Was this a date?

We met at my friend’s birthday party. We didn’t talk much; he teased me while we played mini golf. I guessed he just liked to tease.

 

We walked to the subway as a group, but I was going in a different direction. I hugged the birthday girl good-bye. My new acquaintance kissed me on the cheek. A first kiss always has a little electric zing, but he was urbane, stylish, and I told myself this kiss probably meant nothing; friendly, sophisticated.

 

I hadn’t given him my number, but he tracked me down online. We made plans to meet for lunch. It wasn’t a date.

 

I texted my friend on the way there. “I don’t think this is a date.”

 

“Oooh! Keep me posted!”

 

We’d arranged to meet in his neighborhood. I texted when I got to his building.

 

“Come up for a minute.”

 

I was starting to see where this was going.

 

I went up.

 

He pounced.

 

Was this a date?

 

Up until this moment, I’d been secure in my belief that we were friends. Our industries overlapped; he had useful connections. I’d rarely had guy friends, and the prospect of one was pleasant.

 

He was attractive. The attention felt like a compliment, and his boldness was alluring. Confidence is sexy… At the time, I treated the encounter like I’d been expecting it; I pivoted to supposing this had been a date all along; we did go out to lunch, after all. (I don’t remember if I let him pay. I probably insisted on splitting the bill, allowing myself to feel like I was wielding some control.)

 

The next few weeks got hotter, heavier, blurrier. We didn’t bother with the presumption of a date again; instead I’d booty-call him, we’d sext. I’d interpret his texts and declarations of attraction to mean he like-liked me, and giggle about him over cocktails with my friend, the one who’d introduced us.

 

The summer grew moodier; going into fall, we both got busier. Our fling fizzled and I moved on to a series of boys I met on OK Cupid.

 

I continued to follow him and his cat on social media, out of inertia. Inevitably, eventually, he started posting selfies with a girl he identified as #bae.

 

She was pretty, classic, wholesome-looking. You wouldn’t picture her bent over a desktop with her panties around her ankles, and not only because she probably exclusively wore sensible thongs to avoid a panty line.

 

It wasn’t that I envied her – this man wasn’t really a match for me.

 

What I kept trying to puzzle out was their beginning. Did they also meet through friends? Did she meet him at the restaurant on their first date, or had she submitted herself to him first, too? Or – worst – had he seen me as a plaything from the beginning? Do I simply radiate the vibe of a girl who loves casual sex, a fast and wild fuck with a stranger? Did he smell it on me? (Months later, perfume-shopping with my friend – “I think I want something floral, like a rose.” “A really dirty, slutty rose,” she agreed. No judgement, just the facts.)

 

But also: is this how he treats all the girls? Like meat? Like a delicious meal he’s entitled to? Is he a bad guy, or just naughty? Am I really up for anything, or did I get taken against my will?

 

Did I want to fool around with him in the first place?

 

I still don’t know.

 

“A maybe is a no,” as they say.

 

But yes can also become a habit. One that makes it harder to identify those moments that are really maybes. Those maybes that are actually, probably, nos.

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(2018)