Erica Answers, Sophia Butts In

Hey, guys? Remember Sophia? She’s going to help me give some advice.

Dear Erica/Sophia

I am an elementary school principal in a very small town, and I literally run into my students, my teachers and their families EVERYWHERE! It’s a pretty conservative community, so I feel like I have to project a certain image. This means a strict “no touching in public” policy when I’m on a date. Usually it’s not a problem (most of them are first dates), but recently I went out with a guy who just didn’t get it. It was only our second date, and there he was, trying to hold my hand in the park! When I explained my predicament, he let go, but less than 15 minutes later he was putting his arm around me. This would have made me uncomfortable even if my job wasn’t so public, because it feels like something couples do, not just two people on a date. My married friends say it was sweet, and that if I liked him I wouldn’t have minded. I say it was a weird thing for him to do, that my job concerns are legitimate, and that I would have had a right to shake him off even if he were Brad Pitt (which, by the way, he was not). What say you two?

Handsfree in the Heartland

Dear Handsfree,

I think there are two separate issues here, and the trick is in untangling them. The first is the effect your job/location has on your dating life. Frankly, I think you’re overestimating the conservatism of your location. If you’re in the United States, chances are, hand-holding is not considered that big a deal and no one will try to have you fired because their darling children saw you on the street holding a man’s hand.

Then again, “small” and “conservative” are two different things, too. I think you’re too worried about “conservative,” but, on the other hand, it is absolutely no fun to go out with a guy once who you never plan to see again and to have to hear questions at the next PTA meeting. “What was wrong with him? He took you to a nice restaurant.” “So you’re not dating that skinny fellow we saw you with last month? He seemed nice enough.”

It can also be uncomfortable, darling, if she is just using the man in question for sex. How do you answer questions about that at a . . . what is this you call? PTA meeting?

Um, yeah. That can be bad, too.

So I think the solution to Problem One – how to have a dating life with a townful of busybodies watching your every move – is to get out of town for dates. Pick a place forty-five minutes away or something. Pick a place your conservative small-towners are unlikely to go. Then you can relax a little. Hold hands or not hold hands based on whether you want to, not based on whether Mrs. Weathersby is at the next table.

Why are you dating men you don’t want to touch?

She might not know them well enough to know if she wants to touch them, Sophia.

I do not understand these words which you are saying to me.

Never mind. With getting out of town, you do have to deal with the question of who drives? You might not want to commit to an hour and a half in the car with a guy you barely know. It could be a wonderful way to get to know each other, but it could also be a great way to get to know that he’s actually a serial killer.

You are simply no fun at all. Must you approach everything as if the gentleman in question is likely a psychopath?

Well, it’s an important consideration.

Pah! The world is not full of psychopaths! The world is full of delightful, delicious men with whom you could very much enjoy driving to the country with a picnic basket and a bottle of wine. My recommendation? Wear one of those darling ’50s-style skirts – and no panties. Let him find that out on the picnic blanket.

Sophia. Honestly. She’s not even sure she wants to hold hands with the guy yet!

I do not understand these words which you are saying to me.

I know. Anyway, my point is, if you know the guy already – he’s a friend, he’s someone you’ve met in a non-romantic environment that you’re now having a romantic interlude with, etc. – then, fine, maybe drive with him. But if it’s a new guy, arrange to meet there. But get out of town so you can have an actual date, with touching if you want it.

Do you not mean “when” rather than “if”?

Your second problem is you were on a date with a boor. Do you have the right to shake him off? Hell, yes! You ALWAYS have the “right” to shake someone off and you don’t NEED a better reason than, “I don’t want to.”

Amen, darling.

Really, Soph? You agree.

Darling, the only reason to do something is because you want to. The only reason not to do something is because you don’t want to.

Well, that’s not always true, but in this case, it is. You told him what your boundaries were, and he didn’t listen or respect them. It doesn’t matter why you didn’t want to hold hands in public. You didn’t. You told him you didn’t. He did it anyway. You told him not to. He put his arm around you. He’s a boor, and he’s not worth dating.

While I don’t disagree, Erica, darling, I must add that I do agree with her friends that if she had felt an attraction for this man, she would have enjoyed the touching.

Yeah, okay, I agree on that point. If you liked him, the hand-holding and arm-putting-around would have been more, “Baby! Not in front of Mrs. Weathersby! Teehee!” and less “Don’t touch me. Ew.” And that’s fine! You don’t have to like him just because he asked you out!

Certainly not, darling. You must feel a little tingle for a man or there is simply no point in continuing to see him.

Well, you can be friends with a man and not want to sleep with him, Soph.

I suppose so. I’ve never tried it.

Fine. My point is, he’s not “sweet” for doing something you told him you didn’t want to do; he’s boorish. Holding hands is not “sweet,” it’s just a thing to do. Listening to and respecting another person’s preferences is “sweet.” And “sexy.”

Very sexy, darling. A man who remembers and and acts on your preferences is ALWAYS a man worth keeping around.

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3 thoughts on “Erica Answers, Sophia Butts In

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