I am reasonably certain that I am by no means the only female that has a strong creep radar. In fact, in addition to this hair-trigger warning system, I also find that I am hyper aware of my surroundings when alone. The sensation eases a little when I am with someone, but the underlying wariness of being in a public place is lingering.
As for the most part, I’m glad it is there. I haven’t suffered once because I reacted with caution, but I have had far too many unpleasant experiences of NOT being wary in public places. I am prone to classifying strangers as ‘safe’ or ‘unsafe’ based on micro-behaviours and body language; something I thought was innate and borderline voodoo till I started reading this book. [It’s good.]
Another facet of this ability is to sense attraction in other people. Now, this ability is far from absolute. I tend to discount the people that I am attracted to myself, because I want to weed out wishful thinking bias. But the others? Hooboy.
[The story I am about to narrate isn’t going to paint me in a good light. I will appear paranoid and overly suspicious, and slightly delusional. But bear in mind that all what I am describing here is in addition to subtler body language nuances and expressions that I am not equipped to pinpoint with accuracy. It leaves one with an overall “feeling” that is vague and nebulous, but no less potent for the lack of substance.]
A few weeks ago, I had a meeting with a client. This particular meeting, as a matter of fact. The lawyer left a favourable impression, as I stated in my post. I did think he was looking at me a little more than strictly necessary, but it registered as a teeny tiny orange flag, as opposed to a major red flag.
Except, that wasn’t the only flag.
As we were leaving, I stopped to use the bathroom. He was half out the door, but stopped and came back in. And he used the bathroom after me, so the odd circumstance was satisfactorily explained. Ok, I thought, it is a reasonable thing to visit the facilities as a sensible afterthought. But the thought flashed into my head: is he lingering to walk back to the station with me?
We did eventually walk to the station together. And we talked, as one does, about the client and work, and how we each have gone about starting our businesses. I tend to take a self-deprecatory stance in most social settings, so I laughingly told him about my inability to network for prospects. And so on. The conversation moved smoothly forward, and we proceeded towards the station.
At one point, I happened to mention that I developed the content for the client website. He was visibly surprised, and turned to me to say: “Wow really? You wrote all that? It is really amazing!” Again, this is not an extraordinary remark to make. It was the accompanying body language that put me a little on the back foot. I did thank him, and saw to my surprise that he was almost glowing at me. Hm.
We reached the station, and parted ways. I obviously didn’t look back to see where he was going, so I have no idea if he did the same or not. In the train back home, it occurred to me that this situation had the potential to escalate further. I was getting major interest vibes from this person, and I wasn’t sure about it at all. Something was throwing me off. It didn’t “feel” right.
So I did what any person in this time and age does: I looked him up on Facebook. I found him without a problem. Aha. Married. My favourite peeve.
I reared back mentally, and stored this new information in a corner of my brain. It was important that I reevaluate my stance, and dial back the friendliness. It can be misconstrued, not only by him, but by his significant other. This interaction needed to be strictly professional.
In the days to come, there were more seemingly ordinary interactions which I was sure I was overreacting to. He asked for my number, and I gave it to him because it was necessary. I happened to mention that it wasn’t my WhatsApp number though. So a few days later, he texted me asking for my WA’s number. Only, the way he asked was: “Would you mind sharing your WhatsApp number with me?” Hm. Am I reading too much into the seeming hesitation for something so ordinary? Perhaps he was trying to be courteous. Perhaps he is a timid person. Perhaps he felt that I don’t give out that number easily. I don’t know. But it struck me as strange, and although I gave him the number [we are working together in a sense], it was with a strange sense of reluctance, because it felt like opening a door I didn’t want open.
None of these vague sensations was I able to justify. I only talked to my mother about it, because I knew quite well, from experience, what other people would say. She understood the discomfort I was experiencing. That was enough.
Yesterday, things sort of came to a head. I have this habit of posting random status updates on WhatsApp, without really considering my audience. Out of about 300 contacts, between 10 and 20 people bother to read those updates. I know because of the little eye icon. One of those people used to be my ex, but I soon put a stop to that by changing my privacy settings. To my absolute shock and horror, I realised that this lawyer guy was reading my updates.
Ok, so my fault for putting them out there; I get it. But WhatsApp is more often than not, a closed group of people. Mostly, my friends react to my updates with a comment or a laugh. It is solely intended to be random in that respect.
This crossing of a line between personal and professional threw me for a loop. And because I am a featherbrain, I forgot to remove him from the privacy settings. So yesterday, after days of posting nothing, I uploaded a picture of a family photo collage. Mom had asked me to reorder the photos because they were askew. And I had remarked, while doing so, that there were more pictures of my dog than anyone else. It made us both laugh, because she was the smallest member of the family, and she had such a large personality.
I thought nothing of sharing that moment. Until the lawyer commented: “Vivid, indeed.” Suffice it to say, my jaw dropped.
The collage had a few large photos of me, back from my college days. When I was thin. And pretty. And those were the prominently visible ones. My friends would have made laughing comments about me growing old, etc. “Vivid” though?
Don’t think any justification and disclaimer that pops to mind hasn’t already occurred to me. It has. I tried brushing it aside. I finally related this micro incident to my mother, as blandly as possible in order to gauge her reaction. Her eyes widened in surprise, and her comment was simple: “Why is he getting so personal?”
Good question, mom.