Public Service Announcement

15 Mar

I live in a building with a security desk. It’s a nice thing to have in my neighborhood, means you can receive packages more easily, and all the guards are very friendly. I try to say hi to them whenever I come by and maybe ask how they are, if I’m not in a hurry. I’d imagine it gets wearing to be constantly ignored by people you see every day; I’d want people to greet me now and again in their shoes.

One of the guards in my building recently asked me if I had a boyfriend. When I told him girlfriend, she’s the girl who lives here with me, he said, “Oh. Oh shit, I’ve been hitting on you this whole time. I thought you were sisters.” *

Now, he didn’t get particularly weird about both of us being female and he didn’t push it at all – I just told him it was fine that he asked, it wasn’t like he’d known, and he said that he had just thought I was attractive. Then we had a couple moments of normal conversation about how we both were that day and went on our merry ways.

I have two wildly bifurcating trains of thought on this interaction. The first one is that he was very polite about that. He didn’t instantly stop talking to me and walk away – the way a guy who hit on me last week did – and he didn’t keep pushing it the way many other people have either. I was glad I kept my act together enough to also be polite and make it clear that I appreciated the way he’d asked and responded to my answer. Go team human, everyone was decent here.

Okay, but here’s the other train of thought. He really hadn’t been flirting with me. This was literally the longest conversation we have ever had. I have a strange blind spot in my otherwise solid perceptiveness filter for flirting, so sometimes when people reveal that they were flirting with me the whole time (!!), I feel bad for missing it. Except that I know I didn’t miss anything this time.

This was the longest conversation we had ever had by far and it was maybe 6 to 8 lines long. In fact, he is one of the guards I’ve talked to the least. We have literally only said hi, have a good one, and waved for the 1.5 years I have lived here. That is not flirting. It’s just being polite.

It’s kind of fucked up, but after that conversation I thought, That seemed okay at the time, but maybe it isn’t actually cool. That wasn’t enough information to be sure. I smiled at him and said it was nice of him to call me pretty – what if he thinks that was flirting? I just didn’t want to be a jerk. What if he doesn’t take my relationship seriously because it’s with another woman and keeps hitting on me? ** I shouldn’t have encouraged him. Shit. He works security here; he has the key to our apartment. Oh shit. Did I do something to make life more dangerous for Squiddy and me?

I recognize that’s me thinking, not him doing anything wrong. Tentatively, I’m going to go ahead and assume the world isn’t awful and think well of him for that interaction. He’s Shroedinger’s crushing security guard though. I haven’t really collapsed the waveform on whether that was an exemplary interaction from both of us, hooray, or whether he is going to continue pushing this and make me feel unsafe where I live.

This is because the security guard, live cat or dead cat, believes that two people of the opposite sex smiling at and talking to each other constitutes an expression of sexual interest. I was supposed to know that every time we smiled and told each other, hey, have a good one – that was flirting.

That’s not a notion he pulled out of nowhere. That idea, in weaker or stronger forms, is part and parcel of the common notion that ‘men and women can’t be friends’, ‘men are from mars and women are from venus’, whatever. Men and women are too different to relate without sex. It’s an incredibly dangerous idea. It makes men who are probably decent men with good intentions frighten women anyway. The idea itself corrodes the ability to be friends – now how can I smile as widely at him and the other men who guard the security desk? What if they take it the wrong way?

You know what I wish? That there was a hanky code for going about your day in public. That you had a handkerchief color for ‘totally enthusiastic about flirts, not that it’s a guarantee I will accept you’, ‘I wouldn’t mind flirts if you’re into it, but I’m not looking actively’, and ‘I really would prefer no flirts under any circumstances, thanks’.

It would obviate so many problems! Maybe it could be super granular and if it’s flirty colored and paisley you’re into male-identified people whereas if it’s striped you’re into female-identified folks! There could even be a signal for if you’re in a monogamous relationship already! Wait, we already have one of those (though it obviously doesn’t work for everybody), in the Engagement Ring! Which Squiddy and I wear, albeit on a chain around our necks so maybe it’s confusing, every day. Blast. Maybe people should just be better at talking to each other.

——

 * This sisters thing is, like, a whole other, entirely capslocked post going whywhywhy. There was an incident with another security guard right after this one with the sister thing, again. That story can be part deaux.

**This happens. Squiddy and I have had a random guy on the street come up to us, ask if we were together, and then when we said yes, start propositioning us.

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