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Spontaneity can be a great thing–the impromptu cocktail with a friend, a last-minute jaunt out of town with a guy (or girl) you like a lot. I get it, I love it. It can be fun and thrilling and very romantic. I welcome those rare opportunities, especially when they happen with people you know you want to spend time with.

But it’s a lousy way to make a first impression.

Why? Because spontaneity has undergone an unflattering change in the world of modern dating. And rather than a thrilling and unpremeditated adventure, it’s become a poor-man’s excuse for not planning ahead.

I wrote about a guy I’d gone out with once who canceled actual plans but tried to make up for it with crazy last-minute ones that never panned out. He was a day-of texter, a what-are-you-doing-right-now-er.When I declined a few offers for day-of drinks, because I legitimately had other plans, he canceled the one set of plans we DID have to meet for dinner, because he thought maybe he was too “out of the box” for us to have anything meaningful. In other words, because I couldn’t just fly by the seat of my pants any time he felt like reaching out, we could never work.

Wha? Is a meaningful relationship built on “I didn’t think to ask you earlier” plans? Doubt it.

The assumption that someone is or should be free to meet you whenever you want, especially if you’re just getting to know him or her, is either magical thinking, or straight-up rude. Just because you have a cool hand-held digital device that lets you zip me a message at any hour of the day or night does not mean the onus is on me to manifest your intentions. But this is often what someone is doing while acting under the guise of spontaneity.

Here’s another example.

I returned a belated email to a gentleman who had expressed interest in going out (I’d met him once at a party). It happened to be a Saturday evening. He wrote me back later that night asking what I was doing. When I told him I was working, he wrote back:

“Not anymore. Let’s c how spontaneous u r. No need for makeup, c’mon n meet me somewhere. Impress me.” 

Now. It was now 10:30 at night and I was in–in as in pajamas in, comfortably in, with no interest in going out. But the idea that I should go not only because he felt like it, but because it would impress him? Really?

It’s one thing to ask if I will meet you late on a Saturday when you hadn’t given a thought to asking me earlier…but to add that this would make me somehow more likable? Wow. This is the sleight-of-hand of the spontaneity game–it’s “I didn’t think of it before, but you should meet me–because I feel like it and because it’ll definitely make me like you more.”

Yeah, not signing up for that. Not always, anyway (never say never). But it definitely was not a motivating factor.

And here’s why: To a great extent, spontaneity must be earned. You can’t break from the norm when you don’t have a norm. Much less be expected to be spontaneous (which sort of cancels out the spontaneous part).

This drives a single friend of mine crazy. When she gets the after-9pm text to meet up, she doesn’t respond. “I wonder how many people he’s gone through to get to me,” she says. Of course, this is fear-based thinking–and not one I subscribe to. But I get her concern, and I know that many women would think the same thing.

I don’t personally care how many other women whose attention you’re vying for. But if you want mine, you have to think a little in advance and assume that, like you, there’s a good chance I have plans.

At the very least, if a gent is going to ask you out the day of, or night of, it should sound more like this: “Hi there. I know you likely have plans for this evening but I happen to be in your neck of the woods unexpectedly and would love to take you out for a drink. If you can, fantastic, and if not, I understand and will be in touch next week so we can set up actual plans.”

There you have it: The approach is humble; it doesn’t assume you’re free and if you call yourself a woman you’ll meet him. No. There’s even a little context (and I don’t even care if it’s fudged–it just needs to feel real), and if it doesn’t happen, the guy has every intention of following up to make a real plan.

Why? Because real men make real plans. And they know where their priorities are. If you’re one of them, you usually know before you order takeout and throw on “Deadly Women” on Investigation Discovery.

My advice: Beware the man who insists you meet him spontaneously very early on, or all the time. Spontaneity has its place, and can be fun when it’s someone you’d be thrilled to meet up with. But not when it’s used as a mask for poor planning, afterthought, and straight-up laziness. It also demonstrates first hand that he can’t make a decision or won’t commit to one until the very last minute–which, ironically, limits his options in the end. Not that manly, when you look at it that way. Adolescent, is more like it.

Keep that in mind the next time your phone buzzes after midnight with a two-word text: “U around?”

 

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