Sexless in the City

Sometimes reading romance novels doesn’t quite prepare you for a love life...

For this 30-year-old urbanite, love is always a misadventure: The Harvard Lickwit, Hippie the Groper, the 5% Man, and the Ad Weasel. These and many other men wander in and out of her life — but never her bed.

Friday, February 25, 2005

‘I wanna shake your hand’

In the ongoing adventures of semi-working girl (that is to say, me), I’ve decided there may be other sites of repression beyond just the overheated space of Christian social circles. My source of this insight? A little interoffice intrigue that began with a Starbucks trip on Wednesday.

A fashion soap, pt. 2
Tuesday was my first day on the job at this assignment, so I played it safe with conservative pantsuit, boring blouse, etc., etc. But once there it was swiftly established that on this 5-day gig I could safely funk it up a lot and have some real fun with my wardrobe (though not - yet - to the extent of red pants). So Wednesday I wear a fun ensemble that Best Friend has dubbed my “BoHo” look. On top: the lacy dark-turquoise sweater I recently finished, from the yarn of a Land’s End sweater I finally ripped out after shrinking the sleeves eight years ago. Bottom: Funky brown skirt in a nubby material, over these awesome suede boots from Urban Outfitter, which I got 90 percent off - yes, 90 for only $10.

Which such a general vibe of hip frugality about the ensemble, I was in a good mood as I traipsed out the door and over to Starbucks Wednesday morning. Hair was in a high ponytail, that spilled out over the fuzzy hood lining of my faintly militaresque green Urban Outfitters jacket. With gold eyeliner to complete the picture, Anna was almost all of her feisty, spunky self (albeit still fighting this crazy cold/fever/insanity that has ailed me since last weekend).

Basically, it was one of those days when it’s fun to be a girl - in the most youthful connotations of that word. That kind of energy, I suspect, tends naturally to draw the attention of men - especially when you waltz into an otherwise fairly empty Starbucks. And as I bounced in and up to the counter Wednesday morning, I was aware of being noticed by one of two men waiting for their drinks: one gray-haired and bespectacled, one tall, sturdy and youngish with a neatly groomed dark beard. It wasn’t a lecherous kind of noticing, of course, but there was a sense of my presence registering in ... well ... a different way than the entrance of a stout, windblown frumpy-looking woman would have.

A girl’s guide to keeping coy with boys
I took a peculiar enjoyment in totally ignoring the men and making almost no eye contact, although I fancied I felt the slightest frisson* of something from the one who looked like he had once played football or could be a cop. Latte in hand, I sashayed out the door without any effort at making a dramatic exit.

This admittedly small moment was completely forgotten until later in the day, when the infamous graphic-design boss stopped by to have a chat with my boss-o’-the-week about some projects for an event we’re having today. G-D Boss is a gregarious Cuban who promptly delighted in making jokes about my last name. And at his side was a young, tall, dark assistant who would be working directly with me on one of the projects.

Oh yes ... It was the Bearded One from Starbucks. I shook his hand briefly, barely met his eyes, and essentially gave him the cold-shoulder routine I often save for Christian men (more on this later). I don’t know why, but for some reason in instances where I’m guarded with men, I pull out the almost-shy, professional self, and banish spunky shock-n-awe Anna to the off-hours until I start to relax a bit.

Anna gets brave with non-blonds
In this case, it took about 24 hours for me to loosen up. But as I kept on interacting with the Bearded One (though Starbucks was never mentioned), I started to let him in a little. Shared a Winona Ryder anecdote from a previous job. Actually met his eyes occasionally.

None of this was anything like the high-octane dialogue with boss-o’-the-week, but then, that’s a completely safe situation. Here, though ... the revelation that I’m a temp possibly leaves things more open-ended. And even though there has been nothing inappropriate or even really flirty, I still have this feeling that if we’d both been at the same bar one night, as strangers, he would come up and try to get to know me. It’s well-disguised ... but something I just feel in my gut.

Something that might have been confirmed yesterday afternoon, when I came down to tell him that he actually had more time on our one main project. This was clearly a major relief. “Gimme five,” he said, as we were standing in a dimly lit hallway. But somehow when I reached out, it was not so much a high-five as shaking hands ... or was it holding hands, oh-so briefly? Then we continued talking, discussing when we would touch base today, and how we would work around my inability to check voice-mail messages.

It almost felt like the conversation between a couple that’s just exchanged numbers, about when the guy will call and how he will reach her. “I’ll call at 10:30.” “Well if I’m not there, don’t leave a message.” “Well, I’ll reach you.”And though he wasn’t as close as space-invader close, there was certainly no more than 12-18 inches between us. Which is close, in professional terms. But then, we were in the hallway. Away from the non-romantic glare of fluorescent lights.

Today, of course, I think he’s ready to kill me because of how I keep checking up on things, and last-minute changes on these poster boards he did for us ... But maybe he’s just figured out that acting mildly aggrieved gets me to briefly put a hand to his shoulder in thanks for all the hard work he’s doing.

’Cuz I’m just a hands-on kinda gal, when you get down to it ...

*Now there’s a classic romance-novel word!