back this fall i was feeling a bit undone. you see, there was a boy and he made me feel beautiful, or rather it was that around him i didn't feel beautiful or not beautiful. beauty was a non-issue. beauty didn't exist where he was concerned, it wasn't important. does this make sense? i'm not making sense.

my affection for him stretched far past caring what he thought i looked like. but i didn't want to admit this.

and so i looked to others to give me the standard social cues. suddenly, for the first time in my life, i craved long glances from men. wanted to know that men found me attractive on the physical level. wanted to gather as much evidence into my basket so that when the one egg rolled out, as i knew it would, i'd survive with the rest, not happily no, but i'd survive.

i was at work late one night, standing at the front in my black cocktail dress (and a pretty modest cocktail dress as that). the evening was winding down and a young gentleman cut away from his group and headed up the long, spiral-staircase to use the bathroom. on the way up, he stopped, mid-step, turned around and looked at me. really looked. for a moment we both froze. and then he turned back-round and headed up the stairs.

did you see that? tell me you saw that? i said to the other girls, turning round behind me to make sure it wasn't something else that had caught his eye.

i'd never been looked at like that. so openly.


and then he came down the stairs, and curved towards where us girls were standing.

and he looked right at me.

i'm still shocked sometimes that a man might ever wish to look at me--and when i'm next to two exceptionally beautiful women and the guy still looks?

what time do you finish work tonight? he asked.

the audacity. it was strangely appealing.

men can be such fearful creatures that the boldness of his swagger made me weak in the knees. it didn't hurt that he looked like a younger, taller, better looking version of ed norton.

around midnight. and without giving it too much thought, here's my number.  he took the slip of paper, promised to call, and went to collect his friends.

my friend whitney who had witnessed this turned to me and said, i've never been flirted with like that.  she then proceeded to drive her point home by saying something very crude and actually quite funny, but not appropriate for the likes of this forum.

ten minutes later, ed (let's call him ed, shall we?) returned. i'm not sure where we're gonna end up tonight, so let me give you my number as well, and that way we'll be sure we won't miss each other. i handed him a pen and paper and he began writing when something caught my eye, and started me round the edge of the desk.

what, um. oh, huh, what's that there?  oh, this? he said, drawing up his left-hand, gold-wedding band and all. oh, that's not a problem for you, is it?  deep intake of breath on my part. small nervous laugh.

yeah, yes. it is. deal-breaker actually.  oh, umm, rapid backtracking on his part, oh, yeah for me too. it's a problem for me too. no, come one, no. it's not like that. my friend thought you were cute, i'm doing this for a friend.  well, that's nice, but no thanks, and from there i turned away to carefully collect my bottom-jaw from off the floor.

around midnight i tucked myself into a cab. homeward bound. and my phone rang (you do remember i gave him my number?).

meg, come on, just come out with us.  no, thank you.

do you know who this is?

yes, it's a number i don't know and you know my name, so yes, i've figured it out, i know who this is. i knew you were a smart gal, that's why i liked you.  i am a smart gal, ed. among the smartest you'll ever meet. that's why i'm in a cab, going home.  no, just come out.  listen, i am so flattered (i was really trying to be nice to this truly undeserving man {and keep in mind he was all of 29, maybe, a young guy, probably newly married}). i think you're extremely attractive and you have a certain charm about you, but you've got a wife at home, waiting for you, trusting that you are on this business trip of yours doing only that, business, and honoring those vows you made to her.  no, it's not like that. really, this is for a friend, it's for a friend, i would never cheat on my wife. okay then, ed, have a good night.  let me tell you why i found the whole thing tremendously offensive. adultery aside. cheating aside (i mean, really, don't get me started on that. or the fact that he looked at me and thought i'd be okay with those things) nothing makes me angrier than when the man tries to make the woman the fool. for a friend? really, for a friend? gas-lighting on a grand scale. do not play me the fool. and do not make a fool of me. do not make me feel as those i misread the very clear signals. do not make me feel like i was the one who should be embarrassed for being so presumptive as to assume you were flirting. because the thing is, i want to take what you're saying at face-value. but by believing that, i undermine what just happened on the experiential level and find myself at odds with myself. don't lie to me and do not insult my intelligence.

i keep thinking about this because it happened on a much smaller scale recently. and what kills me, is that men think they can do this (and it's a pride and preservation thing, i get it)--but they think they can do it (sacrifice you) and then continue on and pretend as if life should continue normally.

good news is, the more it happens, the better i get at identifying it, and doubting them, before i doubt myself.