminine wile I either was not born with or failed to cultivate in my girlhood. Since my prepubescent days, I have sat perplexed as I’ve watched many a friend treat her boyfriend with as much attention and regard as she would a wilting houseplant, only to glance at him halfway through the evening, like, Oh yeah. You’re here, and ask him to fetch her a glass of water–which he does, dutifully, and returns to her side to resume staring at her like the stars can’t come out until she tells them to. These are the same girls who break up with a guy and poof! A new one appears like a bright white rabbit out of a top hat. And they will treat these men just like the previous ones, and they will be drooled over for it, and so the cycle repeats.
I have no desire to behave like that. I think it’s rude and, in my case at least, dishonest, and I was raised better than that. And as I say this, the pouting single girl inside me says, Great, but your principles won’t buy you chocolate on your birthday. She has me there, but I stand by my non-chocolate-buying principles. If I like you, and you possess even a hint of perception (which, granted, some of the men I’ve encountered seem not to possess), you will know. Conversely, if I do not like you, and you possess even a hint of perception (which, again, see the aforementioned caveat), you will know. I am incapable of hiding my feelings. If I’m fawning over you, one look at my face, and you’ll see what I’m thinking: Here’s my heart, here’s my soul. When I’m in love, I’m a Labrador puppy. Okay, maybe I’m not that bad, but close. “Effusive” is the word I most often use to describe myself, and new acquaintances tend to start referring to me as “passionate” after only a few conversations. And yet, I have been single for most of my life.
This failure at playing hard to get isn’t confined to the realm of romance. I applied for a job the other day, and in putting together a cover letter, I sent it to Kandy for a critique. She pointed out something I said in the last paragraph, where I began explaining, in no uncertain terms, that this was my dream job, and I would work extremely hard if I got it, and swoon, swoon, swoon. She said, kindly, “I know you want this bad, but I don’t think you need this part. Make them want you and think they can’t live without you. Not the other way around.” I took the sentence out, thanked Kandy for her feedback, and told her to note that nowhere in my cover letter did I claim to be adept at playing hard to get, which is why I need her to reign me in. Because if I like you, whether you are a boy or a job, I will tell you, and that, evidently, makes it less likely that I will get you.
I mention all of this because, yesterday, I wrote a post about my writing lacking that certain “something” that seems to make literary writing publishable (in the schmancy journals and presses, anyway). While some might’ve considered that post self-deprecative, I prefer to think of it as honest. I know I’m talented, and I know I work hard. But I also recognize certain realities that seem to exist among the literary elite, and for once in my life, I’m coming to terms with the fact that I don’t have to be the very best. I just have to do my best–and I know that sounds like a line from an after school special, but it’s how I feel (remember, not good at hiding the feelings, here). I have long said that if something I write could reach or help or make a difference for just one person, that would be enough, and I’m intoning that claim now more than ever these days. And that’s what I meant by yesterday’s post.
But then, something strange happened–within twenty-four hours of writing that post, I received, not one, but two literary journal acceptance letters: one for a poem and one for a story. The first one left me bouncing off the walls. The second one about made me fall out of my chair. After nearly three years of submitting things to journals (sporadically, but still) and getting rejection after rejection, I’m now going to have two things published. Not in hoity-toity journals, but in journals that I respect and admire and am honored to contribute to. I almost think that’s better.
So what’s my point? This–after basically telling the literary world, “I don’t care if you ever accept me. Because I accept me,” poof! Two acceptance letters. Was that me playing hard to get? I don’t think so. Because I wasn’t trying to slink, stalk, attract, and attack. I was, as always, just being honest. So maybe the trick isn’t playing hard to get. Maybe it’s confidence. Maybe it’s saying, “This is what I have to offer, take it or leave it. If you take it, cool. If not, well, no worries. Because I’m going to keep offering it, and someday, someone will take it.” And look–someone has. Two someones, or I guess, since they’re journals, two somethings.
I don’t know how this philosophy translates to the area of romance, though. Unless my lesson there is supposed to be, just as I began submitting work to less well-known journals, that I should stop falling for men who are out of my league. But I’m not sure that’s the problem, mostly because I’m not sure what mythical “league” I’m in, nor do I know how to identify who is within, above, or below said league. Maybe that’s the problem: more of my ineptitude rearing its confused little head. But oh well. I have a poem and a story getting published. That’s enough to keep my Labrador puppy vibe going for at least another week.