After five years of belonging to a man I adored, between the ages of nineteen and twenty-four – we had peacefully decided to bring the romance part of our friendship to an end – we both had good reasons and felt right about the decision. We have remained friends ever since. What a rare bonus to be able to look back and have no regrets. Years after our decision to cool our friendship down we found we were living just ten minutes away from each other and saw each frequently. Overall, I just have very very fond memories of those five years but it’s better us being just friends. It was the right decision, painful at the time, but oh so right. Even today, I love him like a brother, I can’t think of him in a romantic way.
He was the man that I should never have got together with, but when two teenagers are like best friends, well…I don’t believe in platonic friendships. Hormones distort everything. Of course we were going to find our familiarity after a couple of years of close friendship and constant communication turned to attraction. In a way I am glad he was the one who I was besotted with during the bloom of my youth. He was safe, smart, lovely and wholesome. But something changed his personality and emotionally we became like chalk and cheese. I don’t mean that to sound critical. But there were differences that meant we could not continue our romantic relationship. That is an entirely different story…perhaps I will write that novel one day…all about my first love and what a friend he has been to me throughout my life.
Anyway, this story is nothing about that. I mentioned it only because the situation below occurred shortly after the “let’s cool it” decision we made. For five years I had an easy card to play in my interactions with men. I belonged to another man. What a protection. I have realized that already being in a relationship makes life immensely more simple when you are interacting with other grown men. It means it’s easier to engage is other human interaction whether it be professional or social or any other area of life. There are of course some men who don’t find that significant and think it is alright to flirt and whatever else with a woman already spoken for. I won’t express my opinion on other people’s choices. But to make it clear where I stood I learnt that if a man was not listening and getting the point, I would just keep talking about how wonderful my man was and eventually a persistent male would tire out and back off.
Now back in the realms of being single and legitimately “available” I would have to switch my senses back on again. But in this particular case it turned out that my sensors or senses did not work well and I probably embarrassed myself yet again.
Within the company I had been employed by for some time, I had remained within the same role. I was aware that after such a long stint in the same role I had become very proficient at my work. I didn’t need anyone to tell me. I knew the job inside and out. I was writing the manual on my job because nobody else seemed to understand the role like I did. I knew I was consistently performing well and achieving time after time. All that job was to me was a means to earn “my bread and butter” but it was nice to be in a job that was such a walk in the park. It almost frightened me that someone else might notice how incredibly comfortable I had become in my role. (That’s when others try to make crazy decisions for you like transferring you, giving you more responsibility etc which I would always like to avoid…being great believer that stress tends to bring on premature ageing.)
So…there was a man in the office. He was senior in age and responsibility to me. He was a handsome man, sparkly teeth, always smart, eloquent if not charming and in receipt of a generous salary (and apparently fairly well-off it was reported). I had learnt not to be over-awed by things that are not that substantial. So I was not nervous in his presence. I appreciated though that he was well-mannered and gallant – with everyone.
Anyway, I am going to try to trim down this account because it developed over time and details about the little conversations we had and the occasions he bought me a coffee are irrelevant. What is relevant is that my sensors/senses completely misguided me. After some months, he asked if I might have an evening free when I could make myself available to discuss some matters over dinner. The way he asked me was very open and clear and respectful. But inside my head – well let’s just say my feelings and hopes were very pleased and excited about this invitation. Now that just grew when the details of where and when we would be dining landed in my inbox. At that stage I didn’t realize that a swish restaurant may be more of an indicator that a man has a very comfortable bank balance (or even that there is a possibility that the company are paying for this dinner) than any sign that he is particularly impressed by you and is wanting to show you a distinction. Not realizing this, my emotions became even more excited.
So excited was I, that I picked out my most flattering midnight blue dress, my sleekest jewellery, battled with my hair until it looked as sensational as I knew how (which in reality is not that special), doused myself with my most expensive perfume. When he saw me his words were along the lines of “may I say – you do scrub up well” which because I was so excited, I was very pleased with and flattered by.
On the way into the restaurant I passed a friend who was just leaving. She said hello to him and then turned to me for a brief chat, during which, she happened to mention she was a friend of his wife and that their children went to the same school. Why don’t all married men wear wedding rings? Why had nobody ever mentioned him being married or having children? Had I ever asked anyone else if he was married???
OK…so now I was uncomfortable, really uncomfortable! While we were sitting at the table my eyes were seeing the menu I was buried in but my brain was not registering the words. My feelings were disturbed. The result was that during that meal I embarrassed myself before I had heard a word about the subjects he had hoped to discuss. Very early on I proceeded to include within our conversation that I would not consider becoming involved with a married man. I was actually very restrained and managed to infer this in a relatively gracious manner which is my only saving grace.
Now that man, that kind man, as soon as he became aware that I had jumped to some very incorrect conclusions dealt with the situation very kindly. He commended me for my views and said it is a shame that loyalty etc were becoming so rare. He quickly moved onto to business which was of course the only reason we were there in the view of dozens of other fellow diners. It turned out that I had been noticed because I was so comfortable in my current role. I had already received positive feedback time and time again whilst at work and very direct comments during my appraisals indicating the training opportunities and roles I was being encouraged to apply for.
No, the issue that had been discussed amongst him and some other senior members of staff that I was becoming rather stubborn and difficult with regards to career development although I had no other obvious commitments and responsibilities outside of my working life. I think that my lack of enthusiasm in appraisals about promotions or broadening my uses to the company had made me appear rather disrespectful. (He and other senior personnel did not seem aware of other projects outside of work I was involved in.) I don’t think they could understand that my heart was in the work I was doing as a volunteer. Working for money was just a necessary evil. I just wanted a part time job – I would fulfil all the requirements of that job exactly, but I did not want to let that job encroach on my life. He was there to sweet talk me…the company wanted hard-working, committed individuals to step up etc etc…I won’t bore you.
I know that I can be an asset to any employer. I am there to work, not mess about. But my life is outside of work. Whilst at work, I am not reachable by those who are central to my life. My mobile phone stays in the handbag until my lunch break. At work, I work, and I work diligently and industriously. I am organised, perhaps hyper-organised, I have a quick mind and have no difficulties whatsoever with communicating in various forms. I know this. It doesn’t necessarily mean I am going to remain at the same company. I don’t view my contract with my employer in the same as way as I would view a marriage vow. I have a very healthy appreciation of the importance of striking the right work / life balance….I am not a farm animal….work is work and life is well, life outside of work is frankly quite wonderful. Only if you don’t have a great life can I see any reason why you would want to bury your soul in work.
Within a few years, I had completely jumped ship anyway and was self-employed. Freedom! A decision that was not influenced by the embarrassment I had caused myself on that occasion.
Lessons learnt: most men are not only after one thing. And it is better not to presume there is a romantic motivation from a man who is kind to you until he makes it very very clear. And the majority of men I have dealt with know how to make it clear if they are feeling any kind of romantic leaning to you. I needed to keep an eye on myself. I had totally misinterpreted his conduct I had let my feelings race way ahead of me and jumped to conclusions. I must hold myself back and learn to keep a cool head…if i don’t want to make an utter fool of myself and embarrass someone else.