There are many ways to let a member of the opposite sex know you are interested in them–believe me, I've tried hundreds: smiling, touching, winking, giggling, flipping my hair, making prolonged eye contact, leaving excessively large tips for mediocre service, asking nonsense questions, leaving my number on a napkin, writing my number on the back of a guy's hand, giving my number to a guy's friend to give to him, asking my friend to give my number to a guy's friend to give to him...Get the picture?
Still, it always amazes me just how difficult it can be to tell if someone is flirting with you or not. It’s almost as if we have forgotten how to read the subtle body language of attraction in our day to day life, which is especially hazardous when you can see love lurking behind every nook and cranny.
Since every man I haven’t met yet is potentially my soulmate, I try to give them all the benefit of the doubt when it comes to flirting. I assume they are flirting–with me. Sometimes–most times–I am way off base.
Now, I don’t know why watching romantic comedies has women convinced that we are going to meet the love of our lives at the grocery store, but I never go to or without make-up on. I have grand plans of finding Mr. Tall Dark and Perfect amongst the fresh produce or while browsing the many flavors of Greek yogurt in dairy. So, I’m sure you can imagine how easy it was for newly single me to get a little carried away imagining then that my Mr. Right was standing right behind the fish counter one day.
I noticed Fish Sticks noticing me for a few months and decided one day, if he was there, I would buy a piece of fish.
He was there.
Aware that I was being noticed, I waltzed through the fresh produce, picking up blueberries and baby spinach and watermelon. I was trying to play it cool as I purposefully made my way back to the seafood counter. I kept thinking, “Play your cards right and you’ll go home with more than just a piece of fish.”
I decided to make eye contact, which resulted in me staring at him like he was my final destination or something. I looked like I was walking down the aisle, about to say “I do,” or a robot on “seek-and-destroy” mode…either way, it must have been really scary for him.
Fish Sticks handled it well, though–he smiled. So, I smiled back and immediately shifted my gaze to my feet in a quick jerk of my head, like a little marionette doll whose string had just been cut.
I thought, It's cool. Play it cool. People smile because it shows the world that they are approachable. You’re good. Deep breaths.
As I was studying my pedicure, I heard a voice, “Can I help you with anything tonight?”
In my head, I screamed, "Oh yes you can!"
Out loud, I said, “Um, just a second.”
Still, a brilliant move, buying more time. I kept assuring myself, You have plenty of time–just breathe, take your time, time time time, lots of time.
I took so much time; I ended up reading every label on all the fish about five times. I studied each fish as if it were going to be on an exam in the morning, standing right in front of each filet in the display, pausing and taking one step over to admire the next.
Crab Legs, Tilapia, Salmon, Swordfish, Flounder, Cod, Shrimp, Scallops.
Eventually, I realized that I had to say something. Something to show him I was here to bring home more than a piece of fish.
Unfortunately, my Colorado roots were showing again as I realized I didn’t know what kind of question to ask about fish!
So, I made something up, “How would you cook cod?” (Yeah, slick, I know).
He responded, “On the broiler.”
“Oh, okay….and….what would you use to season it?”
“Salt and pepper. Some lemon.”
“Okay. Can I have a piece then please? Just one small piece.”
And that’s when things got weird:
He asked, “You all alone then?”
My first thought was OHMYGOD HE IS GOING TO ASK ME OUT!!! EEEEK!
Somehow, I stayed calm and mumbled, “Yeah… haha… ahem… all alone… yeah, alone and single.”
I should have stopped there, but for some reason, I kept talking, “I mean, I always think that people at the grocery store totally judge me when I check out. Like, they look at the stuff I buy and think, 'Single, this girl must live all by herself'.”
He smiled, “Aww don’t say that, we don’t judge.”
And, I had to seal the deal with, “Yeah, well. I am single and I do live alone. But it’s not weird or anything.” (Not like I sound like a loser or anything.)
As he handed me the paper-wrapped single filet he said, “Well, here you go. Have a good night. Maybe I’ll see you around sometime.”
I slinked away with a piece of fish I still wasn’t sure how to cook. Broiler?
In retrospect, it is quite possible that Fish Sticks was never actually flirting with me, at least not flirting with any intention. After learning that he asked for my friend’s number a few weeks later, I figured most of the flirting, like most of the conversation, was in my head.