An 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.