There are those who have a knack for reading other people, easily picking up their verbal and nonverbal cues. Then there’s me. Except for the most obvious indicators – like the silver haired granny on the freeway who flipped me the bird last week, after I accidentally cut her off – I’m usually all but oblivious to subtle signals.
Take last night for instance. My wife and I went to a local haberdasher so I could purchase a tuxedo for my sister’s black-tie wedding. Before leaving the fitting room, Sophia whispered that the male clerk was hitting on me. I assured her he was merely being friendly. Admittedly though, I’ve been known to err in this area.
I first misinterpreted a man’s advances when I was in law school living in Philadelphia. One warm spring day, I decided to study at a park near my apartment in Center City. The park happened to be a well-known (to everyone but me apparently) relaxation spot for the gay community. When I left the area at the end of the day, a gentleman with whom I’d exchanged a friendly smile exited too. He coincidentally took the same route home as me, and we struck up a conversation as we walked. Upon reaching my apartment building, he asked if I’d mind getting him a drink of water. I’ve always tried to act neighborly, so I said: “Sure, come on up to my apartment.”
I began to suspect my new acquaintance might have more in mind than a cup of water when he started talking about exercise. Once in my apartment, the strapping fellow who’d identified himself as “Steve” asked me if I worked out. When I replied in the affirmative, he said: “I thought so; you’ve got good definition in your ‘traps’ and ‘pecs’.” He emphasized his point by running his hand gently over my shoulder and down my chest … where he capped off his travelogue with an insistent tweak of my nipple.
Although I felt some surprise at the curious gesture, I dismissed my budding alarm bells with a mental excuse: maybe this is how gym rats greet each other. I found it much more difficult though to ignore Steve’s subsequent evaluation of my stomach muscles. While graciously complimenting my “abs,” he accompanied his words with a finger roving over their contours … and then under the waistband of my tighty whities!
I seriously doubted gym rats greeted each other quite so intimately. Accordingly, with Steve’s digit still tickling my curlies, I decided to risk insult by asking what seemed an appropriate question: “Steve, by any chance are you gay?”
Steve appeared a bit taken aback as he answered: “Of course I’m gay! Aren’t you?”
I don’t happen to be gay, though my opinion on the subject has always been, in Seinfeld’s words: “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.” Which is what I emphatically told Steve, while manually extricating his finger from my undies. It’s also the answer I gave the tuxedo clerk last night … while removing his thumb from my butt crack.
One of Philadelphia’s fine parks