He’s much shorter than me. Intense brown eyes. Vague suit. Still. I’m at a press night and I’m drunk. Free wine. Hard not to take another glass. We have been talking for a good while now, and it’s only when I play it back in sober memory that I see the edges of the conversation. At the time I was drowning in it.
It’s like a Meisner class, in that he’s identifying what I’m doing and telling me about it. “You’re being defensive.” “Now you’re being apologetic.” “Now you’re being aggressive.” He’s managing my behaviours, and all the while I’m thinking he’s just being very observant. He rarely moves his head. I don’t remember him blinking. I’m feeling increasingly self-conscious, becoming increasingly passive. The booze ain’t helping. Then he validates me, thereby raising his own power in this interaction. “It’s not that I’m saying your behaviours are bad, Al. I like you. I find you very charming. I feel that I’m very similar to you.” “I like you too,” escapes my lips obediently. He continues “Although unfortunately I think we want very different things from each other.” He lets that hang. Still not blinking. A little light goes on through the drinky fug. No. Surely not. But yes. Yep. Oh yepparoonie. He’s definitely hitting on me. It’s a masterclass. Undercut undercut undercut. Validate validate validate. Dig out insecurities. Replace them with your approval. Wow. I rarely if ever hit on people. I’ve definitely never been hit on like this. I’m fascinated. I don’t tell him I’m not interested, although he knows it and it’s part of why he’s enjoying the game. But I’m thinking I’m going to need an exit from the conversation and he’s not going to make it easy. Then Rebecca comes battering in like a steam train because she’s as drunk as me. “Come on Al, we’re going home,” she announces, and his face falls. And we leave. “That guy gave me a really weird look,” she says as we get our coats. She lives near to me and it’s cheaper to share an uber, but that’s not the message left with “Right Al we’re leaving.”
I’m glad we left. It was a strange thing. It made me notice that we can compromise our desires for social anxiety. I know that I don’t desire men, even as I know that I do desire women. But when it became clear that the end point of his aim was for us to be going at it like rabbits until dawn, I didn’t end the conversation and walk away. I needed to be rescued by drunk-Rebecca, who thankfully came in on cue and pulled me out of him fnarr fnarr. But I’m glad she was there to do that.
I’m now thinking frequently about his methodology. It seemed a conscious and targeted approach. I get the sense he’s honed it. If I find someone attractive I either talk too much or completely ignore them. Next time maybe I’ll just stand still and talk about their behaviour. It’s not a bad approach. Works on me.