Social etiquette is a total romance killer. Every day, millions of people pass millions more in the street. In true ‘Sliding Doors‘ style, just think of all of those ‘what if’ moments that lived for but a few seconds between each pairing of locked eyes. You know when it happens. One minute you’ll be trying to remember what it was you were meant to pick up from Sainsburys, the next, you’ll feel like looking into that stranger’s smiling eyes has made your tummy complete an Olympic-quality somersault. It happens on the tube, in the coffee shop, in the library. It happens everywhere. But the sad fact is, for some reason, social etiquette seems to dictate a set of rules which means that most of us feel terribly awkward to take chances on these glances. Fear of embarrassment or rejection means that we all live our lives as complete gutless sissies that have to live out our most romantic fantasies through Hollywood story lines.
I am just as guilty as anyone. Many years of bar-keeping has, in the past, even gifted me plenty of opportunities to talk to strangers that might take my fancy. I have vivid memories of practically elbowing colleagues aside to rush to the customer of my choice, presenting the most charming smile I could muster and embarking on some flirt-laced chit chat. Yet still I found myself always ending up ‘playing the game’. Even if my ulterior motive-driven customer service managed to induce a lengthy conversation, great eye contact and ‘I clearly fancy you’ laughter, I could never bring myself to do the obvious.
“Can I give you my number?”
“Are you on Facebook?”
“Will you marry me?”
Maybe that last one is best avoided but… still. Instead of doing the most adult and potentially rewarding thing of telling pride to close its eyes for a minute, social etiquette once again dashed my chances for a date. You end up going home and sitting in your jim jams, conducting a futile search on every social network you can think of like some kind of amnesiac stalker-creep. “I think he said his name’s Steve? Four million results. Better get cracking.”
Despite the limitations of single-name searches, you’d be surprised at the amount of people that turn to the internet on the off-chance they might find that person they shared that moment of mutual attraction with. One of my favourite, and perhaps most pathetic pastimes is looking through the ‘Missed Connections’ section of Craigslist. What can I say, I need to start learning to play badminton or knit or something. Anyway, as you intrepidly attempt to avoid hideous misplaced ads for ‘NSA Fun’ (be careful, one wrong click could put you off sex for life) you can find some seriously cute posts. Those suffering from the heavy burden of hindsight take sanctuary in the warmly forgiving embrace of cyberspace and allow themselves to confess those feelings we’ve all felt:
‘You were working at the till on the ground floor, covering for a colleague who was giftwrapping some books for me downstairs. I sat in the chair near you. I wanted to say hi, but it never quite happened. ‘
‘I was watching movie clips, you were flicking through books. I wanted to tell you that you’re a total cutie but got shy.’
‘This is a long shot, but I saw you as I was getting off the 390 bus in Gower Street at around 9:30, I smiled and you returned the most wonderful genuine smile I’ve ever seen.’
Breaks your heart doesn’t it? Of course, I’m desperately hoping I might stumble across a title that reads ‘Breathtakingly gorgeous tattooed redhead who made me swoon on the tube’. I’ve not found it yet. But maybe we should learn something from this. The next time you feel that connection, take a chance. What’s the worst that could happen? I think we should all start thinking that maybe a hundred “No, sorry, I’ve got a girlfriend,” responses would be better than missing out on that one “Sure, are you free this weekend?” Let’s give it a go!