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Has Being Onely Made Me Clueless? March 22, 2010

Posted by Onely in "Against Love"...?, Heteronormativity, single and happy, Some Like It Single, Your Responses Requested!.
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Dear readers,

I am afraid that my life as a happy Oneler may have made me oblivious to the signs of chemistry that a “normal” person would generally notice. I’m not talking about overt sexual advances (eww), and I’m not wondering about a first date (easy enough to figure out in the long run). I’m referring, instead, to a close friend (I will call him George here for the sake of privacy) whom I have never thought of as anything “more than” a friend — probably because we were both coupled when we first met several years ago (hey, even though I’m happily single, I’m not immune to checking out attractive single men).

Over the past few years, mutual friends of ours have asked me if I’m interested in George, or they’ll wonder why we haven’t dated. Occasionally — and usually while under the influence — someone will insist that we belong together. But I always brush these comments off as silly heteronormative proclamations; after all, we are the same age and have similar professional interests and are often the only single people running around our common social circles. According to common heteronormative logic, single man + single woman = HELLO, couple!

As you might expect, I resist that logic. But this past weekend, several friends who had never met George, and who had never even met each other, happened to be in town for an academic conference (I will call them Tracy, Jenny, and Dave). On Saturday night, I invited everyone out to a local restaurant. The only local friend who showed up was George, and soon, I noticed, Tracy and Jenny were exchanging meaningful glances. We moved on to a bar downtown for a nightcap and took separate cars (George drove Jenny, and I drove T & D). In the car, Tracy and Dave told me it was obvious: George is “in love” with me. There is “so much chemistry,” they said. I shrugged it off — more heternormative nonsense. But at the bar,Β  George sat close to me in the booth; our bodies kept making contact, and I kept thinking, this has never happened before, and neither of us are drunk. Maybe my friends are right — but how is it I’ve never noticed?

The conference is over. Not only have my friends left town (cheerful because they think they were right about George), but they have left me with a great deal of confusion: On the one hand, I think that my friends may have just been doing what so many coupled people (each of these friends happen to be married) want to do when confronted with two nice and attractive single people: hook them up! But on the other hand, my friends had never met each other before – they all noticed chemistry right away, without any prompting from me. So this gives me pause. And then I think about George himself, and I think about our friendship: Not only is he smart and funny, but he has always been quietly supportive (he was around but non-intrusive during a particularly dramatic breakup after I first moved to Louisville) and interested in my life. We never run out of things to talk about. And last summer, when I traveled alone to England and Ireland, he happened to be in Ireland at the same time as me, and I traveled with him and his family (mom, brother, and sister) for a few days. He is a genuinely kind person and a good friend, and I wonder all of a sudden why I’ve never “noticed” him, and I wonder if it’s because of Onely, because being coupled is not high on my priority list.

So I’m curious, Copious Readers, not about whether I should “do” anything about this (I’m pretty sure I won’t, for several complicated reasons), but rather, whether or not you think that having a Onely mindset makes you oblivious to possibilities that you may have otherwise entertained as a couple-oriented single adult. Or, alternatively, if you think that my friends are the clueless ones!

— Lisa

photo credit: zazzle


1. April - March 22, 2010

Has George ever asked you out? Has he ever hinted at something more than friendship?
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I think the guy should do all the work, but if your friends are getting messages sent via HIM, then why isn’t HE doing anything about it?
I’m with you on not doing anything, but it wouldn’t hurt to think about how you might respond if he ever did ask you out in a couple-y way.

Onely - March 23, 2010

April: Good point. Got to be on my toes. I am going to treat the situation as the friendship that I think it is, but I suppose I’d be open to the possibility of dating if he ever pursued it. I suppose I wouldn’t pursue it otherwise, though, because, well, it’s something I could live without. πŸ™‚

— L

PS, why do we not have you on our blogroll? I am going to add you right now!

2. Jenn - March 23, 2010

Lisa, I definitely think that a Onely mindset can lead you to miss signals that a couples-minded person would see. That doesn’t necessarily mean your friends AREN’T clueless too but I think it’s certainly likely that couples-minded people would pick up on something that you have not. I actually don’t think it’s that different from people who are already in a committed relationship, or who are getting over a break-up, or any other situation where you aren’t LOOKING for any signals and therefore, don’t see them. @April, I think it’s entirely possible that George could be interested but also fully aware of Lisa’s Oneliness and lack of interest and has therefore not done anything about his interest to avoid being rejected.

Onely - March 23, 2010

Jenn — great point about others who miss signals! Christina and I were trying to brainstorm last night about other situations I have been in, in which I’ve missed important signals, but we couldn’t think of many (because, as I pointed out, how would I know unless it comes to a head?)

Maybe George has fallen in love with me *because* I am Onely!!! πŸ˜‰

— L

3. io...... - March 23, 2010

Lisa – you’re a female (with hormones) even if you ARE thinking as a onely …. so if there was anything to “raise your temperature” you would have noticed it by now. Or else if he said anything that made you feel special you would have noticed that too.

Maybe he’s just shy and hasn’t demonstrated anything … in which case I don’t think it’s anything on your part for not having noticed.

Maybe in the 21st century your coupled friends don’t really think that a man and a woman can be good friends. So if he IS just acting like what you’d expect from a good friend, the others might see it as something else. But to you, it’s what you’d expect from a f-r-i-e-n-d.

Just a thought ….

Onely - March 23, 2010

Iolanda — yes, I’d agree with your last paragraph especially. As I keep thinking about this weird situation/interpretation of it, I am constantly reminded of the friendship itself, which is very important to me. And which is very important — and “normal” — to many single-and-happy people, I’d imagine.

— L

4. Lauri - March 23, 2010

George sounds like a great person, but are you physically attracted to him? That’s my test in situations like this. And I don’t mean is he good-looking, because a lot of people are good-looking, I mean do YOU actually find HIM attractive? Do you want to sleep with him? After all, that’s the one thing that determines whether someone is a friend or “romantic partner.”

On the broader topic, yes, I agree, everyone says I am completely clueless when it comes to picking up on “signals.” But then I wonder what comes first the chicken or the egg. Is it because I am so down with or used to being single that I just don’t care, or am I single because I don’t pick up signals from men? I’ve been told I have no idea how to flirt, I’m just like polite and friendly even when I’m on a date. And the few instances in my life I can recall actually picking up on a signal somewhere (usually late in the game) I’ve never known what to do with it. I mean seriously what DO you do when you pick up on that? Grab the guy by the collar and drag him to your bedroom? Completely beyond my scope of understanding of interpersonal interaction. If you were to DO something about George, what would you do?

Onely - March 23, 2010

Lauri, the short answer to your question in the first paragraph is no. Even when he our bodies were making contact, I wasn’t overpowered by a sense of chemistry — and that is what I’d expect if there were something major going on. I usually am pretty forward when I recognize that kind of chemistry (provided I’m comfortable with it), so I suppose that if I had actually felt something compelling, I would pursue him slightly, just to give it a chance. But… I didn’t, so I won’t (though I’m not ruling out the possibility that if he did pursue me, I would become attracted to him).

— L

5. Alan - March 23, 2010

I wonder about this alleged “chemistry”, how it’s being interpreted.

Could be that George does have some romantic designs on you.
However, it could also be that your friends are misinterpreting your friendship as a result of cultural biases. Not sure which.

I too remain a little distant from all of the interpersonal emotional turmoil that envelops so many others, something that I find helpful in my job.
…see? I could have said “I’m a little clueless too”, but I look at if from a different perspective.

Interpretation, interpretation, interpretation…

Onely - March 23, 2010

Yes, I like the idea that I am simply protected from turmoil, Alan. Thanks for that “interpretation” πŸ™‚

— L

6. Rachel - March 23, 2010

I think your friends are the clueless ones. You & George have something very rare and wonderful – a deep friendship! If George were a woman, nobody would talk about chemistry (well, unless you are bi or lesbian). But because George happens to be male, there must be chemistry there. Somehow, we’re not allowed to enjoy a male-female friendship unless it could get “serious,” whatever that means.

7. autonomous - March 24, 2010

I don’t think you’re being obtuse at all- we either click with people or we don’t- and sometimes it’s really charged energy that other people notice. I also don’t think it’s necessarily wrong for your friends to want to see you romantically paired up- people do seem to delight in others’ getting together love stories. That’s when everything is still sparkly before the bitching begins.

That said, I share an amazing chemistry with one of my best friends, we absolutely adore each other, and over the years there have been many attempts by friends to see us “hooked-up”. Thing is, we might be perfect for each other if we didn’t consider it as incestuous- as in eeew!!! And there are several quirks that drive each other crazy and would eventually make us hate each other if we dated. It’s all fine the way it is- and has been for 20 years- and eventually your friends will realize that you’re still happy long after other relationships have broken up and will leave you alone about it.

8. Sixty and Single in Seattle - March 25, 2010

Look in his eyes. Take your time. What do you see? How do you feel?

9. Trauma Queen - March 26, 2010

does George read this blog? hehehe

well im with you on this….sometimes when the ppl around us insist the guy we are hanging out with is interested in us..it can create a whole lotta confusion. like this one time I ended up dating an absolute creep cos my friends insisted he was so charming and sweet and nice to me and I got carried away and forced myself not to be confused or clueless. Had I continued to be “clueless”, I do not think anything would have happened between us πŸ˜›

And then my ma would always get bugged everytime I met or hung out with my guy friends, cos she insisted they was all hitting on me. of course, nowadays none of them guy friends seem to have any time to meet me, their excuse being “I thought you’d be busy…now that you are married and all”

yes I did get married! a month ago! (mostly so I can seriously get knocked up) but that does not stop me from thinking single and supporting other singles. πŸ™‚

In any case, I was “clueless” about these “friends” and it seems Ma was right :(…so yeah I have given you a pro and a con for being clueless

and about physical attarction, i think it is something that can entirely be controlled by the mind. If you want to be attracted to the sleaziest looking creep in town, you *can* be πŸ˜›

10. Contented Single - March 26, 2010

I agree with a lot of the comments here.

But here’s my take on it. First, though, I am Aussie, and we don’t really “date” we see the whole thing as very American. Well, we sometimes do, but when I have done it has felt awkward and artificial. We do have relationships of course, but I am just saying all this as I may come at it from a slightly different perspective, and may not fully understand what you mean by dating.

Anyway, this is what I think. Agree, that your friend’s thinking is very hetronormitive. You’re a single girl, he’s a single guy, they can’t undersatnd why you wouldn’t go for it. They probably can’t understand why people want to be single and a lot of people like that couple up with the nearest, available, suitable person.

As for the alledged chemistry, I don’t think you are clueless because you are Onely, all this thing about signs is bullshit, what I mean is that all the dating sites will give out advice about how there’s signs, and how you’ve got to give a sign, to me it’s crap, because if there was really something there you’d feel it and you’d go for it.

But, hey that’s not to say he doesn’t have the hots for you. I think he does. In fact I don’t even know you guys and I am pretty sure he does.
When I was 19 a male friend told me that every guy wants to **** his attractive female friends. I am now 41 and I have found this to be pretty much true. Not to say that there is anything wrong with George if he is like that, that could even be part of the male biology.
I think all that body contact was George enjoying the physical contact with you and maybe him trying to drop a hint.

Your friend’s interpretation of chemistry could be just them seeing great rapport. If they saw such great rapport between you and a female or a family member, they wouldn’t call it chemistry. Couples want everyone to be coupled, I think because most of them don’t understand going it alone.

As for what to do. Don’t analyse it. Do you feel something, would you lile to sleep with him? If the answer is no, leave it alone. Don’t force something that’s not there. Some people almost imagine chemistry through wishful thinking. To me it’s either there or it’s not and however clueless you think you might be, if it was there for you, you’d feel it.

BTW I always enjoy Alan’s take on your posts.

Just posted about chemistry on my own blog.

11. Onely - March 27, 2010

To all: Thank you SO much for this enlivening and entertaining discussion! At the beginning of the week, I felt confused and flustered; today, I feel empowered and more deeply appreciative of my friends, especially my friendship with George, thanks mostly to your comments! In a future post, I plan to write about how one of the out-of-town friends mentioned above kept mentioning that she was really amazed how happy I seemed about being single. I didn’t tell her about Onely, either — I was so intrigued about how she would perceive me without knowing about the blog.

Anyway, thanks again everyone. Clueless or not, I am definitely happy!

— L

12. Contented Single - March 29, 2010

Isn’t it sad that some people are surprised that you can be happily single?

13. Isn’t it sad that some people are surprised that you can be happily single? « Onely: Single and Happy - April 6, 2010

[…] Kudos to Contented Single, who (inadvertently) titled this post thanks to her comment at the end of this discussion about whether or not being Onely has made me clueless. In answer to her question, YES I DO think […]

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