I hesitate to call it power because it felt so absolutely different than these types of exchanges I’ve had in the past. First, the furtive longing, then the pleading to quiet it, or let it be something more. This wasn’t that.
I asked my husband for clearance to flirt with my work crush. “You want to flirt?” he asked. He thought it was probably something I could do without asking. “Isn’t that something you could just do on your own, without me? As long as it didn’t get too serious?” I mean, yeah. I could. But there was something about that. I didn’t want to be the one to know about it and then have the other person know, and then have my husband not know, or be the third to know. Fourth including my friend Adrian. So. Can I flirt?
We talked about what a good boundary could be. It couldn’t get physical, or at least not physical in the sense that would be beyond platonic. Nothing I wouldn’t do with a friend.
That’s a terrible guideline, now that I think about it. I’ve been known to do all kinds of things with my friends. So I asked if I could flirt and he said, “Sure, I guess. I definitely don’t want to know details.” He did say one thing that I guess should have given me pause. “I hope this isn’t one of those moments though, where you look back and say, ‘That’s when it started to change, that moment that we didn’t think mattered.'”
It did give me pause, actually. But then I thought, no, I trust myself. And I trust Ryder to speak up. I also, for some strange reason, trusted the person of my affections to also conduct themselves with integrity in this exchange. “Does it bother you?” I asked.
“Not really,” he said. But he seemed pensive after that. I probably was leaning on him in some way to say yes to it. I really wanted to flirt with them.
I then asked the person of my affections if I could flirt with them as well, even if it didn’t lead anywhere. “Yes,” they said, smiling, before I could even finish my sentence. “I like this attention.” We had come out of a department meeting. The department coordinators had tried something new to get us jazzed about being there — had arranged all the tables in a giant square, which isn’t quite a circle of course. I told Adrian, “I’m gonna sit across from eye candy over there.” She laughed. Later, she texted: Right across.
I always have liked restraint. Not necessarily the physical kind (although that has its appeal), but the kind where you have to respect a certain kind of boundary. In this case, a professional one. The meeting droned on and I began texting them, just a little at first, then more., They smiled a certain kind of way when I did that and I guess it just escalated from there. I wanted the smile, and they wanted the text. Even though she was sitting next to me, Adrian texted me too. “Oh how about when you told me that you don’t ogle people, you prefer to just get to know someone and aren’t all hot and bothered by them, huh? Where’s that Erika now, I ask you?” I pushed her with my arm. Shh.
I don’t think I was actually ogling but there was definitely something going on for me hormone-wise. Another good friend of mine said that the idea of not getting physical seemed false to begin with. “Won’t you get physical within yourself? Just from getting horny about the whole thing?
“Plus,” she added, “what would be the point?”
It was an experiment. This was just one more crush in a small procession of recent intense crushes, although this was the most intense one yet. What would happen if I just named it and tried to be responsible about it and see what unfolded?
It was a pretty exciting two days, in fact. It felt like a world opening up, learning their quirks, their views, their boundaries, their stories. I live for that shit. The flirting was direct and kind of courteous in a way, never sliding into full-on sex talk, although I did share some smut I wrote at my writing group. It was mainly just banter and interest in one another.
They sent me a pic of their new haircut, at my request, and I guess that’s when things got physical. My body had the most remarkable reaction to seeing this picture. It was a mixture of exhilaration and pounding. I wondered if I would orgasm on the spot. I felt like I understood something then about men and why they act like such idiots. Flame emoji heart eyes emoji flame emoji heart eyes emoji. OMG.
I don’t know if it was something I said, or if my husband just sensed the distraction and baseline of heady lust I was feeling, but he said the following day that he would prefer I didn’t pursue the flirtation any further and that I put an end to it. He didn’t feel like it was right for him to ask me to stop, but he admitted that it did bother him. “Even though I think it doesn’t matter, I think it does matter to me,” he said. “And I think there must be some way I’m coming up short if you’re wanting to get attention elsewhere in that way.” He wasn’t totally wrong, in fact. Through no fault of either of us, the marriage had become somewhat domestic. We talked about this at great length, and it was a difficult conversation for both of us. We agreed that marriage counseling would be a good thing to commit to, as well as brainstorming ways to connect to bring a more vibrant energy into our relationship again, whatever form that may be.
When I told the person of my affections that the party was over, they handled it thoughtfully and with grace, and I was not surprised by this whatsoever. They expressed disappointment and respect for my decision and we moved on. Now if that isn’t crushworthy, I don’t know what is.
Later on our evening walk, we talked about our daughter, who has a crush but won’t say who. This isn’t unusual at all, she is notoriously private about these matters, at least with us. “She never wants to talk about her crushes,” I complained. He turned and smiled. “Maybe that’s a good trait,” he said.
“Hey do you mind if I blog about all this,” I said, half-joking.
“Sure,” he said. “I like it when you write, even if I don’t read it.”
“Really? I might be really honest,” I said.
“I know it,” he said.
I texted my friend Adrian. “Hubs put the kabosh on my flirtation with SW, damn patriarchy,” I said.
“Oh well, I guess no more one-0n-one lunches,” she said.
“Whatever,” I said. “That was only one time.”
I didn’t tell her about the selfie or any of the other exchanges. I figured the whole thing would probably just rebalance itself over the next few days so why bother.
I put the hot selfie in the pic section of their contact info. It was much smaller and just seemed like a normal picture, with the distance. I thought about adding flame emojis by their name but then thought, no. No need to add anything extra.