Not too long ago, I was out with a guy I was dating and we ran into a woman he knew. As I talked to some other people, I watched with interest and some amusement as this woman kept touching him, flirting with him, and generally commanding his attention. At some point, he must have subconsciously reached a comfort limit, for he shifted his weight away from her and up against me, and shortly thereafter he excused us and we departed, with his hands on me.
I find women who make passes at men who are obviously spoken for just a little bit fascinating. My friends do not do this, would not even think about doing it, and probably would be ashamed if anyone suggested that they were doing it, but clearly not all women our age got the memo that this is childish and disrespectful of not only the other woman involved, but the man as well. I refuse to play this game. At all. In fact, if she can tear him away from me, she is more than welcome to him. Seriously. If I feel like he’s playing along or encouraging it, I’ll simply get up and walk out. At that point, it’s follow me or not. If I leave, I’m prepared to leave alone. Funny thing? I never have.
But there is something almost voyeuristic about watching another woman flirt with your man. Seeing how she uses her body and her eyes and her smile to try and reel him in, entice him, maybe make him think just a little about her. And gauging his reactions, seeing him respond or not, reading his body language as he subconsciously processes all the stimuli assailing his senses. And it’s genuinely amazing how easily and clearly your intuition can read the intentions of both of them, if you only let it.
I have been in situations in which all available empirical evidence would suggest that I should be worried about the she-wolf in front of me, licking her lips as she tries to extract my man from my side, and I have felt nothing but mild bemusement. And yet, I have been in other situations, in which only a slight, momentary glimpse between my guy and some other girl has informed me that the deed has, in fact, already been done.
Female intuition is a powerful thing, if we bother to listen to it. But I also think that, in these situations, the old adage that “it takes one to know one” tends to apply. And that is where my own ability to accurately survey a situation moves from speculation into certainty. Because I’ve been there, done that.
I was what you might call a “late bloomer.” I was a cute kid, but not pretty. No, my particular kind of beauty showed up later than a lot of girls. The upside to that is that it’s saved me from any sort of arrogance around my looks; the downside is that when it did show up, I didn’t waste any time making up for the ugly duckling years. I quickly learned how to draw a man to me from across a room, regardless of who was by his side. I delighted in the puzzled expressions of other girls who just couldn’t figure out what it was about me. On more than one occasion, I threw my hook into a man, just to see if I could get him. Whether he was taken or not, or by whom, was immaterial.
When I was in my early 20’s, a young man asked me to lunch. I went, even though I was pretty sure that he had a girlfriend somewhere. Over lunch, it was revealed that he had been dating the same girl for several years. Nonetheless, I threw everything I had at the poor boy. Later, outside the restaurant, he asked me to have dinner with him later that week. I demurred, explaining that I didn’t date men who had girlfriends, but that if he should ever rethink that status, I’d owe him a dinner. Then I kissed him on the cheek, flashed him a 1,000-watt smile, tossed my long hair, and sauntered away, hips swaying. I could feel his stare on me for at least half a block.
Two days later, there appeared in the local paper, an ad, which read: “To the stunning redhead who allowed me to take her lunch, you owe me dinner. — R.” Needless to say, we went to dinner.
Now perhaps all those machinations on my part would have been forgivable if we had been true soul mates, destined for life-long love. But of course, that was not the case. A few months later, I broke up with him.
What I did to that boy — and his girlfriend –, from start to finish, was wrong. Plain-and-simple, no-excuses, flat-out wrong. I didn’t need to do that — he wasn’t even the only guy to ask me out that week. My behavior was inexcusable and should have been unforgivable. But, being that he was such a great guy, he did forgive me. A few years ago, he emailed to congratulate me on the birth of my youngest daughter, a kindness I most assuredly did not deserve. However, I also learned that, after my shameless toying with him, he had promptly gone back to his longtime girlfriend and groveled sufficiently that she took him back. They married and had some sons and are still together. Thank god. Their happy ending is my only karmic salvation.
Now back to the story I began with: I have ample experience to know full well that the woman with her hands all over my date would like to make more of their acquaintance. He, I feel sure, would deny the very possibility. Which leads me to my next minor fascination with this scenario: Why do guys think that they can assuage our jealousy/insecurity/curiosity by denying what our intuition most clearly knows? It is so much better, with me at least, to acknowledge it and get it out of the way, i.e. “Yeah, I know she’s kind of into me, and she’s really nice, but I’m not interested in her for X reasons. So, honestly, don’t worry about it.” At least then I know that I’m not dating a guy who’s blind and deaf to a woman’s obvious maneuverings. Of course women are going to flirt with him; if he isn’t attractive enough to generate attention from other women, I probably wouldn’t be interested in him either, right? Plus, the guy who can own it head-on gets points for honesty and builds trust in the process. How is that not awesome? Mild jealousy — mine included — is just a natural indication of interest and attraction. Left inadequately addressed, it often rides a slippery slope to insecurity and fear. Which is definitely not awesome.
And then there’s the matter of respect. What I did to that young man and his girlfriend was show a complete and blatant lack of respect for the boundaries of their relationship. I find it simultaneously fascinating and disgusting that some single women of my age still do this. Really? Don’t we owe each other more than that? It was bad enough at 22, but 20 years later? I’d like to think I’ve grown up just a bit, and you’re welcome to join me.
If you have close friends of the opposite sex, this issue of respecting relationship boundaries likely comes up not infrequently. I dealt with it last winter when my friend K.C. got back together with his former fiance, Amanda, and I wondered how it would affect our friendship. After all, I had met and dated K.C. for part of the 18 months they’d been apart, and it would be only natural for Amanda to feel jealous and threatened by my continued presence in his life. So K.C. and I sat down and had a heart-to-heart. K.C. made it clear that he loved Amanda and wanted it to work and that our friendship wouldn’t be the same if she decided that I was an obstacle to their happiness. I made it clear that I did not want to cause her even a moment’s concern; that I really wanted a happy ending for them. And so we came up with a strategy for introducing me to her so that she’d be most likely to accept me, and we openly discussed ways that our friendship would have to change.
Sure, one or both of us could have said that we were friends and Amanda should quit being insecure and get over it. I could have pouted and complained that I didn’t want my friendship with K.C. to change and insinuated nasty things about Amanda controlling him or being a psycho girlfriend (as some of his other female friends did). But that wouldn’t be right. Plain-and-simple. He did the right thing in protecting and nurturing his relationship, and I did the right thing in supporting his happiness. In short, we behaved like grown-ups.
I guess the bottom line is that I’m not out to get your man. I promise. And I’d simply appreciate it if you’d keep your hands off mine. Deal?