A friend’s husband is friendly. Very friendly. So friendly that hugs hello are always a bit longer than called for. And dinner party conversations alarmingly interspersed with uninvited squeezes and tickles whenever he’s in arm’s reach. But what do you do? Deflect as inconspicuously as possible and move along, right? After all, friendly is good, right? Affectionate is …sweet, right? His wife is right there, he can’t possibly mean anything by it, right? We’re amongst friends, and intentions are surely pure. So you ignore it and move along.
When thank-you emails arrive, they’re peppered with suggestive innuendoes. Subtle enough that there’s not enough to call attention to, not enough to raise a flag over and say, thanks, this is a bit more attention than I want from you, husband of friend and not partner of me. Thank you and move along please. No, you think, don’t be so uptight.
Hello, most insiduous little injunction: don’t be so uptight. Don’t be so oversensitive. It’s just a joke. It’s just a turn of phrase. It’s just a gesture. Not everyone picks their words as carefully as you do. And of course: don’t make a scene. Because to raise any flag would be to make a scene.
Several of these episodes have passed, and I’ve passed comment quietly, sideways, to those close to me – what do you think of this? Do you notice this? Nah, they say, that oke is like that to everyone. He plays on Facebook like a teenager – teasy comments all over the walls of girls with sexy photographs and Japanese anime game applications I don’t understand. It’s me, I think, I just don’t understand this stuff, and it doesn’t matter anyway. These are not people I see particularly frequently, just leave it and move along. Don’t be so uptight.
So when the most recent one arrives – an email, unsolicited, detailing a dream I really didn’t need to know about, I’m recognising this discomfort. This is the discomfort of having someone overstep a bunch of boundaries without even noticing they’re there. So this time, I raise the flag, as lightly as I can – I reply; I ask him to shower his wife with these messages, rather than me. The response is, unsurprisingly: Relax. It was just a compliment. Don’t be so uptight.