Q: I’m a theater performer, and there’s a tendency among theater people that disturbs me: dreadful over-the-top flirting. I’m a portly, bearded guy pushing 40. At my last show, I was sitting in a seat minding my own business when a young woman in the cast I barely knew came and sat on my lap. I’m straight, so naturally, I enjoyed this. But, when I responded by putting my hand on her knee, she jumped up as if she’d been electrocuted and ignored me for the rest of the show’s run. Humiliating. To pre-empt that humiliation, is there a polite time, perhaps when rehearsals begin, to announce “I’m not your daddy or Santa Claus, and I’m not gay, so if any of you young ladies come sit on my lap, you might find my hand on your knee. Comport yourselves accordingly.”
A: “Dear Advice Goddess, I’m so troubled. Hot young women sit on my lap.”
Well, definitely start wearing pants fitted with those spikes they use to keep pigeons off liquor store signs, or at least sew golf cleats to the front of your jeans. Or, if this sounds like a lot of bother, you could just consider yourself mildly lucky, and leave it at that.
In your defense, it’s not like you’re some chronic knee molester, constantly dropping to all fours in rehearsals — all the better to grope the ingenue’s patella. You were apparently supposed to consider this a sort of static lap dance. (You don’t get to touch the stripper when you’re getting a lap dance — at least not without tossing her a couple extra hundreds.) Of course, in a strip club, the rules are clear. In drama group, it’s harder to differentiate between “I want you” lap-sits and look-but-don’t-touch “I want you to pay homage to hot little me.” There are many ways to communicate, but women who wish to avoid being misunderstood will find the spoken and written word far more effective than the silent language of butt cheeks on a man’s thigh.
Let’s be honest: What disturbs you isn’t the “dreadful over-the-top flirting,” but the dreadful leaping up from your lap as if electrocuted. The answer isn’t making pre-emptive announcements — not unless you’re in some race to humiliate yourself before other people can get to it. You just need to act like the kind of guy who’d be dangerous for a girl to tease. For a role model, I suggest the one-eyed, boozing, chain-smoking, gourmet food-hoovering poet/ novelist Jim Harrison, who looks and sounds like the product of drunk sex between a pirate and a grizzly. At 73, with his mere presence, he makes young player-dudes seem to have all the sexual mojo of Julie Andrews. (As a woman, you get the sense that if you get too close, he just might grab you with one of his big paws, pop a truffle on you, and wash you down with a swig of Spanish wine.)
In other words, your problem isn’t that you’ve been humiliated, but that you’re acting humiliated, letting this girliepoo set the tone. Instead of hanging your head and hoping to evaporate, refuse to be shunned by teasing the tease: maybe pointing to your knee and asking if she’d like another ride on her new pony, or grinning and sticking out your hand, fingers wriggling, as if it might get loose and make another run for her leg. This should not only give you your superpowers back, but teach her an important lesson: If you’re over 12, and you plop down on a man’s lap, you aren’t going to be asked what you want for Christmas.
Q: I’m a 38-year-old guy in decent shape, but my prematurely graying hair makes me look much older. Should I try some of that hair dye for men I see at the drugstore?
— Color Me Uninformed
A: Men self-dyeing their graying hair are today’s version of bald men who thought they were fooling people while looking like a small animal dropped off a tree and landed on their head. It’s understandable that you don’t want to look “distinguished” at 38 — a word 28-year-old girls use to describe their grandpa. But, what’s worse than going prematurely gray? Going prematurely the color of fresh baby eggplant, like so many do-it-yourself Mr. Clairols. Others go way too dark; for example, light-skinned Jewish guys who end up looking like they hair-robbed Benicio Del Toro. If you must dye, make tracks for the salon. But, consider the look of selfacceptance: seeming comfortable in your own skin (and gray hair). You might call this the other “Just For Men” — just for men who’d rather avoid being the guy who posted in a webforum, “Just for Men hair color turned the skin around my mustace [sic] a reddish purple color. How do I fix this?”
© 2010 Amy Alkon, all rights reserved.
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