Today I shall tackle two Single Life conundrums: going to coffee with male friends and preferring to eat worms to kissing that NCB who is just so into you.
My mother, my dear mother, whose advice I might have listened to if she hadn't tacked "brazen hussy" to the end of her perorations, always told me that I could never ask out boys or call them up or ask them to dance, etc., etc., etc. My role, she said, was to say "Yes" or "No."
At the time I thought this was very limited, and I can see still how this is limited (although usually sensible), but in my resentment I didn't notice the great privilege of being able to say "Yes" or "No."
Unless we are the sort of girls who have been accepting male worship as our due since we were in kindergarten, it can be startling to have to deal with male attention. An ever-pretty, popular, outgoing girl can field courtship like Willie Mays. A late-blooming, reserved, bookish girl often panics. At the question, "Would you like to go to....with me?" she freezes. Her mind goes blank. She forgets that all she has to say, really, is "Yes" or "No."
You know what though? If I were a man after a late-blooming, reserved, bookish girl, I wouldn't bother asking. I would just call her up and say, "Listen, Angela. I got those tickets to Tosca, so I'll meet you at La Taverna for dinner at 6, okay?" I'd trust that Angela, in a complete bookish girl panic, would assume that this had been long arranged and somehow she had just forgotten about it, and that the first words that would emerge from her frozen lips would be "Ummm....okay?"
I think I would have a lot of fun if I were a man.
Anyway, my overarching point is that when a man, any man, asks you if you want to do something, or leaves the wanting bit out and asks "How about X?", you now must ask yourself "Do I want to?" If Scooter asks you out for coffee, you must ask yourself "Do I want to have coffee with Scooter?" You do not ask yourself "Do I want to marry Scooter and have his babies" because THAT IS NOT WHAT SCOOTER IS ASKING.
Scooter is not a woman. If Scooter asks "Would you like to have coffee with me?" Scooter is not trying to set off a chain reaction of events ending at his beautiful death surrounded by your mutual children as you pray together. For now, Scooter just wants to have coffee with you.
You are not leading Scooter on if you say yes to coffee. You are merely doing what you want to do. And that is fine. It is not a crime against God or man to have coffee with Scooter. Going to coffee with Scooter is not a signal to Scooter that you are completely won over and want to have his babies, etc. All it tells him is that you like him enough to chat with him over hot drinks in public.
When invited to do so, say "Yes" to what you want, and "No" to what you don't want. If Scooter next invites you to dinner, and you want to go, go. If Scooter next invites you to the opera, and you want to go, go. If Scooter then invites you for a romantic walk in the woods and you don't want to go, don't go.
(Incidentally, this is how to deal with wordless requests, too. If Scooter takes your tiny hand in his, and you don't like it, drop his hand after a face-saving count to ten. If Scooter tries to kiss you, turn your head. Either gesture is, of course, a sign that Scooter is THAT into you, so if you are uncomfortable with that, you may now feel that you no longer want to have coffee, dinner, etc, with Scooter. And that's fine. Say "No" now.)
And this brings me to the apparently thorny issue of the Great on Paper NCB who is that into you, but you are not into him and you hate yourself because you are 29 (39, 39) and time is running out and you SHOULD be into him and "WHAT is WRONG with MEEEEEE?"
The answer is that nothing is wrong with you. You're just not into him. And that is okay. This is not the 19th century. You are not going to live your adult life as a sort of elevated and resented servant in your married brother's house because poor you couldn't catch a man. If you can read this, you do not have to marry just for sheer survival. You can wait until you are pursued by someone nice you'd like to sleep with and whose socks you wouldn't mind washing.
Occasionally I get emails about this guy and that and how great he is and what a good job and how devout and what a great husband he would make if only the writer could make herself love him. And I generally just write back, "Do you want to have sex him on a regular basis? And would you mind washing his socks?" Because that, my cherubs, is what marriage is when you get down to it. It's not all it is, but those things definitely feature: sex--oh, I'm sorry, "total self-gift" (snork, snork)*--and household tasks that would be menial if you did not love Mr Whomever.
*Mr and Mrs B.A. think "total self-gift" one of the unsexiest phrases in the history of the English language. We also think anything we have ever heard about the Theology of the Body is utterly unsexy. I mention this in case you feel utterly oppressed and depressed by things you have hard or read in your "Love and Responsibility" groups and wondering if you're crazy or bad. You're not. Or, if you are, you are no more crazy and bad than Mr and Mrs B.A.