Your arm hair is touching my arm hair and oh sweet jesus I am excited about it. Like, pile of Corgis / found twenty bucks in my jeans’ butt pocket / just ordered dope nachos hell yeah extra cheese level excitement. You’re facing forward because I guess that’s what normal people do while illegally streamin’ & chillin’, and I’m praying despite your godly appearance you’ve been cursed with horrid peripheral vision and won’t notice furtive fan-girl side glances. You’re endearingly immersed in a fantasy world where summers somehow last ten years and every character is named something that sounds like botched German, but all I can fantasize about is what this hair follicle canoodling means for “us,” purposely holding my IPA in my right hand so as to not cut the sexual tension because I’m so not fucking moving.
But then you do. You get up to use the bathroom and my limbs are left frozen in place, too scared to wiggle my feet out of their tingly slumber in the chance it’ll shift my whole body and create too wide a gap for accidental grazing. You sit back down but the moment I’ve created in my neurotically charged head is over. We’re two people sitting on a couch watching a show which just happens to be filled with other people banging. It’s like platonic porn, it’s whatever, no big deal.
Except… it kinda is. Because for months, I’ve been trying to close that gap. Flirting just shy of shameless in hopes you didn’t really mean it when you said “No.” Pretending if actions speak louder than words inaction must be fair game. Offering you another beer because maybe you need liquid courage to finally press more than a sliver of forearm against me.
I start to imagine the tables are reversed. That instead you are sexualizing everything I say and do and only feel marginally bad about it. That I’ve told you on numerous occasions I want to remain friends, I’m not emotionally available, I don’t know exactly what I want but I know it’s not this. Think to myself what if it were you drunk texting me nonstop, commenting on my physical appearance as if that’s all that matters, pressuring me to reiterate I am not interested in all the polite ways I know how.
Because that’s the expected narrative, isn’t it? Guy hits on girl. Girl acts gracious and apologetic for being on the receiving end of perversion disguised as flattery. She isn’t down but isn’t sure how to remove “I’m sorry, but…” from her vocabulary. Wants the guy to stop trying, move along, please stop making me tell you to stop. These are the Tinder conversations that get blasted on Buzzfeed. They’re the people reluctant to change “no means no” to “yes means yes” because they like their consent to have some grey area. “Friend zoning” is an acceptable substitute for misplaced misogyny, right?
I am “used to” unwanted attention from men. I am also used to “playing along.” I do not flinch when the sixty year old man at the bar leaves his hand on my waist while telling my blonde haired, blue eyed friend she “looks like a Kardashian.” When the man who works next door to my office leaves a note on my windshield telling me I am beautiful, I defend him to my coworker who thinks it’s sexual harassment even though I am too embarrassed to go my normal route through the backdoor because I know I will somehow end up thanking him. I have grown accustomed to believing my nos will always sound more like maybes, that I am meant to accept these advances with courtesy and feigned surprise someone else could find me desirable–by golly, what a compliment.
So when I finally do develop a crush of my own–when the sheer proximity of a hot dude who is intelligent, and kind, and respectful gets me all kinds of worked up–it’s difficult to hear my own arsenal of rejection echoed. The voices of girl friends claiming “He’d be crazy not to like you!” too loud to admit maybe he’s not crazy, or gay, or playing games but rather no-justification-necessary doesn’t like me. It is hard to accept he is being honest when his body remains two inches away, his hand never reaching even though mine is open-faced, waiting. I have watered down my own language to the point of drowning out his, trying to read in between lines that don’t exist as the episode’s end credits scroll up the screen.
We get up to say goodbye. I press myself against him in a hug, accept that’s all it is. Let him go.