I’ve always prided myself in not playing games.

For instance, when I was single, I refused to comply with the unwritten rules of modern “dating.” If immediately texting someone back means I look desperate, then that’s not a person I’m interested in, anyway. If I’m supposed to pretend like I don’t want a committed relationship, even though that’s exactly what I want, then count me out. If “playing tonight by ear” is the cool way to do things instead of making set plans, then he can play it by ear, but I’ll still make a plan. And that plan will include erasing his number from my phone. Well…in a perfect world, that’s what I like to think I would have done. In reality, I often waited and waited to hear from him, only to receive a random text at 11 p.m. saying “how was your night?”, which usually landed me in the horrible, confusing trap of trying to be patient and non-overbearing, but wondering if basic communication is really all that outrageous of an expectation.

Reality check: It’s not.

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Despite the fact that my friends always made fun of me for being too overt when I liked someone, or setting my expectations too high, I never really cared what anyone thought about my lack of game. I wasn’t actively pursuing these guys like a Stage 5 Clinger, but I wasn’t about the “chill” life. Being chill is stupid.

People mistake the idea of “not caring too much” as the only way to have fun with someone. False. My husband and I had a blast from the beginning, and it was way more fun than playing the game of who can care less, because at the end of a great night, I wasn’t thinking, “Hmm, I wonder when he’ll text me again.” He made it clear that he liked me, I made it clear that I liked him, and after a few weeks, we decided we really liked each other, and now we’re married and we really really like each other. It’s not that hard, people.

I mean, I get the whole “you need to get to know someone before you can really like them or start having expectations.” Sure. Makes sense. But why does getting to know someone have to take so long? Why do you have to wait a few days after a great date before hearing from or responding to them? Why only get together once a week, or just “play this weekend by ear”? What a waste of time.

I think you should go on a few dates a week. That way, you can figure out pretty quickly if you actually like the person. It’s better that way, because you can move on faster if you’re not actually compatible, instead of playing these convoluted games that take forever to unfold. Isn’t that why everyone plays these games, anyway? To keep their options open? So just figure it out more quickly, and then you’re right back to being totally single and free again. Being forward with dating is for your single life benefit, folks!

Wow, I’ve already written nearly 500 words and I haven’t even gotten to the point of today’s post, which is that I’m way more of a game-player than I thought.

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So. Here I was in life, patting myself on the back and saying, “Good job, Shannon. You never give into games. It wasn’t well-received or the popular thing to do, but it worked out in the end! Go you! You’re such a transparent, awesome individual!”

Not so much.

My husband and I were recently discussing people we know who have successful…or unsuccessful…careers, and how they got to where they are. The people who are moving on up certainly have talent in their fields, sure, but they also befriended the right people, picked their battles in the industry wisely, and bent over backwards to not only be good at what they do, but make the people who matter happy.

I mean, anyone with a job knows that no matter how much you hate your boss, you have to hold it together for the sake of your career. If you get in a war with the person who controls your progression, it’s over. Particularly if that person has major influence over your industry or company, your ability to get along with them can seriously affect the course of your future.

Being nice to a person of power that you can’t stand, or perhaps has wronged you in some way, is playing the game. Swallowing your pride and ignoring things they said, or making an apology you “shouldn’t have to make,” is playing the game. Perhaps it’s slightly disingenuous, but it’s also really smart and responsible.

Even in terms of my career with this blog, I’ve been discussing ways to increase traffic with my husband and web developer, and many of the things I need to do feel like I’m giving into the “game” of blogging. Don’t get me wrong, I always plan on keeping my voice and style, even though I know that essay blogs without a particular niche (fashion, travel, entertainment, etc.) have a smaller pull. But when it comes to marketing my “brand,” I’m learning that I can’t just post random pictures of my friends and me on Instagram, and expect people to be invested.

My posts need to look professional and trendy. I need to post pictures of just me looking cute in a field or something. And little displays of a wine glass with my favorite book on a white surface, or maybe even an artsy picture of half my face wearing my new turquoise sunglasses. It’s so weird to me, and I honestly think the whole thing is super narcissistic, but I won’t lie…the people I find most interesting to follow on social media are those who post really aesthetically pleasing, simple photographs. I haven’t started doing it yet, but I know I need to. And that, my friends, is deciding to play the game.

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All of these thoughts and conversations recently started to shift my perspective on “playing the game.” You know what? Maybe the game is important! To an extent, of course.

I’ve played the game in my former jobs (even if it was ever so slightly, just to keep from getting fired), which makes me think…is there a place for playing the game in the dating world, too? And did I do it without even knowing?

Absolutely. I may have not played the “chill” game, but I definitely played some other ones. These other, less noticeable dating games come more naturally to me, but they’re games all the same. I laugh easily. I strike up conversations with strangers. I wear a little makeup and shave my armpits. You know, things that attract most men.

I’ve had conversations with a few people who complain that they never meet anyone, because they don’t think guys like their “type.” I’m convinced that few guys have a “type.” It’s not rocket science…people like when someone is confident, easy to talk to, and occasionally lingers with their eye contact. If the basic attraction is there, getting someone to see you as more than just a friend is pretty easy…especially for us ladies. These friends of mine say that they don’t want to come across as giggly, stupid girls, though. Uh, me neither! But giggly and stupid is different than feminine and interesting.

For the record, being feminine for the sake of attracting men doesn’t mean wearing tight clothing, painting your nails, and acting meek, starry-eyed, or bubbly. It means being exactly who you are, but presenting yourself in a way that makes men feel comfortable. Yes, this may mean wiping off your resting b**** face. Or looking them in the eye a little more than you’d look at your friend in the eye. Or laughing when they put forth some effort at being entertaining.

You can be strong and independent. You can be a tomboy or quiet. You can have a thriving career or still have no clue what you’re doing with your life. None of those things mean you can’t let a guy think you’re attracted to him. That doesn’t make you weak. It makes you a real, live human with sexual organs.

Sometimes, you just have to do what it takes to open up a door. It’s not about changing yourself– it’s about stepping up your presentation to attract the initial interest. If, from the beginning, you never give off vibes that you’re the kind of girl that can make him feel like a man, then you’re not going to get far. Think about it– what kind of guy would respond to a girl who doesn’t like to smile? Or who doesn’t have anything interesting to say? Why would he want to spend more time around you if you don’t look him in the eye with a fun, challenging look that says “I’m confident and compelling”? Opinions are great, but do guys really want to feel dominated by a loud girls arguing with everything they say? No.

Be pleasant. Be captivating. Be a little flirtatious. Play the game a little bit. It’s not going to kill you.

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Just as with careers, there’s always a benefit in playing the game to an extent. I’m not saying the modern “chill” dating game has any merit, but the way you present yourself does. I’m not saying you should deal with major disrespect in the work place, but finding a way to stay in the good graces of key influencers is key.

If you refuse to play any games whatsoever for the sake of your pride, don’t expect to come out on top. If you really like yourself that much, think about what will benefit you in the long run– not what will be comfortable or self-satisfying in the moment.

Knowing which games are worth playing can be tough…but if you step back and think of the bigger picture, I’m sure you’ll make the right moves.