While you can't hide who you really are forever to a romantic partner, you can at the start of your relationship. And that's something, at least. But how best to minimize your real personality and present an uncomplicated, Emma-Stone-in-canary-yellow disposition? By playing hard-to-get, of course.
"You have no idea how many people ask me this question!" laughs Dr. Nicole Martinez, a relationship expert and life coach. "You need to read the other person and see what they're giving off," she explains. "You don't want to give everything when they're giving nothing, but you also don't want to come off as cold and unapproachable, because then playing hard-to-get means you don't want them or you aren't interested enough."
If this doesn't come naturally to you, Dr. Martinez has some tips. "Don't inundate them with texts and emails. They have a job, hopefully, so that could get really old, really fast." If you're a car-owner with poor impulse control, Dr. Martinez has a specific recommendation. "If you're feeling like you can't control yourself and want to text them all the time, leave your phone in your glove compartment while you work," she recommends.
Ask yourself: Am I desperate? If you're not sure (like smelling your own body odor, people rarely catch the tannic stench of their own desperation), Dr. Martinez explains the key indicators. "You're putting in all the effort. They're not communicating with you, or only hit you up at the last minute. They defer doing things or only do them when they have some free time. These are all not good signs."
Like a forensic investigator combing the scene of the Bowling Green massacre for clues, I dig deeper. "So if somebody texts you and is like, 'Hey how's your day going,' they're not looking for a long update. Just be short and sweet. Don't send ten text messages an hour," Dr. Martinez advises.
"Usually it's pretty clear when the other person is cutting off that text conversation. Definitely pick up on that cue and don't keep going, because that's a huge turn-off to people."
Charitably, Dr. Martinez believes technology might be partly to blame for the fact you're pathetic and alone. "Before the internet, people used to wait until after work to call each other. Now, with texting and email, it's all about immediate gratification. Everything is immediate. But it gets to the point where you can be overwhelming to other people."
All this theorizing is well and good, but what if—like Beyoncé re-asserting her Instagram supremacy with a tasteful triptych of pregnancy photos—it's time for a power move? "You could cancel a date last minute, but with a really strong caveat that you'd love to reschedule another time and was just slammed with work," Dr. Martinez helpfully suggests.
Basically, pull a dick move, but be overly apologetic about it. You might want to save the following exact message in your phone: "I'm so sorry, I would really like to see you, let's get something on the books."
And if playing hard-to-get still doesn't work? You're probably just really unloveable.