I was having a late lunch between errands at a restaurant recently, and a funny thing happened. While talking to the waiter, he alluded to the fact that he considered me something of a "character". Why? Well, what kind of strange person goes to a restaurant by themselves, and doesn't sit at the bar? Well, of course I don't sit at the bar. Sitting at the bar implies that I'm trying to pick up someone. The last thing I want to do is talk to the sort of folks that hang out in bars, at least in the United States. I doubt we'd have much in common, and I'm not looking for romance. I'm just looking for food.
But that brief exchange made me think about my habits. As I've mentioned before, I'm divorced, and I have no qualms about going certain places by myself. Restaurants are one of them. I know people who can't stand to go anywhere by themselves. I don't think that's a sign of anything except your own discomfort with your own company. Frankly, I'd rather be alone by myself than alone with someone else. Yes, I do date men, but those dates are few and far between. You might interpret that fact to mean that either a.) I have some significant flaw that keeps me from getting dates, or b.) that I'm a lesbian. Neither of those things is true. I do get propositioned from time to time, and my usual response is "no." At the same time, I would very much like to have another relationship. So, what's up with that?
Given the frustrated and puzzled reactions I've had regarding my behavior with the opposite sex, I now bring you: the Guide to Brigid for the Romantically Perplexed. I realize that I don't always play by the same assumptions and rules as others when it comes to relationships. So, if you're a guy and uncertain as to whether or not I'm interested in you, consider these few guidelines:
1. I do believe that a woman can be "just friends" with a guy. I'm a very friendly person, but that doesn't necessarily mean I'm interested in you beyond that.
2. When I do happen to go to a bar or restaurant by myself, I'm not looking to hook up. I usually just want food or beer, and time to read my book or work on my writing. If you talk to me, I'll be polite, but I really don't want conversation if I've got a book or a notebook in my hand.
3. There is rarely a middle ground for me. Either I could dig getting together with you, or don't even think about it. If I'm interested in you, I will respond positively to bad jokes, stupid pick-up lines, and any other clumsy attempts at courtship. If I don't respond, or I roll my eyes and walk away--don't sweat it, I wasn't interested in the first place. If you ask, "What can I do to make you interested?", and I'm not interested already--the answer is "Nothing."
4. I do not "hook up". That doesn't mean that I expect a lifetime commitment out of every relationship. But I can't just have sex with you and pretend it doesn't matter tomorrow. Sorry.
5. I do not respond well to "games". If you run hot and cold with me just to test me, I'm apt to walk away even if there is interest. Playing games is a way of trying to gain control, and I see no reason for either person to try to control the other. Level with me.
6. If I like you and you're married, all bets are off. I don't interfere with marriages.
7. If I like you and you have a girlfriend, I don't assume all bets are off, but the ball is in your court. I will never push someone already in a relationship beyond friends, even if I seem flirty at times. If you want a relationship with me enough to leave your current girlfriend, that is your call. I don't like women doing that to me in relationships, so I don't do it to them. It doesn't matter if I think they're an angel or a skank--if you've decided you want to be with them, I'm not questioning your decision.
8. I tend to be closer friends with men who are married or who are gay. That is because I feel there is little (or less) danger of them trying to get involved as more than friends.
9. Signs that I am interested in you include: making a huge effort to come see you (i.e., traveling a great distance, rearranging my crazy schedule for you, etc.), accepting your gifts on Facebook (this only applies after March 2009--I accepted all gifts before that), making an effort to communicate with you somewhat regularly (something I don't necessarily do, even with my own family). I may also tease you and appear critical, though in a joking way. I only do this regularly to men that I like. Occasionally I do it to others. But not regularly.
10. Signs that I'm not interested in you: Not replying to your flirty e-mails, not accepting your Facebook gifts, and basically being polite but not responding at all to any flirting attempts. Don't assume that no response means something is possible. I'm just trying to be kind and spare your ego. I may also think you make a great friend, and want to preserve the friendship.
A corollary to #10--I don't care for IMs from strangers. I don't mind receiving instant messages from people I know, but if I've never met you, I might respond the first time out of politeness, but if you keep it up you're not likely to get a reply. When I'm online I'm usually doing my writing or working at my day job, not surfing for porn or cat pictures. That means unless I know you, I'm not looking to chat.
Overall--you don't have to be a rocket scientist to get the whole chemistry thing. The fact that I'm not interested in someone doesn't mean they're a fetid pile of garbage; it just means there is no reciprocal chemistry on my side of things. I am cautious with men I'm attracted to--if I think they're attracted to me, I might be a bit shy, only because I'm not sure if I'm merely projecting my attraction onto them. If they give me a positive sign, and are not in a relationship already, I tend to be more open. If you see me as unsexual and frigid, I'm not--that usually means I'm not interested in you, or I'm holding back for some other reason (usually because you're already taken). I hate when men accuse you of being frigid, and then when you try to be friendly, they accuse you of leading them on. Spare me, please.
I don't go out "looking" for love--I follow my instincts, and if something seems right, I pursue it, albeit cautiously. I think good relationships take time, and I'm content enough to be by myself that I'm not in a hurry to grab myself a man. That doesn't mean that I wouldn't want a relationship with the right person. Who is the right person? I don't know. It would be someone who I have chemistry with (regardless of looks--they would look good to me), and someone who treats me honestly and with respect. My biggest problem is falling for men who are already committed, either through marriage or they have a serious girlfriend. I don't fall for someone too often, so this frequently means I go it alone. If that makes me a "character", so be it.