Last week, things were, if I may take charge of a word used so often by one of my professors, “percolating.”  Monday and Tuesday, GSS was, for lack of a better word, attentive.  Which is always nice, of course; however, the entire first half of the week contained semi-uncharacteristic behavior from him (in a good way), which threw me off.  That said, I’ve got a lot on my plate, and I didn’t spend a lot of effort (at the time) questioning it.

But wait, there’s more.

A department crony chided me a bit on Tuesday for neglecting last Friday’s outing.  I was going to go, then I couldn’t remember if it was to be that Friday or next Friday; I didn’t remember seeing an e-mail about it, so I assumed that it was to be the next one.  I explained my confusion, and the aforementioned crony said, “Well, we waited for you.  Everyone was wondering where you were.”  The idea that a bunch (well, probably more like a handful) of people were hanging around a bar, wondering what had become of me, struck me as…disconcerting in some way.  I mean, it is good to know that people enjoy my company and everything, but that my presence or absence would be a topic of conversation is not something I’m prepared to accept.

But wait, there’s more.

Another department crony sidled up to me after class late this week and suggested, that, in the future, we should study together (which he had suggested before).  We then had a “walk-and-talk.”  I can never get a read on him – I always feel like there is an…I don’t want to say ulterior motive, because that sounds nefarious, which I don’t mean.  I always get the impression that he wants to say something else, but he never gets around to doing so.

Now, I am not claiming that I am so freakin’ irresistible that all the fellas are dying to ask me out, especially since clearly, that is not the case.  But I’m developing a theory that may be half-baked.  Or it may be genius.

I have heard legends and rumors that we, as women, have mystical powers over men.  I have heard, time and again, from men, that they are putty in our presence, and that if we snapped our fingers just so, they would hop to.  I have heard, again from men, that there is no earthly reason that any woman would suffer from the dreaded “dry spell” because there are teeming hordes of men just waiting to sleep with them.

If you have heard these claims too (and I assume you have, in one form or another), you, like me, have assumed that they are a load of crap.  Men quivering in our collective presence, just waiting for us to take pity on them, seem to belong to the same phylum as Sasquatch or Yeti or whatever.

And now I’m not so sure.

While I think, by and large, these claims are spurious, there may be a grain of truth to them.  A small grain, but it is there.  What I think is the more likely scenario is this:

  • As a gender, men do not give the same level of analysis to heterosexual interpersonal relationships as women do.  Thus, they have a different criteria for deciding who they are (or are not) attracted to.  If they detect a predetermined (by their own standards) level of attraction to a woman, they file that away for future use.
  • Being risk-adverse in the emotional arena, they will not automatically act on this attraction (unless it’s bartime), especially if they see this particular woman on a regular basis (co-worker, neighbor, classmate, etc.).  One is practical – she isn’t going anywhere, so what’s the rush – and the other is driven more from fear – if she rejects him, he still has to see her on a regular basis.  If he is really interested in her, fear will be trumped.  But for mild to moderate attraction, it probably isn’t worth it.
  • However, from time to time, this woman will be more attractive to him than usual.  Being a woman, I’m not sure what the triggers are, but I assume looking particularly good on a given day, laughing at his jokes or doing something different (and thereby attracting his attention) could all be possibilities.  On these occasions, the man will make a subconscious overture to this woman.  If she responds in a positive way, he may (or may not) follow up.  If she doesn’t, he drops it (either for the time being or forever, depending on the guy and/or her response).

The problem is (at least with me, your experience may be different) that normal, intelligent men are going to try to be subtle.  And here is the problem:  that is not a characteristic we’ve assigned to them.  Have you ever asked yourself (or, just as likely, your friends) the age-old question, “Why is it that the only guys who hit on me are the creeps and the weirdos?”  Of course you have.  We all have.  It isn’t that we all emit some sort of signal to these unfortunates (well, maybe some of us do).  It is that the creeps and weirdos use techniques like the pickup line, the lewd comment and the inappropriate touch.  The normal guys, the ones we would want approaching us, are using techniques like the oblique question, the ambiguous invitation or the chivalrous gesture.  Because it doesn’t look like a duck or sound like a duck to us, we don’t believe it’s a duck.  But what if it were a duck?  Food for thought.

But Senior Senior, you counter, Men have asked me out.  And every once in a while, they have been normal men.  Of course.  Because he has either been very interested in you, rendering the potential reward greater than the potential risk, or you have accidentally given the correct response to their subliminal exam.

Now the problem, as I see it, is that not every great relationship needs to start out with such a strong attraction.  Something good can come from being “kind of” interested in someone and discovering that they are even better than you first realized.  There is a great benefit to getting to know someone, not because you suspect that they might be “the one,” but because you have no earthly idea, but they seem like a cool person to get to know.  Which is great in theory, but if we’re all playing Marco Polo by a different set of rules, we’re all screwed (or not screwed, if you want to be blunt about the whole thing).

So my question is, “Is this a crackpot theory?”  With a follow-up question of, “If this isn’t a crackpot theory, what is the secret code?”

No, seriously, “What is the secret code?”