Do you think men and women can be friends? Do you think that if a woman is out for an evening, having a good time and gets talking to a group of men, that she should assume they want only one thing from her? Do you think she is leading them on if she accepts their invitation to join their party?
What a question for the ages. Can women and men be friends? I say yes. But it’s admittedly complex. Does the man have any sort of sexual attraction to the woman? Vice versa? Do they have a history? Does one like the other in that way but the other does not? Is one married to the friend of another?
Here is the thing, darlings, if you have repressed or unadmitted feelings for anyone, you are not being honest and thereby you have a relationship based upon a lie, in essence. But on the other hand, it really serves no one to profess your love to your best friend’s wife, now does it? This will only make future dinner parties awkward and in fact, you may not ever be invited again.
If, as you’ve said in your example, you are out socially and get talking to a group of the opposite sex, there is no reason why you cannot co-mingle without the intention of shagging. You raise a glass together, perhaps cut a rug to Bizarre Love Triangle at 3am and try to yell something complimentary about the sweet throwback dance moves of the other over the din. Perfectly innocent.
If you’re at a club (not really the place to be conversing), some would argue that if you agree to a dance, you’re in essence agreeing to more. Which is utter poppycock. If the men are on a bachelor party at a private table with bottles of flowing booze and they offer some to you and you say yes, well, then, guess what? You still have no obligation to accept the horizontal invitation of the man mountain, Ed, the concrete manufacturing king of Pittsburgh, or any of his contemporaries.
Though you did use this as an example, I would certainly not think this is a place where one would be trying to become friends with the opposite sex. A little flirting, even some dirty dancing can be great fun and should not bring with it the expectations of sex (of any kind) or friendship. It’s a moment. That’s all. And if you happen to have somewhat of a spark with one of Ed’s friends and he asks for your card at the end of the night in a respectful non-groping way, then you are welcome to hand it over.
Recently I was in the mountains, enjoying a solo luncheon in the cozy dining room of one of my favorite hotels and in came a group of men, all dressed somewhat similarly – obviously belonging to some sort of club - and having a jolly good time. The only free table was one almost adjoining mine and so they sat very close. It was not long before they were smiling and chatting me up, in a harmless and charming way. They had many questions about the fact that I was alone, and seemed somewhat concerned even. After agreeing to their offer of a glass of wine (several, really) and indulging in a clever and witty conversation, we became what I would call acquaintances of the moment.
Things potentially changed when two of the men asked what I was doing later. Did I want to join in their evening’s entertainment? (Which included watching a live sporting event, dinner and then a party at a private club.) I seriously considered it. Was I interested? Yes. Was I hesitant? Indeed. Is life short? Yes, indeed. Do I pride myself on being spontaneous and taking advantage of moments? Yes. Indeed. Knowing that several of them were married men and them not knowing my status, I asked if other ladies would be joining. They looked at one another. Finally, after a few awkward moments, one piped up. “No. Actually. The ladies don’t arrive until tomorrow.” They all looked like little boys. One was actually blushing. They didn’t know what I’d say and neither did I.
In the end, the decision was not a difficult one for me. I made it clear that I would very much enjoy spending the evening with a group of charming men such as themselves and that I hoped to meet their partners the next day. This changed the dynamic and I could see a few of them exhale with relief. I’ve mentioned this before, darlings. Expectation management. And though this was a very subtle variation on this theme, it was enough to make us all feel quite secure moving into our evening. Besides, when I considered my evenings plans - dining solo and writing in my room (wearing a fabulous new caftan I’d picked up), theirs seemed much more enticing.
I had the most wonderful evening, which was greatly enhanced by the fact that not one man made a pass at me, though the dirty jokes and cheeky comments abounded. (I was deemed able to handle it. One of the guys and all.) Were there men to whom I was attracted? Of course? Who wouldn’t be attracted to a Count who has a collection of Austin Healeys and a penchant for yachts and Yeats? But the Count is taken – by the Countess – and I’d have a terrible time giving up my stable of twenty-something Italian lovers just to move to a castle in the English countryside.
You are in charge of you. Accept offers. Dance. Mingle. Drink. Laugh. Converse. Feel free to say no. Always. Know your limitations (remember how your inhibitions go out the window when you’ve had two bottles of wine) and remember that this is a moment. These are not your friends. In fact, it’s likely you’ll not see them again. And that’s okay. Moments like these are what make life wonderful. But don’t forget that having a fond memory is far better then whatever it is you’d call it when you remember that you agreed to meet Ed’s friend Wally in the loo for what he called, “The best 30 seconds of your life!” Just say no.
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