Before we get too far into the flashbacks to my previous experiences, I’ll define a term which I may end up using from now on. It is a game which was played on me many times throughout my life, especially as a child and teenager, so much so that I gave it a term. I’ve mentioned it to other people and they never seem to be able to figure out what I mean by it. Hopefully text will prove to be better suited than verbal explanations. I will note as a caveat that I grew up in the mid to late 1980’s to the end of the 1990’s, so it may be possible that it’s not done anymore in most social circles. After all, my childhood and even a chunk of my college life pre-dated things that most younger generations take for granted, such as i0S mobile devices or even sites like MySpace, Twitter, Facebook, Wikipedia, or YouTube.
The “She Likes You” Game tended to go like this. Two girls (or young women, although in my experiences this tended to happen mostly in junior high and high school ages) approach some hapless boy who seems to be alone, and likely radiates some unspoken body language of being shy, awkward, and non violent or aggressive. All will be relative strangers to the other. It can include more girls but it usually always requires two. The opening often varies, but the endgame is always the same. One girl usually does most of the talking while the other(s) watch with levels of bemusement or embarrassment. The girl doing the “opening” will ask about personal information out of the boy, such as name, hobbies, age, address, what class he’s in (or school), favorite color, and all around fishing. When asked why, she usually will reply with a variation of the line, “See my friend over there? She likes you.” Sometimes the opening will include this line before the info-fishing.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Oh, Dateless-Man, you fool. She/one of them really did like you, and you blew it.” That is what I thought the first time it happened in a public park. The endgame is always the same. Answer all the questions, even get excited about it, and eventually the finale is always the same. One of the girls always admits that it wasn’t true, and they laugh at you. It’s just something some of them did to kill time, see how long the hapless schmuck can be strung along.
I’d have long ago dismissed this as simply one of the random things that happens in life, but it happened at least a half dozen times. In fact, one of the last times was between two cashiers at a grocery story I frequented around 2006-2007 or so. And as I got older, I got better at immediately telling by vocal tone and body language that none of the claims of being “liked” were genuine. And as stated, the girl doing the talking is never the one who “likes” the target; it’s always her friend behind her or off to the side watching somewhere.
Now, I don’t want this description to be misunderstood. Nowhere am I laying blame or hate on an entire gender. I am more than aware of the things that men and boys do to girls and women when they’re “bored” or wanting to “test” some target they consider “hapless” are often far more cruel, violent, and even criminal. And I am also aware that many of those things may be in their minds because our entire society is built around a mangled ideal of masculinity which includes women seeming to exist as the prize or goal for a man. I’ve never denied that my own shame and self loathing over my inability to succeed with dating is a result of this; it simply is what it is. If it were something I could turn off or reset simply with a learned realization of, “It’s the patriarchy, stupid”, I would have long ago done so and been a much happier fella.
At any rate, as I said above, the “She Likes You” Game happened so many times that I became adept at recognizing when I’d become a target. Up until the moment I began typing this, I had dubbed it the “I Like You” Game until I realized seeing it in text that my long held term was misleading. By about the second or third time it happened, I began cutting it off at the introductory phase by giving obviously false names. Having knowledge of comic books often made that very easy. By about the third or forth one, they’d usually get irritated at my inability to go along with the game, and go off to do something else. As I got older and, sadly, more aware of my own transformation into the Dateless-Man (essentially, by junior high and high school), my denials that any random girl would like me (especially at random) often ended the game prematurely as well. I remember one exchange when I was a junior or senior when at least 3-4 girls attempted this game went like this:
“My friend over there likes you.”
“No, she doesn’t.”
“Why not? Don’t you like her?”
“No girl likes me.”
Yes, I used to sometimes say that like it was a magical decree. That I possessed an “Anti-Hormone” that would repel any of the opposite gender. To this day I sometimes joke about it.
I imagine it happened a lot of times because I was alone. While I’ve always had friends, I’ve also been willing to hang out somewhere alone to pass time, whether on campus when I was attending a school or in a public park near an arcade when I was younger. Groups of boys of a particular temperament will pick on another, especially one they don’t know well or at all, if they happen upon him at random. It’s not unreasonable that some girls would do the same in a similar circumstance, albeit in a different way. Our society encourages violence and physical things to boys and manipulation in girls, after all. Lord knows girls can be bullies the same as boys can be, to either those in their own gender or others. Once we start to cover my flashbacks around junior high, the theme of bullying will become more distinct. To offer a prelude, a group of 12-13 year old boys basically wound up controlling how I would view myself for the rest of my life.
At any rate, the “She Likes You” Game often would act to cement the idea that other girls didn’t like me, regardless of whether I’d known them or not. It was hardly the worst thing I had to endure as a kid but it was something that happened enough to me that it left a lasting impression. Considering that my first “Puppy Love” experience below told the tale of how the very first girl I had a crush on essentially pretended to like me back on a dare, I thought this would be a good addendum to that tale.
And it did teach me one thing which I don’t think many men learn easily – that pretending to “like” someone just to make fun of them (or gain anything from them) is mean, and it’s something which should never be done because it hurts. Fortunately, I have never been in a position where someone else liked me and I didn’t notice, because I would hate to put someone through some of the things I had to endure. It is for this reason that I have never followed advice given to me which went along the lines of, “just ask out someone you don’t like/is too fat/is ugly/is not your type to build up your confidence”. I consider that to be cruel manipulation to my own ends, and not something I wish to inflict on other people – even if nobody ever cared about inflicting it on me when I was more vulnerable. If that’s part of “the game”, then it’s a game I don’t want any part of.
Maybe I was the only awkward kid who went through the “She Likes You” Game. I wouldn’t be surprised if boys had their own version that they played on awkward girls. I only have one version of my own experiences to relate, after all. Social media has only made it easier to verbally bully people than it was in my childhood. For all I know this “game” lives on in another form. All I know is that it stunk in the 90’s too.