Voices: There’s a reason we’re still watching He’s Just Not That Into You

In a climactic scene Alex says: ‘If a guy wants to date you, he will make it happen’  (Kobal/Shutterstock)
In a climactic scene Alex says: ‘If a guy wants to date you, he will make it happen’ (Kobal/Shutterstock)

2009 was a busy year. Obama was elected, Michael Jackson died, Kanye interrupted T-Swizzle’s acceptance speech at the VMAs, and a Hollywood romcom called He’s Just Not That Into You was released.

The film is based on a self-help book of the same title, co-authored by scriptwriters for Sex and the City, who were inspired by a certain episode in which Miranda asks Carrie’s boyfriend his answer to why a recent date didn’t call after they had a good time. His very simple, very male response: “He’s just not that into you”.

Thirteen years later, I’m listening to my best friends lament the end of a love affair by asking the fateful question – “Was he just not that into me?” – as if they are to blame for a relationship “failing”. Worse than that, they would instantly forget all the signs revealing that – at least with hindsight, if not at the time – the boy was just not right for them.

So, one day in February 2009, I waltzed up to the cinema staff in my local shopping centre ready to imbibe the latest American-imported tale of girl meets boy like it was my 18th birthday and I was ordering my first legal pint.

I was met with two protagonists: Gigi, a hopeful serial dater looking for love, and Alex, a bar owner using his job to pick up women for one-night stands. Gigi spends much of the film misreading signals and mistaking rejections for potential interest. Alex takes pity on her and tries to help her work out which of the men she dates are worth pursuing. Inevitably, the pair fall in love but not before clashing over their attitude toward being single.

In a climactic scene Alex says: “If a guy wants to date you, he will make it happen.” Gigi admits she may “make an ass of herself” but argues Alex’s methods will mean he ends up alone: “you may not get hurt that way, but you don’t fall in love that way either”.

The main takeaway from this otherwise dated film which I’m happy to leave in 2009 (they’re using MySpace and landlines for god’s sake), can be seen in the logic on both sides. If anyone is interested enough in dating you, they will make it happen like Alex, even at the cost of possible rejection or embarrassment like Gigi’s.

My five years in the dating game has largely been filled with turdy boys and their turdy behaviour. Often inexplicable and painful, I’ve learnt to steer far away from the idea “he’s just not that into you”. I now treat certain behaviours, ranging from the gaslighting-ly subtle to the offensively obvious, as red flags that show, instead, that “he’s just not right for you”.

Action, or inaction, speaks volumes. As Alex loves to remind Gigi, if he is worth pursuing, he’ll pursue you first. If not, he will not make time or effort to see you or he will be constantly cancelling or rescheduling at the last minute. If he does see you, it’s only when it’s convenient and requires minimal planning or thought.

If after a couple of months, he doesn’t invite you to his birthday party, or won’t come to your housewarming, or you only met his sister by chance because she dropped by unexpectedly, but she has never heard anything about you, I would start to wonder how much you mean to him.

There are boys who will say the opposite to what they are telling you through their behaviour. There are boys that will lie to your face, avoid the truth, or say what you want to hear. I don’t know about you, but I value trust in a relationship and if I discover that I am being deceived they are instantly cut out. This is non-negotiable.

When I asked someone I’d been seeing for a month what we were, he said: “I really like you, I want to keep seeing you, we have the best time together, but I’m not ready for a relationship or to date anyone seriously.” If you hear this, run. Or, if you want to risk heartbreak, agree to give him everything except the responsibility of commitment and see how that works for you.

If what they say is bamboozling, how they say it will make things abundantly clear. If he messages without planning to see you, he either wants an ego boost and a flirt or he isn’t interested but is too immature to be honest, leading you on further. If he takes days to reply – not hours but literal days – this can only be a bad sign. We are all busy and have lives away from our screens, yet on average we are attached to them for at least 6.4 hours a day and if he can’t take a minute to send a response he’s not the one.

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Good communication does not mean he has to respond immediately or text you constantly, but you shouldn’t be waiting around for him to do something so simple. If he never texts you unless it’s for sex, congratulations you’ve won a f***boy. Looking back at a guy I dated, I realised he never made the first move, our texting always resulted in a booty call, and almost our entire messaging history was nocturnal. Yikes.

Lastly: ghosting, dumping, and trying to get you back when it’s too late. If this isn’t a sign that he isn’t the one, then I don’t know what is. Even in the rare scenarios when a guy ghosts and then apologises weeks or months later, the damage is done and there’s no going back.

Months after my ex dumped me, he tried to get me back with lines like “I miss you” and “we were best mates” and “why does everything have to be so black and white”. He wanted me back in his life without having to make me his girlfriend again. I suspect he was hoping we would spend enough time in this grey area of former-lovers-now-friends that we would have some “accidental” sex. I told him I didn’t want to be friends and asked him to stop messaging me. The pure elation I felt after that I can only compare to Andy throwing her bleeper in the fountain at the end of The Devil Wear Prada.

No matter how much we analyse the actions of the opposite sex or try to solve their texts like riddles, sometimes you’re the only sign you need. Ask yourself how you’re feeling. If you’re feeling insecure or uncomfortable in the relationship and are questioning everything or making excuses for him, that would be your gut screaming at you to break free and find someone who deserves you.

If it’s this difficult this early, then it’s simply not worth it and really, he’s just not right for you.