Guys, I'll admit it. We women are a fickle breed.
Play too hard to get, and we think you're rude, insensitive, or flat out disinterested. Too persistent, and you're as creepy as a mustachioed man in an ice cream truck.
I do not envy you.
If you already have a girlfriend and are in that ooey-gooey "I totally want to marry you" stage, what follows does not apply to you. You're pretty much home free to do whatever you want. Go ahead. Text her 72 times a day. Call her after every major meal or commercial break during the big game. Odds are she hasn't stopped thinking about you since the last time you hung up ("No, you hang up first. No, YOU hang up first!"), and your friends have already begun filing missing persons reports since the two of you mysteriously dropped off the face of the planet... and into each other's arms.
These things are commonplace after you've established some kind of legitimate relationship - especially in those first couple months. But until you get there, tread lightly. Very lightly. (But not too lightly...) We want you to step up to the plate - not overrun the bases.
So, how much is too much?
Unfortunately, your creep factor is going to be dependent on the woman - and her level of interest - but there are still a few major no-nos that will take any woman from swoon to too-much-too-soon before you tell her you've named your unborn children.
1. The "I miss you" text
Also related: The premature "I love you." How long have you known each other? Three days? I know it feels like love, but so does eating the perfect cheesesteak.
2. In case of amnesia
True story: Girlfriend of mine meets divinely handsome guy. Guy asks girl out. Girl says yes. Guy requests a picture of her in case he forgets what she looks like between now and date. Girlfriend asks me if this sounds weird. I'm sorry, what will he be doing with that picture, again? Run, girlfriend!!
3. Gifts galore
Small (read again: small) tokens of affection are cute. A single flower or a funny card (minus the hand-written love poem) shows that you are thoughtful and have a sense of humor. A dozen roses or one of those large, egg-shaped balloons with a stuffed bear inside? ... Will only make her want to trade places with the bear.
4. "Random" sightings
"Wow! Funny seeing you here!" Is it? Is it funny? You know what's not funny? A restraining order.
5. Calling her at work
Whether she's serving French fries or mingling with the suits and ties, if you can't cool it for a few hours without hearing from her, congratulations: You've earned yourself Stage Five Clinger status.
6. Meet the parents
It is quite unfortunate you two just happened to have met the week of Thanksgiving/Earth Day/(fill in obscure holiday here) and your mom, dad and great aunt Millie will be arriving in town this afternoon. One spot at the dinner table that won't be filled: hers.
7. Annoying alternatives
She had to cancel your date Monday night and was somewhat vague as to why. You offer up Thursday or Friday instead. She says she has to check her calendar. You say Wednesday or Saturday lunch could work, too. She says she'll call you later this week. You say maybe beers by the pool on Sunday? She's... exhausted.
8. Liking her too much
OK, OK. I realize this is the big Catch 22. The one that twists your brain into Rubik's cube-like confusion until you give up all hope and swear off women altogether. What I'm talking about here are the freakishly excited exclamations of affection to your peers that leave us feeling more like a prized piece of arm candy than an actual prospective mate. Examples: "Hey guys, look! It's my girlfriend!" and "Yes! I'm really dating her! Can you believe it?"
Funny. We just asked ourselves the same thing.