Because I’ve been in one relationship or another since essentially the eighth grade, I’ve had very little occasion, opportunity, or reason to flirt with a rando in my adult life. Plus, most men at bars kind of suck, no? Or maybe I just go to the wrong bars.
It’s only every blue moon then that someone turns my head and strikes up a conversation that doesn’t make me want to impale myself with the snapped-off stem of a champagne flute.
Last summer, this rarest of rare occurrences went down at a party in a Manhattan penthouse suite. Because if you’re going to flirt with a stranger when you’re in a serious relationship, you’d better have a pretty good reason, such as, “But I was in a penthouse suite! A penthouse suite full of penthouse-suite ambiance. It was for the story, OK?”
I was digging the view, digging that two of my friends were visiting from Boston, digging these stupid-looking fake bangs I’d clipped onto my head, and, for but a moment in time, digging this blond kid, Tate. I am pretty sure that is his actual first name, but I can’t Google-stalk him to confirm, as he’s saved in my phone as “TATE MODERN???”
Like the museum.
Anyway. As his name might suggest, Tate was good-looking in a prep-school kind of way -- well dressed, WASP-like, and boyishly cute. We enjoyed a pleasant, scene-y conversation about the New York creative industries, swapped numbers, and parted ways.
“I’ve still got it,” I chirped to my friends at a bar downtown. They shared A Look. “What? It was just flirting.”
“No, we know,” one said.
“It’s just,” said the other.
“Just what?” I asked, and they burst out laughing.
“Well, we were going to rescue you, because we know how much you hate talking to people--”
“That’s not true,” I interrupted, even though it was totally true.
“But then we looked over,” she continued, “and we were like, oh, that guy looks kind of gay. Rebecca’s probably enjoying herself. We’ll just let her be.”
Over their cackling, I protested, “He did not seem kind of gay! He didn’t!” Eyes rolled.
“Of course he did,” said my roommate. “It’s FINE. It’s just your taste.”
Well. So it is.
I mean, I don’t think “kind of gay” is the description I’d choose; it’s a douchey and problematic thing to say. “Metro” might be a better fit, or “not stereotypically masculine or at all macho.” “Sensitive”? “A Separate Peace-y”? “Vaguely androgynous”? Whatever.
Point is, I tend to go for pretty-ish guys who dress nicely and, inevitably, possess characteristics considered effeminate by my friends. (My EXASPERATINGLY heteronormative, maybe RUDE friends.) What these characteristics are, I couldn’t really say. No one has managed to get through to me with an explanation.
“It’s his voice,” one friend said, unhelpfully, of an ex.
“What ABOUT his voice?” I asked.
“Just how it gets. And his jokes.”
“What does that MEAN? His jokes are FUNNY!” I said, defensively.
“And how he dresses,” she continued.
“He just wears a lot of J.Crew! He looks hot in it.” (He did.)
Apparently, it’s just something you get or you don’t get, and I don’t get it, man. But you know what? It’s fine.
For one thing, dating a guy who dresses well is not even a hard-and-fast requirement for me. I mean, before my current boyfriend got a real job, he wore graphic-print T-shirts, like, on the daily.
“It was free,” he’d say, not even sheepishly, with the logo of a local WINGS restaurant emblazoned across his chest.
Look. Say you were a bouncer at a club, and you had a pair of identical twins in line, and you can only let one in. Who would you rather admit: the twin in the fitted cardigan with a pair of charmingly distressed Oxfords, or the twin wearing ill-fitting jeans and a fucking mustard-yellow sweatshirt?
OK, so in that metaphor, you, the bouncer, are my vagina, and the dude in the cardigan has a much better chance of getting in.
I didn’t say it was a clever metaphor. Also, I’m sorry I just made you be my vagina for a minute; that was weird.
Anyway. I will admit that even I don’t understand why ruggedly handsome men give me acid reflux. I mean, Hemingway is my favorite writer, and he’s all about machismo, but I’d bang Jake Barnes over Pedro Romero any day. If Jake Barnes could bang, which he can’t, which is the entire point of "The Sun Also Rises." I am the worst English major. What am I even talking about?
Right. Yeah, I’m not sure why manly men don’t do it for me. I liked Luke in "Gilmore Girls"? He was kind of manly, right? He had facial hair. I don’t know why I thought it would be a good idea to defend myself with a character from "Gilmore Girls." And if I’m being really honest, I was more of a Logan girl, anyway.
As for the voice thing, I’m just not one hundred percent sure what my friends are talking about. I mean, all right, my ex’s voice got high-pitched when he got excited. Mine gets downright bat-sonar-y. That’s not weird. It’s the human condition of excitement, you know? It’s not like he screeched in bed. He was my romantic partner, not my karaoke partner.
I’m not trying to say voices are irrelevant, or even that they’re something I don’t notice. I love a sexy voice, and I think I would be turned off by a guy who whined like a valley girl. I’d be turned off by a GIRL who whined like a valley girl. But none of my boyfriends have done that, so, I don’t know. Maybe you guys can explain all this to me.
I could probably continue to talk myself into defensive circles for hours, but I guess what it comes down to is this: The men I’m most attracted to have a certain je ne sais quoi (and je really ne sais quoi it is) that turns most of my friends off. And even though I’m preternaturally approval-seeking, at the end of the day, I’m the one having fucking fantastic shower sex.
In the shower in my apartment. Which I share with the two friends who gave me crap for Tate Modern. So there.
If you stalk Rebecca on Twitter at @rebsanti you can probably figure out who she’s currently dating and judge him yourself!