Monday, June 15, 2009

Social awkwardness and the unexpected benefits of being in a couple

This morning, a random guy stopped me to ask for information about the bus schedule, and then awkwardly segued into asking me about where I lived, whether I was a grad student, what department I was in, etc. I think he may have been trying to flirt with me, but I’m not sure. (I wasn’t wearing my ring, by the way.) I’ve never been sure about that kind of stuff, even when it’s glaringly obvious to everyone else. I think I was just born sans the flirtation antenna that most normal people seem to have. Also, most grad students aren’t good at this sort of thing as a rule.

The incident made me reflect on the subtle ways day-to-day life has changed for me since I started dating Econo Boy, and especially since we got engaged.

Most people, at some point in their lives, will find themselves the object of unwanted attention from a member of the opposite sex whose interest they do not share. Most of the time this is pretty harmless, but on occasion, it can be crushingly uncomfortable. I think this is especially true if you’re a woman. If you make it clear you’re not interested, you’re a bitch, or you’re a narcissist who misinterpreted his perfectly “friendly” attention. If you don’t make it clear enough, you’re a tease, or you’re self-absorbed and too clueless to notice that he OBVIOUSLY likes you. (Does the fine line between “bitch” and “tease” exist in same-sex flirtation as well?)

All that by way of saying that while some people think monogamy is stifling or signals the death of one’s social life, I’ve found it incredibly liberating, especially when it comes to building new friendships with guys. When I go to a party, I don’t have to try and figure out whether the guy I’m talking to wants my phone number or just thought I looked friendly. I don’t have to carefully calibrate the level of interest I project in order to avoid sending the wrong signal. As soon as I say “my boyfriend” or “my fiancĂ©,” it becomes clear that I’m not available, and the guy can either keep talking to me or move on. And if somehow Econo Boy doesn’t come up in the conversation, and I’m asked for my phone number or a date, I can just say “I’m sorry, but I have a serious boyfriend/I’m engaged.” Still awkward, but much less awkward than trying to find a kind way to say “you seem like a perfectly nice human being, but I am not at all attracted to you and I do not wish to date you.”

This is not to say that marriage/monogamy is right for everyone – I try to avoid being a Smug Married who’s convinced that everyone would be happier as part of a pair, since I know plenty of people who would much rather be single. And some people really dig the mysterious “is he into me?” feeling. But I’m fairly shy and I’ve always suffered from a bit of social anxiety (I used to feel faint in the car on my way to birthday parties as I wondered if I’d messed up the day or the time and if I’d make an idiot out of myself by ringing the doorbell in my party dress with a nicely-wrapped box), so eliminating at least one level of potential social misunderstanding and awkwardness gets a big thumbs up from me.

Does anyone else find that there are unexpected bonuses to being in a couple?


accordionsandlace said...

Oh I am so with you. I always found these sorts of dealings really stressful and I am so pleased to have them out of my life. The mister and I were just talking about this yesterday, actually--we were talking about a couple that we know who are in an open marriage because they say that they didn't want to deprive one another of never experiencing the thrill of a first kiss again. That is so not me--for all that thrill, I always experienced stress too. Dealing with the dudes I didn't want to kiss, and even dealing with the dudes I did. I am happy to trade that away! God it was all so freaking complicated.

Ruthie said...

For me it's the help in a pinch. I was riding my bike home the other day and got a flat, without an air pump in site I called my fiance and he came to get me, no problem. It occurred to me that if I was single, who would I call? I have a hand full of friends that would be happy to help, but I have no idea if any of them have bike hook ups. The thought that I took it for granted that he would come 'rescue' me sort of surprised me, and made me appreciate him all the more.

Sweet T said...

I am so with you on being happy to being 'off the market' as it were. Especially now that I'm in a new city for the next few weeks sans Mister, it's comforting to know I can just drop the "husband/partner" bomb and be left alone. Though sometimes it backfires and they get even more aggressive-- UGH.

Bride in Exile said...

A., I loved that "first kiss" thrill -- being on a first date with a guy I really liked was pretty awesome. But all of the stuff leading up to going on a first date with a guy you really liked? Ugh. Stress. Nerves. More stress. Do not miss it.

Ruthie, help in a pinch is definitely a great side benefit!

Sweet T., has anyone used the "zip code rule" line on you -- i.e., "well, if he's not in the same ZIP code right now, it's not cheating"? I had one very eyebrow-raising encounter with a guy who reacted to the "boyfriend" bomb by dropping that classy come-on. Yeesh.