Monday, 3 September 2007

Unwanted Attention

Last week I got an email from John, in London, to say that he and his girlfriend, Louise, would be in New York from 21st to 26th September and asked if I’d be around to catch up.

I emailed back immediately and said I’d love to see them. I love John and Louise to bits; they’re such a fun couple to hang out with, despite the fact that they always look to me, as the ‘native New Yorker’, to pick a restaurant for us to go to. Something that’s not usually a problem for me as I’m a bit of a foodie and can usually rattle off a list of winning restaurant recommendations at the drop of a hat, however not in Louise’s case. She’s the only person I’ve ever met who’s nigh on impossible to please, a vegetarian who doesn’t eat vegetables…or tofu!! WTF!! I’d better start my restaurant research now.

It’s been 4years since they were last in New York and, if memory serves, I think that was the last time I saw them, since the only time I tend to be in London is for a few days at Christmas and there’s not always an opportunity to catch up with everyone I’d like to see. I’ve known John since I was about 22; I met him through my friend and former colleague, Deb, who’s been friends with him ever since her family moved into the house next door to his when she and John were both 4years old.

Unfortunately my first meeting with John is rather more shameful than Deb's. I met him on a Thursday night out with Deb and made a complete arse of myself by getting totally trollied on Tia Maria and Diet Cokes at indie music night at the Mean Fiddler in Harlesden. I ended up dragging John, and then his friend Chris, out into the middle of the dance floor where, for some reason, I doh-si-do-ed – square dance style - with the two of them. Yes I was THAT drunk and YES, they did serve Tia Maria at the Mean Fiddler can you believe. Deb had to call in sick to work for me the next day; such was the horrifying nature of my hangover. She’d conveniently booked the day off. That was 14 frigging years ago and John still hasn’t let me forget it. He’s that type of friend.

John’s email also served as a reminder of Chris’s visit a few years ago. Like John, I’ve known Chris ever since that fateful night at the Mean Fiddler 14years ago, however Chris and I didn’t really become good friends until 8 or 9years later when I’d already moved to New York and he started to travel to NY fairly regularly on business.

Previously Chris and I had only hung out together as part of a larger group of friends, but we’d always got along well, so when he came to New York it was lovely to hang out with him one on one for a change. He was great company and the one thing I always liked about spending time with him was his eagerness to explore New York beyond Manhattan. The words “I've just read about a great sounding bar/restaurant/art exhibit/music venue in Brooklyn” would be barely past my lips before he’d be hailing us a cab to Williamsburg. However, much as I liked spending time with him, I never viewed him as a romantic prospect and never had the impression he saw me that way either, especially as he was one of those guys with a ton of female friends. I never thought of myself as more than one of his friends, so I was extremely surprised by his behaviour when he came to visit me in September 2004.

Chris came to stay with me in my teensy two-bedroom apartment from Fri 24th Sept to Sun 3rd Oct. Just over a week and wayyyyy too long in hindsight, although not helped by the fact that he’d originally said he’d be leaving on an afternoon flight from New York on Saturday 2nd, meaning he’d leave my apartment for the airport first thing Saturday morning and I’d have the weekend to recuperate from having a guest in town for a week before going back to work on the Monday. Unfortunately when he arrived, I learned that he’d changed his mind and booked himself on a flight departing at 9pm on Sunday. I was a bit peeved at that since, much as it’s nice to have visitors in town, it’s really cheeky when they take your weekend without asking since with Chris leaving late on Sunday I had no time to relax.
As it happens I also had my erstwhile ex, Alan, crashing on the futon in the living room, since he’d given me some sob story about needing to stay with me while his apartment was fumigated and of course I fell for it, so a house full. Initially I was a bit niggled about Alan sleeping on the futon in the living room while I had a guest, but in the end I was quite grateful for his presence since, after hanging out with Chris on Friday night, most of the day Saturday and most of the day Sunday, it quickly became apparent that I had other reasons for concern.

I’d been told In the past - the distant past - that Chris was keen on me, but that was a decade ago and I no longer thought it applied. At the time of his visit I thought we were good friends and, even if he did have a crush on me in the past, I didn’t take it too seriously as Chris is one of those guys that have crushes on almost all their female friends at some point or another. As far as I was concerned we were just friends, and I thought he knew this, especially since I’d recently been very upfront about having a huge crush on another guy.

Just goes to show how much I knew, since the problems pretty much started as soon as Chris arrived. We went out for cocktails when I got home from work on Friday evening and I noticed he was a lot more tactile than usual - he's renowned for not being very touchy feely among our mutual friends, so I realised it was out of character - and all too flirty, reaching over to touch my ankle when I was describing a pair of shoes with an ankle strap I’d just splurged on in Barneys and similarly tracing my neck when I later talked about a necklace I liked. I KNOW, who'd have thought that accessory chat could turn a man on, but I have to say the attention was unwelcome and I stopped talking about accessories pretty sharpish I can tell you.

I still couldn’t quite believe it though and shook off my suspicions of his interest as a result of an overly active imagination. This was Chris I was talking about, my friend, my buddy with whom I explored New York. He was like a brother to me and the thought of being romantically involved with him gave me the creeps in just the same way it would have had someone suggested I shag my brother - if I had one that is.

However I was faced with more evidence of his attraction to me on Saturday afternoon when we stopped by a jazz festival in Tompkins Square Park, organized the club Nublu. It was a picture perfect day and we plonked ourselves down on the grass to listen to the
Brazilian Girls - a fabulous band, who are not Brazilian and, for the most part, not girls. Chris sat down extremely close to me - we're talking millimetres apart - and I shuffled away to put a normal, friendly, amount of space between us. Unfortunately Chris would move closer each time he decided to impart his wisdom about the band on me, or lean into me if I spoke as if to better hear what I was saying, thus closing the distance between us so that our bodies were once again touching and feeling uncomfortable, I'd shuffle away. The process was repeated several times over so that by the end of the Brazilian Girls’ set I was practically across the other side of the park.

Still, I was in denial about his reasons for trying to get so close, and hopeful I was just reading too much into the situation. When we got back to my apartment that afternoon I decided that we'd probably just been spending too much time together and took myself off for a mani-pedi for some alone time. Whilst at the spa I sent a text to Ash, who had her gay friend Michael in town from Dublin for the weekend.

Me: How is visitor? Had to escape mine for mani pedi. Driving me crazy.
Ash: Need to find M a hotel. Parades around in black Y-fronts all time. Dresses just b4 going out & strips off once in door
Me: Ugh. At least Chris keeps his clothes on
Ash: M just emerged in only towel. Currently stretched out on couch. What's the number for Hilton?

She went on to say that the only good thing about Michael’s exhibitionism was that she was so put off by the sight of his hairy and spotty back that she couldn’t eat and was feeling very slim.

Although I was thankful that my visitor had, until that point, kept his clothes on, I was still jealous that her visitor was only staying for the weekend.

Post mani pedi, Chris and I met my friend Melissa for dinner at
Grotto - fabulous food and a lovely garden, I highly recommend it if you’re ever in town. We were half way through our entrees when Chris excused himself to nip to the loo and Melissa turned to me to say, quite unprovoked, that she could tell he was obviously smitten with me because of the way he looked at me.



Until that point I was still hoping it was all in my imagination, but clearly not. Other people were imagining it too and Melissa is a down to earth type and not one for saying something unless she means it. Given how tactile he was being I started to feel a bit squeamish about Chris being in my apartment, especially as he was here for another 7 days and despite my initial irritation at Alan manipulating me into letting him stay while I had a guest in town I felt grateful he was there since it meant I didn’t have to be alone with Chris.

Not that having Alan there wasn’t necessarily un-troublesome, especially when he and Chris started to bond over things they found unacceptable in the women they dated. They were reeling off lists of what I would consider minor things, stubbly legs, bad dress sense, a little extra weight, that sort of thing. I couldn’t believe it since these were two men that quite frankly wouldn’t look out of place sleeping on a bench outside of Central Park. I wasn't exactly hosting a couple of well groomed metrosexuals. Chris had been wearing the same pair of jeans since he arrived, which he’d also travelled in, and I know from experience that Alan wasn’t averse to turning his underpants inside out to get a couple of extra days wear out of them. The $%&*@#$# cheek of them criticizing women. I went to bed in a huff before I turned violent and banged their heads together.

I had a little bit of a break from Chris on Monday and Tuesday, but by then the damage had been done. I was so freaked by him invading my space all the time and trying to flirt with me that I just wanted him gone. I know, I sound totally awful, but I just couldn’t take it. He was making me feel uncomfortable in my own home, the one place I’m meant to consider my sanctuary. Work was a breeze by comparison. I would get into the office and breathe a sigh of relief to be away from him. Unfortunately there was still another 5days to go. I won’t go into too much detail about the next few days, since it's just more of the same, suffice to say that things just went from bad to worse and I watched a friendship I’d once treasured go down the pan.

On Thursday night we had tickets to the ‘Fall For Dance’ festival - held each September at City Center with tickets priced at a mere $10 for 15-30 minute performances by 5 dance companies - as Chris had suggested we catch some culture while he was in town. I thought the show was great, but then I love contemporary dance, since I’m a frustrated dancer having taken ballet lessons for 11years as a child. Chris thought it was okay, but seemed very argumentative all evening claiming he didn't like some of the dance pieces because he couldn't follow the story. I responded that sometimes there isn't a story, that you’re just meant to appreciated a piece for the sake of the dance - which is something George Balanchine – the choreographer of the piece he'd commented on – had intended by much of his work- to which Chris snapped "I disagree, EVERYTHING is about SOMETHING, even when it's about NOTHING!!"

Uh-oh, okay!!

There were other such spats over small things, where rather than appreciate I had a different opinion Chris would argue against me and then bring it up again later. He even argued with me over the length of the interval, asking me how long they usually were. I said they were about 15mins, maybe 20. He said okay, I’ll guess 20, you guess 15. When the bell rang I laughed and said “I win, it was 15” and he got quite irritated and abruptly said “no, I think you’ll find it was 20.”

Like it mattered!

I was thankful that for much of his last weekend in town Chris did his own thing. He took off to see a movie on Friday so I was able to hit the gym and chill out at home alone – Alan had back to back AA meetings, and on Saturday after brunch at Paris Commune, he went up town to check out the Cloisters. We met up later that evening for dinner at Sea, a great Thai restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn with Gina, Melissa and Ron. Later Gina coerced us into going to a karaoke lounge, prefaced with a “we don’t have to sing” although no sooner had she got us in there did she hand out song books. Rather appropriately Chris chose to sing “should I stay or should I go” by The Clash. Accidental I think, but telling all the same as all the way through the song I was thinking “you should go, you should go.” I just couldn't wait to be rid of him.

That being said I felt bad after he'd left on Sunday afternoon. I hated to think of him having a horrible time and I’m not proud of the way I behaved towards him. I wasn't very nice at times and think I should have been more upfront with him and told him from the outset that I wasn’t interested. In short, I should have behaved like an adult, but it’s not easy to reject someone, especially a friend and I think he expected way too much of me. I was furious with him for making me feel so uncomfortable in my own home.

Suffice to say we haven’t spoken since, except for a text I sent to check he was okay after the July 7th, 2005 bombings in London. However recently we’ve connected on Facebook, so maybe we’ll eventually mend a few of the bridges we burned.

Photo credit: MiFrizKa @ Flickr


thewishfulwriter said...

ugh ugh ugh.

i've been in your shoes and I know EXACTLY what you are talking about.

Unwanted attention that creeps you out and makes you feel on edge is hard to react nonchalantly to.

In my head, I'd think: well, I could say I'm not interested, but they haven't really outright said THEY were. I'm just picking up that vibe. If I say I'm not interested, they could just say "get over yourself" and pretend they weren't giving signals.

and then i'd feel like a tool.

but by not saying something, the uncomfortableness would grow until we'd fight about nothing.

i can talk myself in circles. and do it routinely.

of course, i shudder to think about all the people i've creeped out..... :)

fishwithoutbicycle said...

Hi Heather,

You've captured exactly what I am talking about. He was never overt about his attraction he just sent me signals, so that if I had said anything I am sure he would have said "don't be ridiculous, you're so full of yourself" and we just ended up bickering. It wasn't pretty.

I suppose the experience makes me feel more aware of not creeping out other people :-)

Thanks for stopping by.

F x

Amel's Realm said...

WOW!!! What a story!!! I can understand your fury, though, and your reluctance to tell him point blank about your feelings for him (just like a brother).

It's WONDERFUL news about John and Louise!!! GOOD LUCK in finding the best restos for Louise! ;-D

I couldn't help laughing when I read this part "by the end of the Brazilian Girls’ set I was practically across the other side of the park". Oh dear!!! I HATE guys who don't get subtle HINTS!!! GRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!

fishwithoutbicycle said...

Hi Amel, thanks for stopping by. Looking back I can definitely see the funny side, but at the time it wasn't much fun. Hopefully I learned something from the experience and how to deal should something like that ever happen again.

My mind is already working over time trying to come up with restaurants for Louise ;-)

Amel's Realm said...

Yeah, I know what you mean. There are experiences that would prove funny years later though they're DEFINITELY not funny when you're experiencing it.

One of those moments for me would be the time when I forgot to zip my jeans and some guys tried to tell me about it but I kept on walking as I was afraid they were teasing me or something he he he...

Yeah, we live, we learn. Indeed!!! ;-D

alcoment said...

I'll join in with the 'I've been there'. The problem when it's based on stuff you're picking up, is that you end up analyzing EVERYTHING they say or do and end up not knowing what's real and what's not! It's so confusing and gets kind of freaky...

Good luck with the restuarant hunt!

Agnes Mildew said...

Well, I for one, am certainly looking forward to instalment #2 on this, and how the forthcoming visit goes for you! I take it they are not staying with you, and he won't be able to make any passes at you under the nose of Louise?

This is really rather exciting, FWB! I can't wait to hear the rest of it!

fishwithoutbicycle said...

Hee hee, not quite THAT exciting Agnes, it wasn't John who was after me a few years ago, but his friend Chris, so Louise's boyf is safe from me when they visit. However you're right in that a love triangle would have made a better blogging installment. Maybe I can rustle one up ;-)

Alcoment, you're right about the over-analyzing. I was tortured by it for the entire week Chris was in town.

Amel, check your zipper ;-)

Agnes Mildew said...

Oh bums, sorry FWB...ignore me - I have been battling a bugger of a migraine all day today and my brain isn't working sorry!

Well, that's let the air out of my balloon...I thought a bit of scandal was wending its way over to NY...shame!

fishwithoutbicycle said...

Yikes a migraine. I used to suffer with those as a kid. Feel better Agnes.

Victorya said...

lol, I've had those times, omy, have I. I was having a particularly annoying day at my weekend gig (teaching) and remember wanting to go to Coney Island afterward. So I turned to the (male) secretary that I always joke around with and asked if he wanted to go. he heartily agreed and off we went.

While there he confessed that he's had a crush on me since I started there and had been trying to figure out how to ask me out, so was releived when I asked him out. I had to gently explain it was more of a friendship "it's a nice day let's enjoy it" type thing. But he was still touchy-feely throughout. Ugh.

And since he's in charge of my xeroxing abilities, tough situation!

Men are crazy creatures, are they not?

fishwithoutbicycle said...

Hi Victorya, I agree that men are very odd. How is your Xerox man now that he knows you just like him as a friend? Does he withhold copies from you :-)