And I have just erased a whole three paragraphs, for I realize I want them for a book! However, writing it has given me some ideas for what will be a list.
1. Figure Out How Much Touching You Are Comfortable With, and Police the Line. This is easier said than done. Thanks to having gone to an Italian-dominated high school, I am fine with social kisses and hugging men friends my age or younger. However, I loathe being touched at all by aging, wine-addled, former Lotharios, and there are a lot of them in Edinburgh. Ick! You girls think guys over 40 are ugly. Just wait until a bibulous 70+ hippy tells you that you look like "a sexy Chinese Girl Guide". I would have no trouble telling anyone my age or younger, "Please don't touch me." But saying that to the elderly is a challenge. If however any one of them pinches my behind, I will slap Granddad into next week. Generally I move away before they can snake their arms around my waist. Ugh, the Beatniks-N-Hippies Generation. Ugh! Ugh!
2. Using Force is Never Acceptable. If some guy restrains you to make his point, or slaps you, or hits you, he has crossed a line that should never be crossed. The only reason a man should restrain you is to stop you from doing violence to yourself or others or from falling down a hole or in front of a bus. If you have romantic sexy ideas about rough stuff, take up ballroom dancing, particularly tango. Then men will push and pull you around all you like and occasionally tread on your toes.
Three. Gratuitous Insults are Never Acceptable. From Grade 6 to Grade 8, my male classmates told me I was ugly. That's three years of daily "you're ugly." Well, compulsory schooling being what it is, there wasn't much I could do about that from ages 11 to 14. But when I was 18 and three of my male so-called friends snatched away my High School ID to guffaw at the photo, I snatched it back with violence and screams. I do not believe anyone has dared to call me ugly since.
I end any relationship that becomes characterized by insults--usually pretty quickly, though I will occasionally make exceptions for the socially awkward, if they have truly redeeming characteristics. Sometimes friendless people are friendless for a really good reason, and if you find out what it is the hard way, say sayonara.
4. Do Not Lend Men Money or Buy Them Stuff. I learned this the hard way, frittering away a lot of hard-earned money on a student activism group leader who was always short of cash when we all went out for dinner. Let's just say that my sense of loyalty was utterly displaced. Family is different, of course. Family is family. And if you're a guy, courtship is courtship. Ask the girl if she would consider marrying a guy like you sooner rather than later, however. And if you're a girl and all you want is a handsome young man's company for a couple of hours, feel free to pay the tab, but don't expect romance or gratitude. Really. Truly. I mean it. And this is way easier for the cynical old than the hopeful young, so I don't recommend it. Spending money on men who don't give a damn can be hell on your self-esteem, to say nothing of your bank account.
5. Do Not Be a Free Therapist. It is a kindness to listen to men go on and on about their problems, and the girls they are in love with, and how the Church is a mess, and whatever else is on their minds. When they ask you for coffee, and you know this is going to be all about him talking, tell him you can spare him half an hour, no more. Stick to that half-hour limit. The same goes for guys who think they are in "the friend zone." Tell Chatty Cathy you have only half an hour, and leave after half an hour.
6. Do Not Date Your Boss or Anyone Else in Authority Over You. Power imbalance. You might not see the power imbalance, but there is one and it is huge. I don't care if he's rich or brilliant or owns the store. Don't do it. As long as you do nothing to encourage him, he will be super-nice to you. Give in, and you will be sorry.
7. Do Not Allow Yourself Be Bored Senseless. At a dinner party, talk to people on either side of you. If you have a bad experience with another guest (he grabbed you or bored you senseless), tell your hostess afterwards, after praising everything else. At gatherings, signal the hostess and ask her to introduce you to someone else. At gatherings, excuse yourself to get a drink, go to the WC, talk to the hostess, talk to an old friend, talk to the speaker. When feeling frustrated to the point of tears, go to the WC to calm down, and then go home. Always carry cab fare. Have a nice treat at home: DVD, snack, whatever.
8. Throw out Guests after Midnight. There are night owls and there are early birds. When night owls come to early birds' parties, it can be difficult to make them leave. If you have to be up at 8, throw the night owls out at midnight. Call them a cab. March them down the stairs. Hold the door open. "You're mean", wailed one of my guests the other night. "You're bad!" "Good night", I said, and slammed the door behind him. "I have got my second wind," announced another guest, popping into the sitting-room eager for more chat. "Good night," I said and turned off the sitting-room lights around him.
9. Insist on Being Taken Home at Midnight. If you don't want to stay out all night, don't. If your out-of-town date found you a room with a nice middle-aged married couple but now he proposes that you sleep on some bachelor's couch after a few more hours of drinking, kindly but firmly insist that he call a cab and take you back to the nice middle-aged couple. This is your right, and I would have been happy to get up to let you in.
10. Don't Jump the Gun. Don't look for disrespect in everything a guy/girl says. Make the most charitable interpretation for everything until your reason balks. When a
Suddenly I am reminded that I am not so charitable when it comes to people insulting or attacking my husband Benedict Ambrose.* If anyone attacks him or makes him unhappy, they are officially burnt toast and in the trash can of my former affections. Marriage is like that.
*Update: I mean my own friends. If he squabbles with his pals or colleagues--very unlikely in someone so pacific--that's entirely his deal.