The #MeToo friendliness dilemma

new-old-maidAn older guy I know on a casual basis asked me for a hug recently – then copped a feel.

Or maybe it was an accident. Maybe he inadvertently placed his hands too high up when he hugged me. Either way, his fingers definitely made contact with one of my breasts.

When it happened, I quickly moved away and made a comment about being ticklish. (It’s interesting how I felt the need to make him feel better about my reaction, isn’t it?) No more was said about it. I wasn’t traumatized by this possible #MeToo moment, but it did make me feel…icky.

In another recent episode, a male neighbor interpreted my neighborliness as my being open to a romantic overture. This was startling to me, because he is married and has two kids. Did I mention that I saw and spoke with his wife and children all the time?

Without in any way excusing the a–hole neighbor who wanted to cheat on his wife (and probably has, with other women), he and the groper did make me wonder: do men misinterpret the friendliness of women?

I’d been friendly to the older guy – had had some short conversations about banal topics with him. There certainly had been nothing intimate or flirtations about our interactions. Same with the neighbor. What I thought of as friendliness, he viewed as opportunity.

The problem with all of this is that women are programmed to be friendly. To be nice to people. To speak when someone speaks to us. To smile. To make the moment less awkward when someone accidentally gropes you.

And apparently some men are inclined to view that friendliness in self-serving terms.

What complicates this is that women compartmentalize their lives. There are situations where a woman may be open to meeting a potential sexual/romantic partner, and others where that doesn’t even occur to her.

I’m starting to get the feeling that men are pretty much on the prowl all the time.

Women also have very clear parameters in their minds about potential partners; age, personality, race, etc. Men seem to have much more flexible ideas about who they are willing to hook up with. Thus women are (unpleasantly) surprised when a much-older man comes on to them, while the man is probably thinking: “What the heck. I’ll take a shot.”

I’m not suggesting that all men stop asking all women out. And it’s true that not all women have the same specifications for who they’ll socialize with, so men really don’t know for sure. It’s just possible that that tall, athletic, 25-year-old, college educated woman would be eager to go out with a short, obese, chain-smoking 67-year-old man who hasn’t read a book since the fourth grade.

Yeah, right. In your dreams.

It would be nice, however, if men improved their ability to interpret women’s friendliness. There is a definite difference between flirting and nonflirting vibes. It should be that difficult to figure it out.

Have there been occasions when you received unwanted attention because you’d been friendly to someone? Did it make you change your ways?


Maureen Paraventi is the author of The New Old Maid: Satisfied Single Women, which explores the single life through conversations with unmarried women from all over the U.S. The New Old Maid is available from Chatter House Press and Amazon.

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This entry was posted in being single, feminism, feminist, Lifestyle, single life, Women's Issues and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The #MeToo friendliness dilemma

  1. Mary says:

    My husband told me long ago you can’t be friends with men-ie-alone with them, I’m beginning to think he’s right. His best friend was a big help to me after he died but anything he did I made sure I paid him so it would be clear I wasn’t taking advantage or had expectations, it blew up in my face, he was hoping for something. I thought that was sick since that was his best friend and he hadn’t been gone that long, where was the loyalty? Guess I should’ve figured since he hadn’t been in a relationship in years. I think on a whole many men are more desperate for a companion then women. I’ve seen so many hook up mere months after their spouse died where more women stayed widowed for life. Another asked if I was in to friends with benefits, God how I hate that term, I was instantly repulsed, I told him I was over that shit a long time ago! So from now on I will treat men at arms length and be very aloof and diy when I can. Second to that, being at my son’s is better then owning a pit-bull! lol

    Like

    • moparaventi says:

      Thanks for the comment! Wish I could say that your husband’s best friend’s behavior surprised me, but it doesn’t. Men just don’t think the same way about these things, it seems. And you’re absolutely right: men need companionship more than women. I see men become widowers or get divorced and then quickly go on the hunt for their next partner (although the divorced men I’ve dated have been pretty bitter about relationships). I don’t want to never get asked out again, but it would be nice if the guys doing the asking are suitable, and not, for instance, married creeps.

      Like

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