I should have known.
I had already spent a number of weeks noticing a young man (that’s what I call all of them when they don’t totally feel like men- men but they’re not children. ‘Boy’ is an unacceptable term for someone I expect to act like a grown-up) noticing me at the gym. I never saw him speak much, and otherwise he was unassuming, but I could feel him watching me. My face would burn and I wouldn’t even have to look up to know his round eyes were on me. If I made eye contact and smiled, he would as well, but he never made any move to say hello. I felt like an alien at the zoo. There are already days at the gym when I can only think about how fucking bright the lights are and can’t we just turn them down a little because holy shit I can see everyone really well and they me and it’s overwhelming…? Is it possible to be an extroverted introvert? It hard to relax and focus and learn when just having lots of people around feels like sensory overload, so you can imagine The Starer watching me was no help. Fortunately, I am sometimes a good faker. SOMETIMES. Every young woman experiences a learning curve around being noticed by men but every once in awhile there are circumstances more unnerving than others.
‘Shy’ is just fine. There’s all sorts of fun things to learn about shy people. Unfortunately, there’s a less positive element of ‘shy’ that I call ‘Cookie Jar Syndrome’ and there’s just no sweet reward about it.
I dated a guy for a minute who inspired said Cookie Jar Syndrome. Every time we slept together he would look at me like he had snuck a cookie from behind his mother’s back. I felt like his expression was saying, ‘Ooh-hoo look what I got!’ and it annoyed the shit out of me. I’m conscious and consenting and you aren’t allowed to make that face. It makes me feel like you think you’re pulling a fast one. He didn’t have a great opinion of himself but was pretty impressed with me so maybe he was just feeling subconsciously smug about getting a good deal. Who’s to say? Whatever it is it makes me want to grab my cookie jar and snarl, ‘That’s mine you can’t touch it.’
Welp you guessed it, Cookie Jar Syndrome emerged yet again in the Starer. Why, oh why, you moan, did you give The Starer a chance at all? Because. I. Was. Bored. Truth. Also his abs, um… And also I’ve begun feeling guilty about saying ‘no’ all the time. (It’s dangerous to get out of the habit of saying YES!) So I said to myself, (in my mother’s voice) ‘You are TOO picky’ and when he gave me his number (without introducing himself, saying hello, making an active suggestion about hanging out, nothing, just ‘if you want to hang out sometime’) I put it in the little zip pocket in the back of my shorts and… sweat all over it. I should have just stopped there. Pretty strong signal from El Universo but by then my curiosity was piqued. The next time I saw him I walked over and said, ‘I have a funny story for you… I sweat all over your number’ to which he said, ‘That’s sexy.’
Now. There are lots of ways of saying ‘That’s sexy’ without sounding creepy. You can say it sarcastically where the real meaning isn’t actually ‘That’s not sexy’ it’s ‘That’s funny’. You can say it like a tasteless pop-culture vampire which makes you sound like you just said ‘That’s so hot right now’, and even that… whatever. Somehow, the Starer launched impossibly past these two options and into ‘I am bringing up sex and sexuality right MEOW.’
My immediate reaction was, well, he’s more forward than I thought.
Turns out forward was maybe the wrong choice of words.
He’s one of those people who vacillated between too ballsy and not ballsy enough.
In conversation he was snarky and smart and funny and super flirtatious. In trying to smooch me he was hesitating, avoidant and trying to get me to make the first move. I mean, I don’t know you! We have never kissed! Don’t lay down in my lap like I’m your bestie! And then get going all big-talker bullshit. It sends a weird message.
Get this: it’s worse to not kiss someone when you’ve made it clear that you want to than to be freaked out about it. Just do it and get it over with. Aren’t you curious anyway about whether or not you have chemistry?
Also this: do not get levels of intimacy confused, as in the laying his head in my lap pre- first kiss. He also, this is my favorite part, smacked my ass. Yes. Series of events: staring, number-giving but no guts to make plans, texting with no plan-making (this shit makes me crazy), extremely flirtatious texting, plan-making texts, hanging out with ‘I’m gonna fuck you’ eyes (to which I was thinking, I raise you ten, you’re not as naughty as you think), more flirtatious texting (I am ok with this to a certain extent. When that’s all there is, no good. When it is accompanied by a big ol’ wuss, no good. When it’s the only point to texting, no good. If you’ve never called but you send licentious texts, no good), a second hang out, with friends, during which he was kind of grabby and weird, friends leave, he puts his head in my lap, trying to get me to lean in (ha), gets up to leave, smooches me (because my stubborn ass out-waited his wussery) AND THEN! smacks my ass. It felt all sorts of Cookie Jar Syndrome-y. ‘Ah ha! Look what I did!’
As a rule, wait for playful rump slaps until after you’ve boned and preferably have spent more than a couple of hours in each other’s presence. I mean, even then it might be a little strange but that’s a bare (ass) minimum.
Our physical interactions are only just beginning! Just because you’ve made it clear that you like my body and we’re purportedly on a romantic trajectory does not make it ok to slap my butt. It was so weird. So so weird.
Being sexualized or objectified is really not all that bad. It’s part of being a human. I have a body. Part of my experience of having a body is that other people can see it and have a reaction (crazy). If someone likes it, I’m not usually bothered. There is an appropriate level of honesty that escapes some people these days and someone saying ‘You’re hot’ or ‘You’re beautiful’ or ‘Holy shit I would love to fuck you’, even, is not in the realm of the impossibly rude. Honesty like that is only a problem when a) you aren’t given the space to respond (and yes, ‘how sweet’, ‘no thank you’ and ‘fuck off’ are three completely appropriate responses) or b) you don’t have your own honesty worked out so it really sucks when people say true things to you. Cookie Jar Syndrome comes up in the first instance. People want to act out their shit on you, but without allowing you to be included as a player. ‘No means no’ and ‘yes means yes’ and there’s a big problem when we can’t hear people say either.
This situation is not an issue of sexualization, necessarily. It was an issue of two different things happening at once. He basically told me that he noticed my body first as a reason to be interested, but then he was intrigued by the ‘way your mind works’. Ok, fair enough. I guess that’s what happens when you give your number to someone you haven’t had a conversation with. But, the other funky bit was that he was incredibly forward and suggestive in conversation and text messages, but hesitated to show actual boldness until he lurched into inappropriate land with the rump-thump.
This is either going to be a date-y situation, or it’s going to be a purely sexual one. It can’t be both in the first few hang-outs. If you want to date me, don’t smack my ass so early. If you want a fuck buddy, consider pushing me against the wall as early as possible. See what I mean? He couldn’t figure out if he wanted to date me or just get laid.
Now don’t get me wrong. Plenty of great dates have come from what seemed like one night stands. Sometimes, sexual tension dictates that we get sex out of the way so both people can relax about crushing on each other. It can go in any direction, but it’s all about clarity of purpose.
What of the Starer? He works 14 hour days, moved to another city and no longer goes to my gym. I had only one small brush with his belly (can you even call ice cube tray abs ‘a belly’?) but when he did kiss me I could only think about whether or not I needed lipgloss. No butterflies, nada. Better that way.
Ah sparkly light of audacity, I miss thee.
Go surprise someone today!
Be ridiculous, give ‘em a thrill!
It’s fucking November, you know they need it.
Re-posted with permission by Paula Creevy.