To the many schoolboys, cab drivers, construction workers, food vendors, bartenders, and myriad passersby whose attempts to “holla” at many a miscellaneous mademoiselle have not as much fallen on deaf ears as they’ve been patently ignored; whose courting efforts are as valiant as they are in vain and whose theories on the fairer sex are, at best, charmingly hopeless — this is for you.
I am the anonymous Aphrodite who turns a prominent cheekbone to your romantic misfires, and after years of acting the smug coquette, dealing out smiles like pats on the back — “A’s” for effort, as it were — I’ll admit that there have been a few isolated incidents of note, where I felt genuine flattery by a fleeting remark and also somewhat taken aback; as if by some uncanny aptitude for female sentiment, an individual had managed to pierce through my shell of defenses to strike an unexpected chord, resonating to my very core, and yes — making me blush.
So take note, young Casanovas — even in this Age of Cynicism, the art of the compliment is alive and well. Here is my tribute to unconventional wooing.
1. Like Silver
Another close-quartered soiree fueled by boxed wine and cheap whiskey. A round of charades enhances the alcohol so that everyone’s flushed in the face before the third glass is even broken in, though the riotous laughter and radiator hissing hot air contributes somewhat. Soon, everyone is woozy and slipping out of their seats into limp-body puddles on the floor. My head lands on a chest, and I’m surrounded by woolen sleeves and musk and suddenly, with a note of disbelief, he asks,
“You have gray hair?”
I immediately tense and default to defense-mode. “Yes, just a few in that one spot, I usually don’t part it there, I–“
“That… is so sexy.”
And with that, I say no more.
Have you experienced it? You lock eyes, and they remain locked past the two-second mark—the safe zone, the awkwardness threshold — until it is very much apparent that you are being looked at, not glanced at.
It ends abruptly when both parties become conscious of their respective faux pas — the illicit meeting of two gazes from opposite ends of the train car. But then, through stolen glances, eye-pong, and clever maneuvering to “just walk over to check the subway map,” you meet. You meet, and he comes up with an inane excuse to hear you speak. And you retaliate; ask him his name with curtly self-assurance. He is stunned. Delighted even.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
You, boy — don’t think you can get away so easy, dancing circles around me with your Ivy League ways and your baby blue eyes. You — you’re about a head taller than me but I am your senior, boy — so show some respect.
I pull the ageist card again and again because it’s fun to prod and pretend to be condescending when I couldn’t care in the slightest that you’re nineteen and I’m not. Not for a few years now, at least.
But there we are, debating nonsense like it makes a difference. Self-satisfied smiles abound. I say something, and should’ve chosen my words more carefully, because–
“Is that your way of flirting with me?” says the boy.
It most certainly is not, is what I want to say. But, blast — I’m too late. I’m barely suppressing a bashful smile and looking down at my laces lying defeated on the gritty wet floor.
He done outsmarted me.
4. I’ve Been Everywhere, Man
To the men of the world that only see what they want to: I am apparently at once ethnically unplaceable and conspicuous. I’ve been Syrian and French and Spanish and Greek and Russian and Jewish and Ukrainian and Egyptian (though Egyptian was perhaps my favorite).
Ah, to be of kin with Cleopatra—what a delightful presumption, sir. Was it my black-rimmed eyes or August tan? No matter — it’s fun to be a global goddess, if only for a day.