Home Invasion Is Where The Heart Is
Q: A girl in my college accounting class came to my mom’s house, where I live, to study with me for a test. While she was there, burglars broke in, made us strip to our underwear, then bound and gagged us. We were tied in chairs, back to back, but were able to hold hands. (We weren’t hurt, and my mom came home and untied us a couple hours later.) I’ve always been attracted to this woman, but she has a boyfriend. However, our experience intensified my crush. Are feelings generated in a trauma legitimate? Should I make my feelings known?
— Rope Burns
A: Sorry I took so long answering your question, but I got abducted by aliens and they didn’t have Wi-Fi on the mothership. If you’ll believe me, I’ll believe you — and forget that your question sounds like the script to a G-rated porno: You both strip down, get tied up, and then the crooks leave and your Mom comes in with a plate of cookies and a box-cutter.
It is possible that danger amped up your feelings of attraction. The intuitive explanation is that you bonded over a shared scary experience. It’s hypothesized by researchers (but not yet well supported by evidence) that there’s “misattribution of arousal”: mistaking revved-up feelings from a scary situation for feelings of attraction. Anthropologist Helen Fisher speculates in “Why We Love” that “danger is novel to most of us” and “novelty elevates levels of dopamine — the chemical associated with romantic love.” (That was your brain on accounting…this is your brain on drugs.)
You can make your feelings known to this girl, but you for sure shouldn’t make an announcement. (Announcements are for lost dogs, fire drills, and airplane gate changes.) Proclaiming your interest will not only be embarrassing for both of you, she’s sure to tell you what you already know — that she has a boyfriend — and leave it at that. Instead, take her out for drinks and try to kiss her afterward. She can always turn you down, and you can always blame it on the alcohol and go back to being study buddies. Act like it isn’t a big deal, and it shouldn’t be (avoid the temptation to lean over your textbook and ask, “Get tied up here often?”).
Then again, if she likes kissing you, she might end up “confused” about her relationship — which is the gateway drug to maybe ending it and seeing if there’s anything “legitimate” with you. If girlfriendpoaching is against your principles, you could say something to her — not in some big pronouncement-type way, but with an offhand remark: “Hey, if you ever ditch that boyfriend of yours, I’d love to take you out for dinner and a mugging.”
Swept Off Her Feed
Q: I’ve been dating a woman for three months, but told her that I don’t ever see getting serious with her. Initially, she seemed fine with keeping things casual, but lately, she’s been teasing me, asking how long we have to date before I change my Facebook relationship status from “single” to “in a relationship.” Hers says “single,” but I get the feeling that if I changed mine, she’d change hers pronto.
— Socially Networked
A: This friend of a friend of a friend “friended” me on Facebook. Okay, fine, I friended him back. A few days later, barely awake, I signed on Facebook to the announcement “Josh Fakename is in an open relationship.” Don’t know the guy, never met the guy, but at least I don’t have to wonder whether he’s having sex with multiple partners.
You’ve already informed your, uh, insignificant other of your relationship status. If your feelings are unlikely to change, gently make that known so she doesn’t hang around nursing false hope. While you’re at it, you might change your relationship status on Facebook to the default — not yet filled out. In the future, you can provide it on a need-to-know basis, like when the dinner party host wonders if there’s a plus-one, and when you’re ordering at Starbucks: “I’ll have a tall Americano and my life partner here will have a grande mocha with whip."
© 2010 Amy Alkon, all rights reserved.