How do you feel when someone of the opposite sex who you don’t know strikes up a conversation with you? What do you assume?
My first thought is usually something like, “Does this person want money?” Then I chastise myself not to be so cynical. I have another thought. “Is this person hitting on me?” Then I remind myself not to be vain. I wasn’t a head turner at 20. I’m hardly likely to be one at 41 as a married woman with a kid. And, of course, I don’t want some strange guy hitting on me. What is wrong with me, anyway? Maybe he’s just friendly.
Or maybe he’s a writer and he sees I’m sitting here in this coffee shop drinking my latte and staring at the computer screen in a writerly way.
Or maybe he’s a psychopath with a newspaper clipping of Ted Bundy in his wallet.
These are the thoughts I had the other day when a guy sitting at the table next to mine at my favorite coffee shop (where I’ve been going almost every Tuesday evening for 4 years with, in all that time, one homeless guy asking for money and one nut job talking about how he can read lips & my art is juvenile–thank you) spoke to me.
First, though, when I reached down to plug my laptop into the wall, he reached over and moved the stool out of my way. It wasn’t really in my way, but okay. I said thanks. Then while I stared at my computer screen, he reached over and turned on the lamp on my table. I don’t need a man to judge the amount of light I need, but this thought is ungracious and maybe he’ll murder me in the parking lot, so I say, “Oh. Thanks.”
“What are you working on?” he asks.
Can there be harm in answering this question? Maybe he’s one of those over-friendly-talk-to-you-on-the-plane sort of people.
I answer. We chat for a moment. I turn back to my laptop. A friend of mine, N., shows up, sits next to me, and we chat merrily for a while about her project, and we get back to work.
I don’t like that I’m aware when this man gets up from his table. I don’t know what to think when he comes back and sits at the corner of my table to eat his pastry. “I’m taking a break,” he says. “Their desserts are good.”
I can feel my inner-self trying to strangle me from the inside when I say, “You should try the lemon cake.”
The other day, JES had post about super powers. Now if I were to claim a super power, it would be the ability to be nice when niceness is not required. In fact, I would even say I don’t have a super power as much as I have a stupid power. But there you go.
He and I chat about desserts. He talks to N. She isn’t entirely sure I don’t already know this guy, and she is nice too. Then two more friends happen by. They are dog owners, and I can’t resist telling them about the second dog my husband, son and I adopted over the weekend. We talk about adopted dogs. They go on their way. This guy now asks me about my dogs. Finally, I try to focus on my laptop.
The barista, M., comes over to see how I am. She always gives me a hug when I come in and I always turn off the ceiling fans for her at closing time (because she can’t reach the pulls!).
This guy reaches over and taps my wedding ring. “That’s a pretty ring,” he says. “Thanks,” I say and keep looking at the screen. “Very pretty,” he adds.
And another friend stops by the table. K. He says, “I’ve been here a while and every time I walk by you’re talking to someone different. it’s like you’re Mecca Marta. Everyone must come say hello!” K. thinks this guy is a friend and so introduces himself and I find out the guy’s name. K. continues, “You should start a salon. All these writers come and talk to you! I think this place should give you a cut of the profits for the people you bring in.” On and on he goes, until he goes back to the other room to write.
I excuse myself and on the way back to my table, Barista M. and I run into each other. We do that dance people do when you can’t figure out who will go which way, and I grab her hand. “We could dance.”
She spins me around in front of the counter with the creamers. We laugh. I sit down again and the guy says, “Wow, you’re tall.”
This is it! I think. Men hate how tall I am. So many men have stopped talking to me when they realize I am tall. “6’1 and a smidge!”
“I’m 6’3″,” he says. Well, I’ve known tall men who wanted nothing to do with tall women, so I don’t abandon hope.
Anyway. By the end of the evening this guy has asked about my son and my husband and he’s asked me what I like to do in my free time, and when he leaves, he gives me his phone number.
At closing time, I talk to Barista M. while she sweeps and I turn off ceiling fans. “You know, I didn’t know that guy.”
“Was he hitting on you?” she asks.
“No one ever hits on me,” I say.
“Maybe they do and you don’t realize it.”
“No one ever hits on me. I’m not kidding,” I say.
“You don’t give yourself enough credit,” she says.
I want to offer my evidence. I want to tell her about the boyfriend embarrassed to be seen with me, the boyfriend who wouldn’t kiss me, the father who never said I was pretty. But that all sounds lame and pathetic and like a fishing line being cast for the ever glittery compliment fish.
Hey, who doesn’t like the compliment fish to splash her tail in his direction every once in a while?
Wicked little fish.
When someone wants to read my writing, I wonder–why? Whatever for? Really? Are they crazy? Are they being polite? Do they want something?
If no one wants to read my writing, I figure–of course not. Wait, why not? Am I horrible? Oh, my writing is terrible, isn’t it? I can’t polish it enough for anyone to take seriously.
But if I talk about it or ask someone to read my writing, am I fishing for compliments?
Honestly. Why isn’t there a pill for this kind of thinking? Or a magic fish?
And if you’ve got all the answers, would you mind telling me what kind of jerk compliments a woman’s wedding ring and then gives her his phone number? Or have I got this all wrong?