When I'm on stage is about the only time I'm certain all eyes are on me.
Last week, I had dinner with one of my best friends and NPR host, Al Letson, who always jokes about how clueless I am about men.
“This dude keeps looking at you," he said as we walked away from Union Station. "I think he’s trying to see what our relationship is before he approaches.”
I, being the sauve and sophisticated type, swung around and said, “Who? I don’t see anybody!”
Al groaned, “Well, he’s not coming over now.”
I never saw who he was talking about. See, men don’t hit on me or flirt with me. And the few times it does happen, I don't realize it until much much later. And by much much later, I mean when I’m home brushing my teeth and can’t do anything about it even if I wanted to.
After I left Al at the train station, I wandered towards the parking lot. A voice from behind said, "Excuse me?" I turned around to find a man smiling at me. I don’t know what it is about but whenever someone smiles at me, I automatically smile back. It’s like a reflex. Even when I’m pissed off or sad, if you smile, I smile.
So this man sees this grin on my face and with a ticket in hand proceeds to ask me if I know were the train station is. Still smiling, I say, “Yes! I just came from there.” As luck would have it (or not) I'm as bad with flirting as I am with giving directions but I try to direct him through all the hustle and bustle of Union Station anyway. The conversation went like this:
Me: So you go around the corner and then down the escalator...
Him: Your hair is beautiful.
Me: Thank you. Just keep going down the escalators until you see stairs...
Him: How long have you been growing it?
Me: Twelve years but I get it cut every few months so it doesn’t get too long. Actually, I think it might be easier to take the elevators on the other side.
Him: I’ve been thinking about growing locks myself.
Me: I can give you my hair dressers number, but you’re going to miss your train if you don’t pay attention. This station can be confusing.
Him: Uh... OK.
I sent him on his way and was fully back in the car with my seat belt on before it dawned on me that he really didn’t need directions. I wish that was the first time this has happened. My poor hairdresser.
I'd like to believe that if I were hit on more often, I wouldn’t be quite as dense. I just don’t think I've got the kind of face or body that attracts that kind of attention. When I’m not on stage, I’m pretty much just regular. I have no boobs and I’m not particularly bootylicious. I mean, you can’t see my personality no matter how much power I give a bra.
I have friends who complain about being approached by strangers all the time. I don't know that life. It fascinates me. Years ago while walking with some friends in Brooklyn, we passed by a group of guys on a stoop. They started catcalling as we approached. It was more obnoxious than offensive, but I turned around to give them a piece of my mind anyway. Mid-scolding I heard one of them say to the other, "Why would the one we’re not talking to be the one to get pissed off? Miss, we weren’t even talking to you.”
Part of me wanted to ask them why. Why weren’t they talking to me? I mean, for research purposes. But I’ve been told that would've be “needy,” which is a different conversation for a different day. The truth is, I can’t say not getting hit on is all that upsetting. It’s just curious. I don’t think of myself as unapproachable. In fact, I know I’m not (see the part above about smiling being my default setting). Maybe it all boils down to “when you got it, you got it’ and I ain’t got it. But I've got other stuff though! And I'll get back to you on that.
Am I the only one who's somehow sidestepped sidewalk catcalls?