I have gone out maybe twice in the last few years with someone other than my husband on something that could maybe be considered a date. I count these events as dates anyway, though the other person clearly either didn’t, or did and never wanted to do it again. I gave subtle signs of interest such as laughing at jokes, trying to make eye contact, and asking ze about themselves (zeselves??). I didn’t make a physical move beyond a good night hug, because I don’t feel touching someone without their permission is ok. I have some issues that make me unable to read certain social cues, so I can’t figure out when people are giving me permission with body language. That means I always wait for ze to make a move, which seldom happens.
Both of these people were part of the large Atlanta polyamorus community. They have known me for years, know that I am poly, and have been around me when I am flirty (read creepy) and when I am not. Since they asked me out, I did not feel like I should be flirty, since they clearly know I like them or I would not have said yes.
I would like to date more, but there are some real problems with this. I assume anyone who has known me for a while would ask me out if they wanted to, so I don’t pursue those people. I have tried OkCupid, which sounds great on paper. Here is a place where I can give all my stats and read other people. I can figure out if we have common interests and beliefs before meeting. Yet I have only had one OkCupid date that went well, until the guy was a jerk over text a few days later.
So that leaves dating people I meet in real life, which I have realized is too complicated for me.
Are you available?
I don’t know how to ask someone if they are poly or are interested in dating without expressing that I am interested in them or being creepy.
If people flirt with me in a subtle way, I am missing it totally. People also flirt who are not actually available, just because they like flirting, or like myself, they use it as conversation fuel. I don’t want to make a move on someone who is not even on the field and end up having to explain myself to a pissed off mono-mate. People should wear signs. There were some kink community events I used to go to where everyone wore colored beads expressing their sexual preferences. I loved those beads so much; it stopped a lot of awkward situations and made me much more comfortable interacting with people.
There are places and events I go to where I know people I am interested in will be: local social gatherings, annual conventions, parties. I have one coming up soon, where I think some of the people I am interested in are poly. I will only be around these people for a few days, so the logical thing to do would be to ask, “Are you poly and am I in-line with your sexual preferences?”
There are a few problems with this approach:
-When I say blunt honest things like that, people think I am crazy.
– If the person is not poly, then I come across as a scary freak or a sex fiend who wants to make ze have an affair. I can have a perfectly lovely relationship with someone who is never going to be romantically inclined towards me, so I don’t want to alienate people who could be my friends.
-If ze is poly, and ze is interested, then I have ruined the beginning of the relationship/encounter. My favorite thing about a new person is the tense time before the first kiss, the surprise. If I come right out and say I want to date then the first kiss loses something; that lovely tension is gone.
I loved being a teenager for this reason. When I hung out with a boy alone there was an unspoken expectation that they might or might not kiss me, and I might or might not kiss them. It was not very complex. I kissed or was kissed by more than twice as many people in the years from 13-17 than in the 17 years since then. I am not happy about this. If we have met, you have good oral hygiene and are not mean to me, I probably want to kiss you. This does not mean I want to date you or have sex with you. I just really, really like first kisses.
Do you like me?
I can’t tell if someone might be interested in me sexual or romantically unless they make a physical move or tell me in explicit terms; for example “Hey, I think you are cute, would you like to date?” But as we have already established, that is a social no-no. I don’t think it should be weird, but it is. it is weird and off-putting. I know this because I have tried it, and have been told I am creepy and too aggressive. So sadly expecting straightforward verbal initiation from other people is unrealistic.
I sometimes feel like I should print up cards that say. “Do you like me?” with a yes and no box for ze to check. But I am sure that would break some social etiquette rule.
How do I tell you I like you?
Let’s say I know ze is poly. I know ze is available. And I think ze might like me. What am I supposed to do with this information?
Let’s go back to one of those dates I have had with people I know are poly. Check mark there. I was pretty sure I meet ze’s general sexual preference criteria. Check. But nothing came of it. Maybe because I could not figure out a good way to express interest.
When I actually like someone, I get shy and nervous. I get excited and tongue-tied. I wanted to let the person know that I liked ze. I tried subtlety, but when I try to flirt like that, people clearly miss it.
I have tried to make joking sexual advances towards people. I am a short, chunky, cartoon-cute sort of woman. I think people should think my sad come-ons are funny. Sometime they do, and sometimes they don’t. I have been accused of everything from being creepy and needy to sexual harassment. I have pulled back on this behavior a lot, and interest in me has decreased from low to nothing. If I come across as easy or desperate it sometimes works at least. I got kissed by a guy I had a crush on for years by wearing him down. It was amazing; granted, I think he only did it because he was moving all the way across the country. And while that hurt my feeling a little, I am glad he kissed me.
However I don’t want to be a creepy jerk. I don’t want to make people feel icky. I don’t want to harass anyone. I have been harassed plenty. Last week a man on the train asked if he could lick my freckles. I have been pushed into sexual situations I did not want. I have been taken advantage of when I was too young to make sexual decision or when I was under the influence. I am not going to get into these heavy sounding topics. Don’t worry about it, please; I am not looking to talk about that right now, except to say that know how bad it feels to be pressured into things like that. I don’t want anyone to ever feel like I pushed them or forced them into sexual situations.
That high pressure, aggressive behavior is what I first experienced, it is what I know. It is the only play in my playbook.
Peaked too soon?
I am poly because I own my body and I can do anything with it I want. I am poly because I like new experiences and getting to know people on a physical and emotional level that is not appropriate in our culture for “friends”. I am poly because I want to play spin the bottle or go into a closet for seven minutes with someone I just met, but people in their 30s don’t seem interested in that. I fear that my first kiss days are far behind me, fading away into fuzzy teenaged memories.