Monday, June 8, 2009

022. Dear Boys and Girls...

I am one of you. I am your friend. I come in peace to give you loyal counsel on a particular matter which so many of us have need of advisement. It is the matter of your questionable flirtation methods. Please do not be offended. I understand this is a sensitive issue. But if you don't know why the men or women you admire appear uninterested, irresponsive, or anti-responsive to your attentions, please review the following list of no-no's and see if your tactics need revision.

Scheme 1: Password Please?

If you're one who likes to intentionally prevent a girl from walking past you by blocking her way with your body, and perhaps in a teasing sort of way ask her for a password, please re-think this. At best, you're showing yourself to be childish; at worst you're an ass. It is not funny, or cute, or productive in getting to know a person. Particularly, if the girl indicates by her pace and focus whether she is in a hurry or has a task to complete, better leave her be. Choose a moment when she is leisurely to seek her out. If you try to compete with her time, you will lose. And leave your password-asking for the second graders on the playground.

Scheme 2: Smile!

Permanently remove these phrases from your flirty repertoire: "Smile, beautiful! It's not so bad!" "Hey, long!" These and any other variations which include the direction to smile should be obliterated from existence. I know you mean well. But most of the time, it just comes off as bossy and/or dismissive. So leave it.

Scheme 3: The Guessing Game

Don't make us guess at anything - your age, your profession, number of brothers and sisters, what your favorite color is, ETC. Just tell us.

Scheme 4: The I'm-Just-Kidding Verbal Backslap

I don't know how this became a trend, but guilting someone for not calling you, in a so-called "flirty" way, ie. "Hey, thanks for not returning my call the other night, loser! hahahaha!" Not okay. This does not make anyone want to call you ever again. This goes for "Fine, don't say hi to me," and so on. If you insist that you're just playing around, then I hope you like playing by yourself.

Scheme 5: Take A Bite

Please don't hand/spoon/fork feed us food. The only person who enjoys this is you. Maybe after you're in a relationship and you know each other more intimately, you can add this back in. But for now, play it safe and leave it out. It's creepy.

Scheme 6: I Am Funny. Really.

Don't tell us you've got a stand-up routine. Only persons who make an actual living doing stand-up are allowed to say they have a stand-up routine.

Scheme 7: Surprise Shoulder Rub

If you've been on less than three dates, avoid massaging his or her shoulders unless he or she specifically requests it. I know you want to touch him. Touch his forearm. Shoulders are off-limits.

Scheme 8: Premature Terms of Endearment

If you don't know her first name, don't call her honey. If you know her first name but not her last, don't call her honey. If you know her full name but she doesn't know yours, don't call her honey. Honey is for couples. You are not a couple, you take the same train. No honey for you.

Scheme 9: I Had the Craziest Dream About You

Maybe in your mind you think this sentence will intrigue that boy in your office you've been trying to talk to. This has crazy written all over it. Three months into your exclusive relationship you can start talking dreams.

Scheme 10: Brute Force

Please refrain from throwing us into swimming pools, pushing us into walls playfully, holding our arms down, making us arm wrestle with you. This is just lame, people. We aren't in the market for a doofus big brother; most folks aren't turned on by feeling weak or humiliated.

These are just a few. If you know of a big one I left out, please add it in a comment. I've given you 10 Dont's. Here are three Do's:

  • Do everything you can to make him or her feel confident and comfortable; that is Priority One
  • Stop to look and listen for any cues he or she is giving you, and let that inform your next move
  • Be patient and confident; make sure to smile and keep it in the friend zone until you've gotten to know each other better

Friday, June 5, 2009

the things we choose to ignore...

Today I passed this young couple in an outdoor mall. They were holding hands in the interlocking-finger fashion. In my life I must have seen thousands, maybe even a million, couples holding hands and walking. But for some reason today, this particular couple reminded me of the very first time I ever held hands with a boy.

His name was Mark. I was a freshman in high school. Mark was a senior, and the lead piper on the bagpipe squad. I know it seems weird to say this, but his bagpipe skills were outrageously good; the boy could wail. In fact, he performed this solo at graduation later that year that impressed us all. His fingers moved like hummingbird wings over the stops, fluttering to create this quick-paced melody which transported us back in time and place, a time and place where burly men wore skirts every day and ate mutton stew and liked it. So I was extremely flattered one day in the autumn when Nancy, a fellow Highland Dancer, told me that Mark had a crush on me.

I’d never had a boyfriend ever. More than that, I’d never even had a boy pretend to be my boyfriend, or rumor that he was going with me, or steal a kiss during P.E. and run back to his friends, or anything. The closest thing to it came when, in eighth grade, Trent asked me for the stupid pink barrette I’d worn in my hair that day. He asked for it so he could wear it in his black, feathered hair to make the other kids laugh. (I liked Trent major, so of course I nearly died of hyperventilation in the girls bathroom moments following the transaction.) As far as male attention of the romantic ilk, that was it. So here in my first year of high school, to learn that a boy, a senior boy, had an actual, bona fide, personally declared, openly-defined Crush on me was almost beyond comprehension.

Soon after Nancy’s disclosure, I had a letter passed to me in the band room in first period. That’s right, the band room. It was from Mark. The first thing I noticed about it was he had very feminine-looking handwriting. The second thing I noticed was he wrote it in pencil. A true musician. I don’t remember exactly what the note said but, to summarize, this lead bagpiper, Mr. Lungs, wanted to be my boyfriend. At the end of class, I met him at the door and told him yes.

My first boyfriend! This was awesome! Right then and there, he asked to walk me to my next class. I said okay. And then…Mark took my hand, interlocked my fingers with his, and we headed for the A Building.

We walked across campus holding hands. Something you see every day, I know, but for me this was mind shattering. I had never, NEVER, walked with a boy, as my boyfriend, to a class, holding hands. With people around! People saw us holding hands! That means they think we’re boyfriend and girlfriend! Because we are! We were “going” together, ya’ll. The kicker? I didn’t even like him. Felt absolutely nothing for the guy.

I was blown away that a boy liked me, and that he’d admitted it to someone aloud. I was further mind-blown by the fact that he did something about it! He asked me to go with him! So what was I supposed to say, no? No, I won’t seize this entirely new and exciting enterprise, all because I’m not even remotely attracted to this person, or have had any real connection with the guy prior to this blessed day? Sure, the note he’d given me represented the most words he’d ever spoken to me, and we’d never so much as spent an afternoon hanging out together, but so what? It’s a boyfriend! In all honesty, I’m not sure if I understood back then that in order to date someone, first you have to like them. To my naive adolescent mind, all that was required was he had to ask. Don’t trifle with small matters such as my own feelings about him. Just date the dude! He said he wanted to! Sadly, there are times, even as a grown woman, when I recognize that first impulse inside me to not disappoint a man who shows interest. At fourteen, however, it was more than an impulse; I truly didn’t know to do any different.

I’d had this wah-wah feeling in my stomach the moment Nancy told me. I ignored it. The stomach feeling came back the moment he took my hand, but even still I went along with it. I remembered all the hookups from junior high, the boys and girls making out in the back of science class during the movie on cellular osmosis, and thinking…what in the world does that feel like? Does it feel like you’re going to be sick? Walking down the hall holding hands with Mark made me want to put my head between my knees, what does kissing do to you? I guess you learn to live with it, I thought. I guess you don’t mind the nausea after a while. You keep holding the guy’s hand and call it good. I resolved to forget what wasn’t comfortable about being Mark’s girlfriend, the whole didn’t-want-to thing, and forge ahead.

I made it a week. By the following Monday I had prepared to break up with him in the most staggeringly mature manner my fourteen year-old self could invent. I wrote him a note, and passed it to him in the band room, first period. My heart was pounding, and I dared not look behind me. I wondered if he’d start crying, or maybe throw a music stand. Not much time passed before I got a tap on the shoulder, and someone handed me my note back. He’d written on the back side of the paper his reply. He said it was okay, that he understood. No drama whatsoever. And after that, we never really spoke again.

Later that year at graduation, listening to his amazing bagpipe solo, I felt proud to have been his girlfriend for a whole week. The hands making that music were the same hands that wanted to hold mine. Never mind I didn’t like him; he had liked me. And I was proud of that.