Welcome back to another fable about flirting!  This one’s more of a cautionary tale, though.

Once upon another time, there was a young(ish) woman.  As you may remember, she had a crush on a young(ish) man, who tended to send her what she considered to be mixed signals.  Sometimes he seemed interested, other times he did not.  The young(ish) woman had discussed these things with a friend, who gave her encouragement.  Emboldened, the young(ish) woman bragged, “One of these days, I’m going to slip the young(ish) man my phone number.”  Her friend heartily endorsed this plan, saying, “If you do, I will drink a shot in your honor.”

One afternoon, the young(ish) woman came into work.  Her workload had been light all week, so she started to make some notes on a project she had for a class.  The young(ish) man came up to her, with a stack of paper.  It seems as though he had been working on a project himself, and now wanted her fresh eyes to look at his paper.  The young(ish) man had warned her that it was dense, which it was; however, it was a subject that, though she was not extremely well-versed in it, she did have some background knowledge, and made short work of the paper.  He asked her to read it once for content, as her pencil was already twitching to mark it up (as that was what she did for her job).  They talked a bit about it, and then she read it a second time, giving suggestions where appropriate, adding commas, underlying confusing sentences….When she was finished, the young(ish) man sat down next to her, and they went over her comments.  He thanked her, and complimented her on her abilities as both a reader and a writer.

The young(ish) man’s appreciation of her abilities was flattering to the young(ish) woman; she was even more pleased when he stayed at her table and talked to her for about an hour.  It was a very good conversation; it covered everything to funny accents to politics to pretentiousness.  The young(ish) man got up to leave, stopping off in the little office to pick up his stuff.  Emboldened by the conversation and the flattery related to the editing of the paper, the young(ish) woman took advantage of the young(ish) man’s absence to write her name and number on a small piece of paper, which she stuck in between the pages of the young(ish) man’s research project.  Immediately, the young(ish) woman had some buyer’s remorse, but knew there was no way to undo what she had done without looking suspicious indeed.  After all, what was the worst that could happen?  He could turn her down, which was nothing, really.  The young(ish) man returned, grabbed his project, and put it in his bag.  The young(ish) woman saw no piece of paper slip out, and figured the number was going home with him.  It occurred to her later that she might have waited to do this on the last day of her week, instead of the middle.

In her mind, the young(ish) woman already anticipated a you’re a nice person, but… type of response.  She was being realistic; after all, if he was that interested in her, he probably would have made a move already.  Nevertheless, she was a little nervous when she went in to work.  Would it be weird?

When the young(ish) man came into work, he was a little distant; the young(ish) woman took this to mean that he was not thrilled about the phone number, and was more comfortable ignoring the whole issue.  The young(ish) would have preferred the you’re a nice person, but…response, but being slightly awkward, she certainly appreciated the perspective that it just might be easier to ignore the whole thing.  In her mind, she had her answer.  And you know what?  That was okay by her; sure, it would have been nice if something developed eventually, but in a way, he had already accomplished his task:  the young(ish) woman was finally over The Man She Wanted to Marry, and now could move on to bigger and better things.  Like Edith Piaf, she ne regrette rien.

Or so she thought.

Later on, she noticed some of her coworkers behaving slightly differently.  She didn’t think anything of it at first.  She then left work and went to class, where she realized that one of her professors was kind of an ass, and it left her crabby and fuming.  She realized that she was in a foul mood, and really didn’t want to go back to work.  But she did anyway, and hoped, for the first time in the past few weeks, that she would not run into the young(ish) man – in her mood, it wouldn’t have sat well.

Alas, that was not meant to be.  As she walked into the little office, she saw the young(ish) man, talking to a coworker.  Both stopped talking, and it occurred to her that they were talking about her.  Then she started to wonder if he had told others about what she had done.  It had felt very awkward all day.  She could be over-exaggerating the problem, but the young(ish) man seemed very uncomfortable.  She started off being a little angry – it would have been more sporting to either ignore the whole thing, or let her know first that he had been a little weirded out.  But then, as the young(ish) woman had an active imagination, she could see how he could have gotten a creepy interpretation of her actions.  The creepiness wasn’t in her intentions, but she could see the other side of things.

She then started to worry.  How many people had he told?  How had he framed the narrative?  Most of her coworkers had known her a lot longer; she would have hoped that they might have given her the benefit of the doubt in this, but if he chose to tell the story in a way that made her look particularly unhinged, it might be harder for them to give her that benefit.  Worse yet, what if he went to her boss?  The young(ish) woman was horrified to think that her job might be in jeopardy because she had made a short-sighted error in judgement.

And that’s what disturbed her.  That he wasn’t interested?  Feh.  That he might think she was a little creepy?  A little uncomfortable, but not too bad.  That her other coworkers would lose respect for her?  Ouch, that hurt.  That her boss would be forced to have an unpleasant talk with her, that the esteem that her boss had for her would be damaged, as would her ability to do a job she enjoyed?  That made her physically ill.  As the time passed at work, and later on the bus, she felt the stomach acid rise up her esophagus.  What in God’s name have I done?  And for what?  To give my phone number to some guy I barely know.  Good God, I’m such an ass!

The young(ish) woman was distraught, and she did not know where to turn.  Her friends were otherwise occupied.  So she turned to the one person she could count on:  her mommy.  Thankfully, in this case, a girl’s (or a young[ish] woman’s) best friend is her mommy.

“I’m sure you’re overreacting,” she said soothingly.  “And if he did tell other people, what a big baby.  You didn’t do anything wrong.”

And although what the young(ish) woman did could not be undone, that she had to wait until next week to see if she would become a pariah at work, she knew that her mommy didn’t think what she did was so bad.

But what a shitty Thursday, no?