It's like holding your breath underwater. You try to make it from one end of the pool to the other without so much as thinking of the surface, just to prove to yourself that you can. Still, sooner or later, you're going to be left gasping for air between the gulps of holding it in. Sure, the longer you're submerged with taut lips and a clenched diaphragm, the easier the subsequent seconds become, but, at some point, you can't do it any more. So you don't. So you breathe -- all the while clinging to the few seconds that you had ultimate control over your body's functions, just to prove to yourself that you're not, as it were, flailing at the whim of every prescribed inhale. Look at you -- catacean-you -- you've exhibited so much more restraint than the rest of us Homo sapien saps who revel in the exhale-release. For a moment, at least, you win the game-prize. But we all gotta breathe at some point, no matter how long we time ourselves otherwise.
We all say we hate it, that we're not going to do it, that it's a waste of time and pretense and that the jig is going to be up before you can burp the alphabet and, as such, any fronting will ultimately backfire. So why do it in the first place? Well, because you have to, because people don't need to see everything right away, because cards are meant to be played close to the chest and hands revealed accordingly. So I've learned. The hard way.
My mom used to tell me to just romantically do whatever I want to do. If I was considering telling a certain someone something, she'd encourage my candor and say, "Well, they're gonna find out who you are at some point. Might as well be honest now and, if they can't handle it, then they're not right for you." Yeah Mom, I'd think, that's right. Then I'd sans-water swallow a healthy dose of the Fuck Its and tell that particular person whatever I thought I just had to say at that particular moment (which was normally something along the lines of whatever happened to currently enter my mind -- the stem of the sentiment always being, but never blatantly stated, "I really like you and want to reach out to you so that you reach out to me so that I know you like me so that I'm validated in my liking you" or whatever). Maybe, though, this grand expression of anti-game playing honesty was really my mom's way of shutting me up.
I'm prone to obsess (Really, Sarah, you? Never woulda guessed...). I over-think every move before so much as making a single step. Text messages require proper-grammar deliberation and subtle-hint flirtation. Outfits solicit gut fluctuation and mood altercation. Meals involve incessant cost calculation and specific taste inclination. And so on (-tion). Spontaneity is never my forte. Until it is. Until I spin myself dizzy with a casual -- albeit rehearsed -- rationalization as to why I need to buck up and be me. Warts and all. Nuts and all. Excitable and all. Then I go ahead and place my foot so far in my mouth that I'm choking on my own knee and there's no way to undo the acrobatics I justified in a haste act of lemme-show-you-who-I-really-am. But I'm finished with all that. For the moment.
It's not so much game-playing as art-making: the art of withholding and the reward of the release that only a properly-placed buildup allows. Every last thing doesn't need to be revealed at every first contemplation. And that's really nice. We all have flaws and fuck ups and stories to tell, but we don't need to put it all out in the open right away. This becomes particularly true -- and particularly tricky -- when we meet people with no prior context of who we are. It is much safer to express yourself freely under the guise of mutuality; however, that is so rarely the case post-academia or outside of work. We are all blank sheets and someone will undoubtedly write notes in our margins, no matter how much we try to control the scribbles with our supposed charm. Thus, tact must be maintained for as long as possible. Plus, there's the more-often-than-not possibility that you'll end up not liking this person. Or visa versa. Might as well place all odds on that outcome so as not to choke on the passion that you felt for a fleeting moment. And, with that, viva la game playing! Replace the negative context of the association and look at it as a way to perpetuate patience for just a little longer. It, after all, keeps everything more interesting and allows desire to well up until it reaches the inevitable pinnacle of the release.