Saturday, December 1, 2012

Why I need a fake boyfriend

This really just happened.

As I stepped out my door to head to the University of Mobile's Christmas Spectacular concert, I nearly stumbled over an unexpected crowd at my doorstep. I share my open-air landing with three other apartments, and sometimes my neighbors across the way will sit on the landing or its steps to smoke. The people sitting outside the door tonight were not my neighbors, but were (I think) friends or relatives who had come over to watch the Alabama game. I found a woman in her fifties or sixties, an infant, and two men about my age, both shirtless (in December?!).  I said, "Hello," and this is how the conversation proceeded:

Woman: "Well we were just admiring the flowers you have out here in pots -- and the rocking chair. That makes it all real homey. And you are gorgeous!"

Me: "Oh, thank you. I especially like keeping the rosemary because--"

Woman: [interrupting me] "Are you single?"

Me: "Yes."

Woman: "Well, hey, these are my boys here.  That's Cody--"

Cody: "Hey."

Woman: "--and that's Jessie."

Jessie: "Hey."

Woman: "Baby, you are just gorgeous! What do you do?"

Me: "I'm an English professor down the road at the University of Mobile. Actually, I need to be on my way -- I'm headed to a concert to see some of my students perform."

Woman: "Well stay safe! You really are gorgeous! Bye-bye, baby!"

Cody: "You be safe out there."

Me: "Umm, okay! Nice to meet y'all."

I could still hear them talking as I headed down the three flights of stairs toward my car. Just before I reached the ground floor, I heard the woman say, "Well Cody, why didn't you talk to her?" Cody responded, "I tried, Mama, but she ran off!"

As my Mississippi-mother has often reminded me, people in the deep South are "in your business" to an extent they are not in Indiana or even Texas. As I've discussed before, I don't take offense at questions about whether or not I am single, but  I'm never sure how to answer the question graciously, particularly when the ambitious mama of two shirtless men is the one asking.

When total strangers ask about my love life, am I allowed to lie and say I'm dating or, more securely, that I'm already bound to an arranged marriage? At least then I wouldn't find myself tongue-tied and bashful outside my own door!

Have you ever been in a situation such as this? How do you (or how should I) answer the question, "Are you single?"


  1. The other bethany :DDecember 1, 2012 at 10:49 PM

    Are we talking in general? I used to talk about a fake boyfriend when i was in high school or when strange guys would unsuccessfuly try to get a feel for my love life.

    While lying is of course wrong, i think its okay to use a fake boyfriend when you need one. Most normal guys wont inquire further unless they are sherlock holmes or psycho.

    Mine was named Scooter. That name always works

    1. I'm not sure I could say I'm dating "Scooter" with a straight face -- but I'll hold him in reserve if my situation looks dire :-)

  2. Can you just accept the compliment, then act as though they're joking (which they will be, if it saves face) through the rest of the awkward, forced conversation? Maybe it's just my personality, but the only way I've ever found a comfortable middle in such situations is through making the jest still broader.

    And Mama was probably trying to send Budding Young Man #1 a message along the lines of "See, why don't you go after nice girls like that?" in her crude way (the answers likely have to do with the lounging, shirtlessness, smoking, and possibly football). Which is, in its most backward manner, an awkward compliment of a still better sort than "You're pretty!"

    ...and Oh! the dilemmas of talking with the neighbors in apartments. :-)

    1. That is how I hope I handled it, Peter. I wasn't actually concerned about getting roped into a date: the balance for me is accepting the compliment while still remaining firm, all without seeming snobby or mean. Honestly, I wouldn't trade last night's conversation -- strange as it was, it makes such a good story that I wouldn't exchange it for a less interesting encounter :-)

  3. Feel free to use an old Army picture of me if you like. That should scare of undesirable southern suitors.

  4. You should do what my old college roommate used to do when she worked in a healthcare job with lots of men: buy a fake engagement ring and wear it! Seriously, it works!!!

  5. When I lived in Uganda, I got everything from offers for a hotel visit to marriage proposals on a weekly basis. After a while I got so tired of it that I started telling them I had a boyfriend named Steve. Funny thing. A year later I did have a boyfriend named Steve.

  6. I always just flashed a silver ring I wore on the ring finger of my left hand, smiled graciously, said, "Oh, I'm terribly sorry, but I'm not available. Thank you though." Then you can walk on, or ask them an irrelevant question to change the topic. :) By the way, I love keeping up with your blog - if you're ever in need of a resting place on your way home, you always have a home in Louisville! LYLAS, Megan :)

    1. Thank you, dearheart! "Not available" is a very nice option -- and not a lie -- when I'm dealing with people I don't know. I'm honored that you keep up with the blog. I do hope that I'll have a chance to stop through Louisville one day. The last time I was there you were still pregnant with Joe!

  7. That encounter puts me in mind of the scene in Much Ado about Nothing in which Don Pedro asks Beatrice, seemingly off the cuff, if she would consider marrying him. "Why no," she replies, "not unless I might have another for working days. Your grace is too costly to wear every day." A compliment, a joke, and a refusal all in one. I'm sure you could pull off something similar.

    No help whatsoever,

    Steve S.

    1. I might not be able to match Beatrice's wit on the spot, but perhaps simply switching to Elizabethan English would do the trick. If someone could actually continue conversing with me in the same style, I would know he at least had potential.

  8. When our daughter Katherine was in high school, she worked at a (fairly upscale) restaurant in downtown Charleston, SC. At 5'10", blonde, and beautiful, she received similar and equally unwanted comments.

    Her favorite response was to describe her equally blonde, blue-eyed boyfriend Zach. She simply left out the fact that he was four years old.