I have, in my life, made a move or two on a woman that turned out to be, to my clear and complete embarrassment, utterly unwanted. Every dude I know, at least of my age and sexual preference, probably has. Almost certainly has.
I remember in a hotel elevator once, late after a night of working and drinking and talking with someone I barely knew — and, honestly, don’t remember now — mustering up the nerve to move in for what I mistakenly thought at the time would be a romantic, steamy sweep-her-off-her feet, kiss.
It took only a disgusted hand on my shoulder and a stern staredown to back me off. And I did back off, immediately and forever, slinking away like the little liquored-up slimeball I was that night.
A sudden urge to defend myself here: I’m not now and never have been some slobbering horndog. But … yeah, I’ve made moves, on relative strangers and on those I’ve known for some time, that did not turn out well for me.
Moves were kind of expected of dudes at one time. You had to have a move.
It’s scary to think, though, that my lame attempt at a late-night smooch (before my marriage, it should be pointed out) way back then — honestly, if I was thinking at that point, I wasn’t even thinking beyond smooch — could very well land me in jail now and label me, for life, as a sleazy sex-crazed assaulter.
Please understand. This isn’t a whine about the current state of sexual affairs. This isn’t some wild rant against the #metoo movement. Good lord, men have no legs to stand on when it comes to this subject. We’ve been boorish and rude and way worse — way, way worse — for way too long. We’ve been horsing around, and way worse, on borrowed time. For centuries.
This, now, is as it ought to be. Probably always should have been. No woman should be subjected to some fool, bleary-eyed or otherwise, hands flying, lips pursed, eyebrow raised, putting his move on. Yeeesh.
That said, for those of us from generations not named for letters of the alphabet, the idea of not flirting, of braking your moves, is not an easy one to grasp. The dance between men and women — I think I speak (from memory of course) for the majority of men out there — has long been a mystery. Always, probably.
What do you do? How do you express your desires? Whether your endgame is a chat over coffee, or a dance, or some drunk idea of romance, what do you do? A good move — it, of course, doesn’t always have to do with a leer in an elevator; it can be verbal –was the only chance many of us had at that dream girl.
Now? A fake yawn-and-stretch to slip an arm around a date at a movie: Is that OK? A touch on the elbow? A hand on a hip while dancing? A little flirty talk? A goodnight kiss?First base?
What are the rules?
Again, this is not crying. I’m not asking for sympathy. We don’t deserve it. This awakening is way past due.
It’s just … different now, that’s all. A good different. We’re taking a step forward in society, and that’s better for everyone.
The answers to all these new dating mysteries, it seems, are a lot clearer now than they ever have been. Now, it’s simple: You can’t assume anything. You can’t take anything for granted. Least of the woman across from you.
If you think there might be signs — this is, to point out what should be obvious, all theoretical on my part at this point — you have to be positive that those signs mean what you think they mean. If you don’t understand the signs, if you’re not positive, if you have any questions whatsoever, a smidgen of an inkling of a creeping doubt … sorry. You’re going to have to ask. You’re going to have to make sure, without any doubt. What you might lose in bad rom-com spontaneity, I’m guessing, you make up for with a clean reputation, a spotless police record and a lot more certainty. It’s win win for both parties.
Because of #metoo, it seems, men don’t have to wonder any more. Young guys, like my son, don’t have to worry about signs or perfecting a move or getting mixed messages. They just have to be smart and respectful and play it safe and honest and open. It’s kind of that simple.
I would hope that, if Luke ever finds himself in search of a smooch in a late-night elevator with a woman from the bar, he’ll know. He’ll know to save himself the headache and the embarrassment and her the hassle. He’ll know to just head back to the room. It’s the smart way to go.
Romances that begin in elevators never work out, anyway. Not even in bad rom-coms.