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