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The Fabled Follow-Up Call

In the lexicon of dating, no combination of words is more angst-ridden than this: “I’ll call you.” What else is so hoped for and so dreaded at the same time?

Women who would like to go out on a date with someone they just met — or on a second date — see the phrase as a sign it could happen. Taken at face value, it is an encouraging expression of interest. (As gender roles change, a fair number of men now eagerly await a phone or text message as well.)

On the other hand, women fear these words because no one knows what their “face value” really is. Does he really mean it? If so, are we talking sometime this week, or before the glaciers melt?

One recent film is a humorous — and touching — look into the ways we convince ourselves “the call” is still coming. He’s busy, he’s traveling, he lost the number, he’s intimidated by her awesomeness — anything to avoid the truth that is staring her in the face: ‘He’s Just Not That Into You’ (which happens to be the film’s blunt title).
Waiting by the phone is as old as the phone itself. Still, a frustrated character in the film called Mary (Drew Barrymore) sums up how much more complicated the issue has become in an age of communication overkill:

“I miss the days when you had one phone number and one answering machine, and that one answering machine housed one cassette tape, and that one cassette tape either had a message from the guy or it didn’t. And now you have to go around checking all these different portals just to be rejected by seven different technologies. It’s exhausting.”

No question about it: These are treacherous waters for anyone searching for genuine romance. So what can be done? Is there any alternative to this excruciating scenario? The unwelcome answer is, probably not. It’s a reality you must learn to manage gracefully and patiently. Here are two helpful things to keep in mind:

Know when to hold ’em. The truth is, most women measure the time elapsed before a follow-up call in minutes. After twenty-four hours, many are already convinced something is wrong, while men are anxiously ticking off the days until it is “safe” to call. Why? Because for most men the worst-case scenario is to appear overeager, pesky, or needy. Dialing too fast feels risky.

The hot tip: Women, stay away from the panic button until at least a week has passed. Men, if you are interested, don’t overdo your “comfort zone” waiting period.

Know when to fold ’em. In the movie, an unusually forthright character named Alex gets right to the point when counseling a woman desperately waiting for a call from a friend of his. “Trust me,” he says, “if a guy wants to see you again, he’ll make it happen.” Doesn’t matter how busy he is, he will find a way to get in touch if he really wants to.

The bottom line: If it still isn’t happening more than a week after “I’ll call you,” face the facts: It probably won’t. Get away from your phone and back out there looking for the one who is “all that into you.”