I should tell you about that friend I went dancing with.
Some friends and I went out clubbing on my birthday back in April, and there was a guy there who danced constantly the whole night, evidently alone. He was pretty graceful and fluid and it was pleasant to watch him. He also looked about my age and yet still fit and trim, which many men my age are not.
I pointed him out to my friend Red and she said I should go hit on him. Part of me kind of wanted to, because I’ve been feeling kind of old and fat and bleh lately and picking up a boy on the dance floor like the good old days would have felt like a coup. On the other hand, my shenanigans in “the good old days” taught me that most people are not as hot in full light as they look in a club. I’ve been burned by this before. Like, a lot.
And to be perfectly honest I wasn’t drawn to the guy because he looked super hot, anyway. I was drawn to him because he looked accessible. I was in a vulnerable mood and here was a guy whose whole look telegraphed “pleasant and nerdy” in a wholly familiar way and who was entirely within my “league” looks-wise. And age-appropriate, for a change. But none of that translates to “OMG so hot and interesting” for me, so courting him would not have been a good idea.
But I guess I was enough on the fence about it that I kept watching him dance and he noticed. Or maybe I wasn’t being that obvious but he noticed me of his own accord. But he ended up dancing his way over to me so that we were near each other for a good portion of the night, and when I needed a break from dancing and flopped onto a bench, he flopped next to me. We made small talk as well as possible in the loudness of the club. I was still pretty sure I didn’t want to start up anything sexual or romantic per se, but I was feeling more gregarious than usual so I stayed dancing after my friends went home and when the bar closed down I invited the guy for coffee.
In coffee shop lighting he looked much older than I’d realized and I noticed for the first time that his teeth are kind of a clusterfuck. And the conversation was pretty stilted, and when I mentioned what I do for a living he didn’t ask me anything much about it, which is a pet peeve of mine (I’m baffled when people don’t think it’s fascinating. If I were in a “normal” job and met an art model, I’d be all over that shit asking what it’s like and stuff). So I was definitely glad I hadn’t made out with him or tried to grind with him at the club or anything. But he did seem to have friend potential, so I found him on Facebook and friended him.
A few days later he FB messaged me inviting me out someplace. Oh, I should mention that after clubbing and coffee that other night, when we were waiting for the bus to go home, he lightly touched my arm and said “Would you like to take me home with you?” – I liked the unobtrusive way he asked me, but as I mentioned, I wasn’t really attracted to him. So I said no thank you. So anyway when he invited me out again and I thought “Ehhh, what the hell” but I told him that I hadn’t felt a romantic spark with him and only wanted to be friends. He said he hadn’t felt one with me, either, and I let that go so he could save face.
I was a bit worried that he would infringe on my boundaries anyway, as people often seem to do with me no matter how clear I am about where those boundaries are, but he didn’t. He maintained a polite amount of personal space and didn’t try to hug me goodbye or anything. The next time I saw him, he took me to the hippie-ish dancing thing I mentioned in the previous post, and it was my first time there and I had fun and when we parted company I asked “are you a hugger?” and he said yes and I gave him a big, grateful hug and thanked him for showing me this interesting new world and for getting me out of my head and out of my apartment for a few hours.
And since then we’ve been goodbye-huggers but he still hasn’t interpreted that to mean he can go further.
He’s really into dancing, which is our big common thread and we both know it. So most, if not all, of our outings so far have been to dancey events. Tonight we went to a goth club. On the way there, we were chatting about dating mishaps and whatnot. He told me he once had a woman he was interested in whom he mistakenly thought was a lesbian (because her ex-girlfriend misled him into thinking it. Actually she was bi) and as such, he missed a bunch of huge hints from her that she was interested in him. They did finally hook up, but she had to be super obvious about her intentions to get him to realize what was up. He told me he felt pretty stupid about that, but (and this is where the subtext starts…) I said I thought it was good that he respected what he thought was her orientation and didn’t try to interpret every damn thing as a come-on (meaning: thanks for not hitting on me after I said I wasn’t into you like that).
He said “I’m good at sticking with ‘no.’ ‘No’ is completely uncomplicated. ‘Yes,’ however, is often entirely too complicated.” (Perhaps meaning: you’re welcome).
I like that phrasing. The idea that doing sexual stuff complicates shit a lot more than not, usually, resonates with me. It’s why I haven’t hit on him even though I actually do feel a tiny, wavering amount of attraction sometimes; it’s not enough attraction and I would almost certainly get bored and want to discontinue any makeouts almost immediately and then there would be hurt feelings and an adjustment period and blah blah blah.
More subtext: I told him that people generally don’t have to worry about interpreting “signals” with me because if I’m interested in someone I will flat-out tell them “Hey so we can make out sometime if you want.” (Read: whatever may happen tonight, don’t be thinking it’s some big signal of interest.)
So we get to the club and we dance a lot but in-between times, when we’re sitting together in a booth beside the dance floor, I’m aware that my back and neck are all fucked up from stress. And I’m aware that I’m so touch-deprived that I kinda wanna die. And I believe that he’s touch-deprived, too, because our last hug goodbye ran really long and I felt him sigh and relax into my arms a little bit, just like I was doing. And the first night we met, he mentioned to me that he gives a good massage. So I took a chance and asked him to try to unfuck my shoulders for me, and figured I could return the favour and we’d both be happy.
He really does give a good massage. He worked on me for a long time, too, not the sort of cursory two-minute squeeze most people would do. When he was done, I put my hand on his back to return the favour but me misread me(?) and put his arm around me, too, and kind of side-hugged me. It almost felt like he was giving aftercare for the massage. Which I needed, actually, and I found myself ducking down a bit to rest my head on his shoulder. We stayed like that for the duration of a song, and every time I absent-mindedly moved my thumb back and forth over his shoulderblade I felt him make a happy little “mmmm” that vibrated through his collarbone and into my head. I hoped that I hadn’t fucked up the dynamic of our friendship.
I offered him a massage in return and he accepted it and then I think we ended up sitting there hugging again, this time with his head on my shoulder, and it was nice but then he kissed the side of my neck and I thought “Ohhhhhh fuck, I’ve probably messed up and made him think I wanted to escalate the friendship to something else.” This, right here, is why I was feeling kind of desperate for The Pedant to come over.
But it was one single kiss and then a good song came on and I used that as an excuse to break contact and head out onto the floor. I motioned for him to join me. And we danced a bunch more and he didn’t try to cuddle up to me again, nor did he suddenly think it would be okay to dance up on me. And things between us felt like they were back to whatever “normal” is for us. I think.
So maybe it’s okay.