There's this little bench that I used to sit on while waiting for Jason to finish work. Usually I would read, or just soak in the surroundings. Sometimes I'd have an ice-cap waiting for Jason's post-work ruinous thirst. I loved that bench. It was in the perfect spot - Jason would round the corner, headed for the car, and he'd see me waiting and break into the smile that crinkles his eyes. It was away from the noise, but close to the breeze. And best of all, it was almost always empty. It was like my secret hiding place, a perfect place in the world that only I knew about.
I don't sit on that bench anymore.
My problem is two-pronged, apparently:
1. I am friendly, probably too friendly for my own good.
2. I have the unfortunate habit of always looking the world in the eye.
The guy who owns the sewing store across the way took it upon himself to court me. Unattended females reading quietly to themselves on public benches are fair game. Even when they say no. Repeatedly. Like, dozens of times. And quite firmly. And eventually, disgustedly.
Like I said, I don't sit there anymore.
But I do still go to the gym, where apparently more than half the male members are not looking to get buff, they're looking to get laid. These boys are persistent, and they know they've cornered you in the perfect place: either I let them hit on me, or I give up the one available cardio machine and leave myself vulnerable to overenthusiastic trainers encouraging me to do "mat work" which basically involves painful Cirque du Soleil contortionist shit, by the looks of it.
So I keep sweating away, feeling completely unsexy and unforgiving, while an equally sweaty man attempts to whispers in my ear something about my hot little yoga pants.
Normally, I am a rejection goddess. I can say no in, like, 18 different languages. I have mastered the dismissive smile, the let-em-down-easy wink, the get-the-hell-out-of-here arm pat. But some men just don't listen.
Sweaty Guy at the Gym: So, do you drink coffee?
Me: No, I don't.
SGG: Well, do you eat steak?
Me: Do I eat steak? You're asking me if I eat steak?
SGG: Yeah, you know, like maybe I could buy you dinner.
Me: Well, thanks, but no thanks.
SGG: Oh come on, I promise you'll enjoy it.
Me: I'll enjoy the steak?
SGG: You'll enjoy me.
Me: Yeah, I don't think so.
SGG: Well, why not? I'm a cool guy.
Me: Hmm. Uh, yeah, I'm married.
SGG: I don't see a ring.
Okay, there it is. First, I'm disappointed in myself. I almost never use 'I'm married' as an excuse. I hate that. I know a girl, who, if a man politely holds the door open for her, shouts "I'm engaged!" instead of "Thanks." But sometimes, it spares feelings. I could have (and maybe should have) said:
"You're kind of on the paunchy side for my taste."
"I think you should aim a little lower."
"I think your funky addidas are older than me."
"Go home, trim your ear hair, and better luck next time."
But no, I simply told him that I was unavailable, which met with my favourite line "but you're not wearing a ring."
Seriously. What's up with that? Are you doubting my story? You think secretly I'm single and if you call me on it, I'll be forced to admit my incredible desire to blow you? Or that my failure to wear a ring indicates infidelity potential? Or do you simply believe that a woman unfond of jewelry deserves to be harassed? Because really, "I don't see a ring" is not a great pick up line.
Still, it's a thousand times better than the men who only trick you into dating them.
I mean really, I'm sitting in a coffee shop bent over my "notebook" (Jason assures me this is what they're called now...when did we stop calling them laptops?) and yes, admittedly, there is an empty seat at my table. And when I look up, you are funny and charming, and also interested in seeing the Andy Warhol exhibit at the AGO. But when you pick me up, you bring flowers and kiss me on the cheek because I turned when I saw that you were aiming for my lips.
Um, is this a date?
Because you kinda forget to tell me if it was.
I can't tell you how many men I've dated since marrying Jason. Lots. But rarely intentionally.
Now don't try and tell me I'm the only one committing these unintentional infidelities.
It happens, right?
I mean, it's not unusual for me to meet interesting people on the street. That's how I met Katie. We were both standing in line at Banana Republic, and I commented to the person behind me that the cashier appeared to suffer from some sort of Slow Motion Syndrome, and suddenly I had a friend for life. And it's how I met Patrick, too. We were both at Johnny Bistro with friends, he bought me a drink "Because it looks like you need it", and that was it.
But Anthony was a different matter altogether.
I was sitting in the park one day, stealing secret sips from a concealed bottle of wine, enjoying the fine weather and a great book, when a dog sat down beside me and gave me the goofiest grin ever. Soon his owner joined us, and we were laughing like old friends within 3 minutes.
I accidentally dated Anthony for about a month.
We would meet for drinks, or see a movie, or just walk his dog round and round the neighbourhood. And then one night he called me.
Anthony: Jay, I want you to meet my Mom.
Me: You do?
Anthony: Yeah. I'm really excited about it. We've been together for over a month now, so I think it's time...
Me: Um, what? Together?
Anthony: And you know how much you mean to me. I just don't introduce very many girlfriends to my Mom.
Me: Anthony, what do you mean, together?
Anthony: I mean I really care about you and I think maybe you might be The One.
Me: Yeah, I kind of have a problem with that. I thought we were just friends.
Me: If you and I were dating, I would have totally put out by now.
And that was the end of Anthony. Too bad, too. He had excellent taste in wine.
But I continue to believe that girls and boys can just be friends, and that not every guy who asks me out is asking me out.
This is a stupid problem to have, but it's a problem. How does everyone else deal with it? How do you know for sure that it's a date? And please, for the love of god, tell me how to turn them down.