This is going to be something less of an advice guide, and something more of a,”But it’s so UNFAIR,” session. I am, of course, talking about talking to strange boys at large gatherings and trying to understand why saying, “Hi” to the person you’ve been dancing next to for the last half hour means, “I clearly want to have sex with you right now.”
I know. I am hopelessly naive, apparently. I am a pretty enough Lady-Girl, and a clever Unicorn to boot. And I am willing to bet that most of you out there are, too. And, okay, on Saturday night at the concert I was dressed a little on the sexy side with pretty hair and makeup. And yes, I’m six feet tall. And yes, three feet of that was bare leg.
But ladies and gentlemen, that’s not an invitation.
Just because I am standing in the beer line does not mean I am looking for someone to buy me a beer. I can buy my own beer AND have a conversation about the show with you, regardless of your sex/gender/hairstyle. I am a friendly person, especially after having had a beer and listening to some fantastic music. I will feel bad later when you ask me out and I say no because I have been in a committed relationship for four years and I was not sending out any intentional signals. And I will feel worse because I have to do it in front of twenty other people in line for the bathroom, and they will all talk about it after you leave.
Just because I started talking to you when we’ve been standing next to each other for two hours when both our sets of friends have ditched us for the smoking area does not mean I want to sleep with you. It means the band is between sets and we happen to be standing next to each other and I like your t-shirt. It is a cool t-shirt. When you ask me thirty seconds in if I’m “here with friends,” I know what that means. “Are you here with some kind of significant other?” (And don’t tell me I’m reading into things. The tone of your voice and the fact that as soon as my significant other arrived you got a pissed look on your face and turned away SAYS IT ALL.)
The answer to this of course, in our world, is then A) to cover yourself from head to toe, or B) don’t ever talk to strangers. Because one can never take the time to feel pretty for oneself. One can never try to make a new friend. Because when you’re a girl in her mid-twenties, you can’t just want friends. It’s crazed sex bunny or wallflower. Marilyn Monroe or Doris Day. Whore or Madonna.
And it’s not fair.
We shouldn’t have to live in a world where everything we do is an invitation or an outright rejection. We shouldn’t have to live with the dichotomy of hook up culture or total prude. I want to say “Hello” to a stranger and not have to wonder if my potential as a sex partner is all that’s being considered.
Etiquette is almost entirely about making the people around you feel comfortable and welcome, but how can we really reach that goal when no matter where we go, we’re wondering if the space we’re in is even safe. So my challenge to you is this: Say hello to strangers. Talk about mutual interests in the beer line. Make it clear that you are a person worth talking to based on your personhood, not your personal parts. I can only hope that the more we all do it, the more normal it will become.