‘Is he straight?’ asked my daughter.
I replied in the affirmative. ‘Well, lose the kisses.’
I was messaging a photographer with whom I have a friendly but totally professional relationship, so I wasn’t worried about being misconstrued. But my daughter did get me thinking. Does my new status as a divorcée mean I need to reassess how I interact with the opposite sex?
I’ve always been liberal with digital kisses, using them to signal friendship (and, OK, sometimes deploying them to smooth the asking of a favour or decelerate the tension of a negotiation). And I have always assumed that men have received them in the manner in which they were sent. Platonic.
But maybe I am being naive. As an unmarried woman, are my actions opening me up to misinterpretation from those with a Y chromosome?
I decided to do a straw poll of my male friends and a significant number of them responded by saying kisses on a text or WhatsApp would make them think ‘she’s into me’. And that this would be exacerbated if the sender was not betrothed. Whaaaat?
In my mind I know a) I’m not after them and b) I’m not available, but I guess that’s not immediately obvious to the outside world.
With regards to the latter, I call myself Ms. I live by myself (with the kids/anxiously attached dog/elderly guinea pig/granny next door) and I don’t have a wedding ring on my finger ‒ so maybe that screams ‘up for it’ to them?
I don’t think I look or behave any differently, but I have noticed that since the end of my marriage some men are different around me. I’m not sure how strangers know that I’m divorced ‒ I don’t have it stamped on my forehead. But maybe I give off a certain vibe because I am definitely propositioned more.
I have had notes with phone numbers left on my car windscreen. In a bar, I’ve had drinks sent over to my table.
Once, at a ski resort, a guy got on my bus in the opposite direction to where his mates were going, just to ask me out. Something that never happened when I was married.
And of the men I’ve known for ages ‒ are they the same around me? Mostly. But some area bit edgy. Nervous. Perhaps worried I’m going to jump them when their other halves aren’t looking.
Some are more flirtatious. And that crackle of danger means I always make sure to ask very directly about their wives and families.
There’s alsoa change in some of the womenI know. Not close friends, obviously. But I’ve noticed that some will cut through a crowd at a party in seconds if I’m chatting to their husbands.
The truth is I’ve always been tactile, huggy and knee-squeezy, but I do think my unmarried status means I need to dial it down a bit.
I understand that it can look to the outside world like I’m an electron without a proton, considered a danger. And I don’t want to get sent to social Siberia because my married friends think I’m making a play for their partners.
My mother told me that in previous generations, divorcées like herself were often excluded from some social circles because of the threat they posed (well, that and the fact they messed up the symmetry of the seating plan).
I haven’t experienced anything like that, but I am going to tone down the hugs and be more selective about who gets my kisses.
I think this will please my boyfriend, who is a bit bemused by my indiscriminate ‘xxx’ use. He’s pretty reserved with his kisses. In his profession they are a total no-go in emails. An HR disaster.
And socially? It took six weeks of dating to get one in a message from him, and that was only after a wine-fuelled night out with the boys. It was another month of going out until they came as standard.
So, yes, I’m going to reappraise who I ‘kiss’. Be more discerning.
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