DON’T WANNA DATE ME? NOW I’M HOOKED!

DON’T WANNA DATE ME? NOW I’M HOOKED!  AM New York – 11/13/2006

BY JULIA ALLISON

A few weeks ago, a young guy who had once eagerly asked me out emailed me a shockingly straightforward “I’m just not that into you (so please stop stalking me)” blow off missive.

In the three months since I’ve been officially single, I’ve gotten several rejections like that, all for disparate reasons.  Oddly, my response to each of them has been identical; previously uninterested, now I was hooked!  I wanted them all to fall madly in love with me and propose in Vegas, preferably next week.

Which of course makes no sense.  I’d much rather go to the Caribbean.

But the more I thought about it, the more confused I became.  Why was I was once again susceptible to the irritating and completely masochistic “If He Doesn’t Like Me, I Like Him Even More” syndrome?  Why did my retarded brain fan the flames of desire every time a guy shot me down?  What evolutionary or practical purpose does that serve, if any?

I put that question to several dating and psychology experts, who at the very least made me feel normal, if still rejected.

“People are naturally drawn to similar levels of attractiveness,” Brown professor and psychologist Dr. Scott Halzman emailed me.  “We assume the person who doesn’t seem attracted to you must be at a higher level of desirability themselves.  If we can get them to become attracted to us, they seem more precious, and we, by extension, also feel worth more.”

Ah-ha.  That makes sense.

Apparently, most of us (myself definitely included) have an overabundant need for approval.  Who knew??  Consequently, we look towards others to validate our perceived level of self-esteem, and if we don’t find what we’re looking for (ie, they don’t like us), we try even harder.

“We want to be liked,” author Debbie Mandel says.  “So, if 50 people in the room adore us and greet us, it’s the one person who doesn’t that gets our attention. This undermines our self-confidence, and we need to restore it with a win.”

The idea of needing to “win” touches upon the maddeningly persistent game-like element to dating; loving “the chase” may be a giant cliché, but as any bachelor can tell you, it’s alive and well – and thriving – in Manhattan.

“It’s human nature that we don’t like what comes easily,” says Ronnie Ann Ryan, an author and dating coach.  “We want what we can’t have.  So when a potential romantic partner is not interested or shows resistance, the pursuer comes alive and the chase begins.”

How very … zoological.

Or you could look at it the way my friend’s husband did, who told her that the French have a saying about these relationships: “One lover offers the lips and the other, the cheek.”

Can I just air-kiss?