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Is he into me, or is he just trying to get into me? This is how you tell the difference

So Here's The Thing

Is he into me, or is he just trying to get into me? This is how you tell the difference
“Breadcrumbs will always lead you to the witch’s lair.” — Ava Li

Hi Internet, I'm interrupting Teresa's fortnightly column this week to give my two cents worth on dating. Like Teresa, I've been in the dating game for a long time — more than half my life in fact — which accounts for my ever-growing bank of dating horror stories. It's safe to say that if dating experiences were a currency, I'd be a millionaire fives time over.

I might now be living on the other side of the world from Teresa, but I can assure you dear reader, that the nightmares of dating do not discriminate when it comes to geographical location. My Whatsapp chats with Teresa are peppered with conversations about the men that we encounter — both intentionally and unintentionally, international and local; and laments on how many frogs we have been kissing and still no prince.

"I can assure you that the nightmares of dating do not discriminate when it comes to geographical location."

And after a weekend of simmering in my illustrious and rather colourful dating life, I volunteered to Teresa, my unloading of a much-repeated story to the rest of the world — because I truly believe that many women have had the same experiences (as I had), and failed to recognise the signs (as I did) until it's a little too late. 

It was during this time of reflection and ponder, that I reached the conclusion that it doesn't matter whether you met a guy in a club or Tinder, most of them come with a natural radar-like quality I've coined 'the breadcrumb effect'. The breadcrumb effect is not a new dating concept I pulled out of my hat. Fans of Sex and the City would be familiar with how Mr Big breadcrumbed Carrie through all six seasons — frustrating us to no end and had us shouting into our pillows episode after episode. For one moment, forget the happy ending and instead judge their relationship for what it was: The roller-coaster ride of how each time Carrie began ridding herself of her Big-gage (i.e. she was actually happy), Big would spring back into her life like the ghost of Christmas past and s**t all over her parade.

So yes, the breadcrumb effect is not new. But recognising it and subsequently telling a guy to shove it, is another thing. Like one of my girlfriends said: "Boys just know when they're slipping off your radar. When that happens, they slide back into your DMs to f**k you up." You'd think given my years of experience, I'd have already known when to run for the hills — at the first whiffs of bread baking. But it wasn't until multiple run-ins with Daniel* when I got to thinking (and writing).

"It doesn't matter whether you met a guy in a club or Tinder, most of them come with a natural radar-like quality I've coined 'the breadcrumb effect'."

When I first met Daniel, it was lust at first sight. We were both pretty straight up with what we wanted. I sure wasn't planning our wedding after our first date, especially since he told me that he didn't believe in monogamy. Still, we dated for a good three months and till today, I question my sanity for sticking around for that long.

So here's the thing: When Daniel revealed his adversity towards relationships, I filed him straight into my "Mr Right Now" folder. A significant part of me knew that I wasn't going to be able to change his mind, and that I might as well just enjoy the ride while it lasted — so to speak. But somewhere along those 90 days, my emotional tectonic plates shifted, even as I was regularly referring to him as a f**kboy to Teresa; Daniel often rejected the notion, but hey if the shoe fits...

The more I refused to entertain any expectations of a relationship in the beginning, the more Daniel would have these unannounced profound moments where he opened up to me with a "I've never told anyone this but..." and got deep into the emotional stuff. During his confessions, I was privy to his innermost thoughts and got a glimpse behind that devilish handsome mug and trash-talking, clueing in to the fact that there might actually be a vulnerable boy in there, somewhere.

Whenever that happened, I would find myself wondering if there could be something more for Daniel and myself. That was when the first sprigs of hope blossomed like mould; and if I'm likening hope to mould, you can be sure that there's no happy ending to this story. Daniel's un-f**kboy junctures were rare, but they always occurred when I my stance on sticking around began to waiver, especially when keeping up with his Jekyll and Hyde-ness was soon taking its tow on me.

"The more I refused to entertain any expectations of a relationship in the beginning, the more Daniel would have these profound moments where he opened up to me with a 'I've never told anyone this but...'"

The day before Valentine's Day, I finally pulled the plug. I gave Daniel that much dreaded, "We need to talk". I'd brought it up the week before, but he stalled until I insisted on calling him. Over the phone, we exchanged niceties and made small talk about work and the dailies. However, when I was about to drop the bomb, Daniel conveniently had to get off the phone to deal with well, whatever. Frustrated, I ended things via text message. He replied to express his understanding, and to confer his friendship. If I'm being optimistic, I'd say it was a cordial-enough breakup with some half-hearted convincing from his end that he really tried. Reality dictates that his words served him and him alone, allowing him a sound sleep at night. Regardless, I felt extremely relieved; disappointed but relieved that I had dodged a massive bullet. I would have risked a broken heart if I continued to invest more into our relationship.

Daniel and I promptly went our separate ways, and we didn't contact each other for weeks until after I'd started seeing someone else. While I wasn't openly dating the way Teresa shares the hilariously bad screenshots of her Tinder matches, sometimes you just can't hide your life from social media. In typical Mr Big fashion, Daniel resurfaced out of the blue to drop surprise calls and texts on me, on the pretense of "checking in". In one of those messages, he said he was bored and wanted to come over to "hang out" and to grab the stuff that he'd left behind. To be honest, I genuinely missed spending time with him and was excited about the possibility of a newfound friendship. When he arrived, lo and behold, I was greeted by the sight of Daniel and his dog, whom I have the softest spot for and haven't seen since we called it quits. At the back of my mind, I had my suspicions that he might be playing at something because he always knew which of my buttons to push.

"I had my suspicions that he might be playing at something because he always knew which of my buttons to push."

Soon enough, we were lazing on my couch catching up like old friends, as though no time had passed, no feelings hurt. Conversations were always easy with Daniel — despite it all, we have a lot in common and share the same humour. Halfway into chatting, Daniel leaned over and kissed me. I pushed him away saying, "Sorry but I'm sort of seeing someone now, and although it's nothing serious, I kind of want to see where things go with him." Daniel launched into serious f**kboy mode instantly; he did his best to convince me why we should sleep together again.

1.     "But we never had the talk that we've broken up." I called bulls**t on that because unless I've been having a conversation with myself, it was clear that we were over.

2.     "We should have one last hurrah, no one would know." Um, I would know. You would know. And your bloody dog would know.

3.     "Aww... if you don't sleep with me, I've got to leave with Ella* [his dog]. I can't sit here and be around you when I want to sleep with you."

Daniel said all of the above, word for word. Here's where I wish I could tell you I'm smarter than that and showed him (and Ella) the door, but unfortunately, I gave in to the desires of the human flesh. I had a great time and have no regrets of that day, but I did feel some guilt towards the guy I was seeing. Another two weeks came and went, before Daniel texted again to ask what we were — friends with benefits or friend-friends. I had officially called things off with the other guy, so I opted for the former. Daniel wasted no time in driving 32 kilometres to me, to cash in on the benefits of our arrangement.

"'We should have one last hurrah, no one would know,' Daniel said."

It was during dinner that very night when he started to breadcrumb me again.

I had made it pretty clear I wanted nothing more from him except what our status entitled us to. A few drinks in, Daniel offered, "You know, if we weren't so alike, I think we would have worked." Say what? I proceeded to shut him down. He pressed on, asking why I had doubts about our future as a couple. As much as I liked to give him a lecture on some of the qualities of a decent human being he sometimes lacked, I was in no way interested in going through the laundry list of all the ways he pulled the rug under me when we we together exclusively. Brushing the topic aside and feeling a little out of sorts, we went back to mine and spent the night together again.

When Daniel left for work the next morning, he kissed me goodbye with an uncharacteristically tender, "Bye, baby.". He had never used that term of endearment with me prior to this, which left me confused and vulnerable. The whole day, I wondered if I was too hasty in shutting down any likelihood of a relationship. But sure enough, he left me high and dry; that was the last time we shared a kiss. Following weeks, whenever I tried to make plans to see him, he would call rain check; he was busy with work, he said. His Instagram stories begged to differ.

The one time I managed to get him to commit to a meet up, he flaked. He was due at my place for a quick catch-up on Sunday, but he never turned up. Determined not to let his no-show ruin my weekend, I went about my day. I texted him in the evening to ask what was up, and if things were cool between us. He dropped the bomb — he met someone else and would like to make things work with her. His one liner, "You know me, I'm the all or nothing sort" felt like a cheap slap across the face. He went on to close the door to that conversation by excusing himself to bed. We'd talk the next day, he claimed.

"He had never used that term of endearment with me before, so his 'bye baby' left me wondering if I was too hasty in shutting down any likelihood of a relationship."

We never spoke. I have zero intention to start anything up with Daniel again but I did spend the next couple of weeks agonising over how I've allowed him to so blatantly screw me over while having to see him flaunt this new girl on Instagram. I decided that enough was enough.

Here's the truth: Daniel never respected me, he never treasured our friendship, and because I still had some semblance of self-respect left, I removed him from my life altogether. If he ever reads this, he might put two and two together and finally realise I cut him out not because of jealousy, but because I couldn't tolerate being treated like trash anymore. All that talk of friendship was just lip service; friends just don't do that to each other, friends don't leave breadcrumbs to lure friends into the witch's lair. I've always prided myself on being a better friend than a girlfriend, and the thought of how I let him walk all over me, use me and disrespect me, and then throw away our friendship like it meant nothing, was a rude awakening.

This story with Daniel is just one example of the breadcrumb effect, and sadly it isn't isolated to f**kboys. Even the "good ones" will breadcrumb you; not because all guys are bad, but because sometimes the human ego makes people play games with each other, stringing them along.

Case in point: Sebastian*. I met Sebastian at my birthday party. We hit it off immediately, and in a drunken state, I threw caution to the wind and invited him back to my place. The next day, I kicked him out thinking I'd never see him again. He lived on the other side of the world, and chances of seeing him ever again was next to zero, so I wasn't going to let myself go there. 

"Even the 'good ones' will breadcrumb you, not because all guys are bad, but because sometimes the human ego makes people play games with each other."

Unlike Daniel, Sebastian came off as sweet and thoughtful from the get-go. Proving that he indeed wanted to get to know me better, he took my number and texted me within hours of leaving my home. Sebastian did and said all the right things to make me think there could be more. When I saw him again in that same week, he shared that he hadn't been in a relationship for a few years and was now ready for one. Alarm bells started to go off in my head.

A voice boomed: "WARNING! BREADCRUMB ALERT! GET OUT WHILE YOU STILL CAN."

If you haven't guessed already, I am extremely foolhardy. Failing to learn my lesson after the Daniel debacle, I allowed myself to get sucked into the idea that maybe, just maybe, Sebastian was different. No such luck. Beyond the constant texting on week 1, he dropped off the face of the Earth. I saw all his read receipts. His excuse for not replying? "I'm bad at texting."

He was recently in town, but protested that he couldn't see me because he was busy with work. Unsurprisingly, Sebastian's interest in me dipped after I started to show mine. It took a significant amount of radio silence for my cue to arrive, but I eventually deployed my exit strategy for my one-way ticket out of the breadcrumb factory. Guess what happened within 12 hours of me making a decision to forget about Sebastian? He came back from the dead with a single text asking me how I was. There they were again, the breadcrumbs.

"I am extremely foolhardy. Even after the whole Daniel debacle, I allowed myself to get sucked into the idea that maybe, just maybe, Sebastian was different."

While I might not have learnt everything I needed to learn from my time with Daniel, my years of dating have drilled one thing into my head: If a guy was really into you, he'd make time for you. If a guy was really into you, he'd text you back, even if just to say he can't talk now and will reach out again later. If a guy was really into you, he'd make plans to see you, whether for 3 hours or 30 minutes. If a guy was really into you, he'd make you a priority — there are no ifs, buts and maybes when it comes to that.

*Names have been changed.
Tune in to the next entry on 10 August.

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