Recently, a young man walked into the bar where I was working, sat down, and told me that I was pretty. It just flew out of his mouth by accident; he’d obviously had a few. His vibe wasn’t slimy or aggressive. He just seemed excited to discover that a woman he found attractive would be opening his next beer. Convention suggests that the most normal and appropriate response from me would be a display of gratitude, but I wasn’t thankful. I just felt instantly beleaguered in a very familiar way.
I blankly responded that his thoughts on my appearance were not interesting to me and asked him what he’d like to drink. He stood there, drunk and caught off guard by his own boldness as well as my reaction. He tried to focus, knowing that the next move was his, his face reflecting the hazy fear that any dude who is at least trying to come correct feels when facing one of modern courtship’s classic gambles: I really do not want to be “that guy” versus this might just be crazy enough to work. He chose to hedge both ways and began slowly trying to dig himself out, struggling to enunciate and choose his words carefully but choosing the wrong ones. He bumbled between a handful of partially formed apologies before announcing that he felt awful, because I was clearly annoyed and he “would hate to offend such a pretty girl.”
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