Dear Ms. Plume,
I’ve been in a relationship for a while now and thought I was relatively happy, until it hit me over the head recently that the object of my affection is terribly jealous. She just gave me a book, Essential Manners for Men written by Peter Post. I wasn’t quite sure in what manner to receive this gift, and just so you know, Peter does not address the issue of gifts of dubious origin. However, when I flipped through the pages hoping to find a clue, I did indeed find one: page 84 was dog-eared and underlined as follows: “…when you’re out on a date, noticing other women is a real mood killer. Almost half the woman responding to the survey” (Seriously, they did a survey about this? I think Ms. Emily Post must be turning over in her grave.) “recognize that men are going to look at other women.” (What? Do they think we’re blind or stupid?) “The real key is that you not let it interfere with your focus on the woman you’re with.”
Further perusal of the book (why oh why didn’t I quit while I was relatively ahead?) led to finding another clue on page 123 under the headline: “Attached? Don’t Flirt!” Now it seems that Peter P. is quite liberal with his social indulgences and freely admits to behavior which sounds, to me, to be dangerously close to flirting. However, his intent is pure so that makes it okay for him, but alas, apparently not for me, to flirt.
I like women, I like to laugh, I like to know what interests people and makes them tick. I do not consider that, in any way, an invitation to intimacy. However, my partner thinks I should avoid all conversations with women. As you may imagine, this makes it a bit difficult when I go to the bakery and need to ask the person behind the counter for a croissant or loaf of bread, if said person is a woman. It makes it nearly impossible to order a drink for either one, or both of us in a bar if the bartender is a woman. If I do not bring home the bread or the beer, then I am also chastised.
Is there any way to win?
The answer to your question is: NO. Flirting is one of the most fun party games going. If men don’t flirt with me I wonder what is wrong with them and immediately assume they are just not too bright. Most women love flirting. How many books have been written about the art of flirting? Zillions, especially in the South. What better way for a man to let a woman know she is attractive, or fun, or funny, or maybe even the ugliest duckling in the pond and so in need of flirting? We women want to be girls again – that’s why we love wine – and we want to toss our hair and be noticed. Why do you think we wear shoes that kill our feet, makeup that could camouflage a destroyer, and underwires that could launch a space shuttle? Let me clue you, and perhaps Peter Post, in – we want to be noticed and appreciated. I do, however, agree with P. Post that intention is paramount. But in all fairness, I do believe Mr. Posts great-grandmother would balk at giving a gift that had already been underlined; after all, it makes it look as if she bought a used book and passed it off as new. How to handle the issue? All I can say is…