Youthful Folly

For the past six months, I’ve been certain—certain!—that a girl at the gym was in love with me. And when I say “girl,” I mean girl. She’s in her late 20s.

Generally, I’m attracted to older, matronly types, because I’m determined to be the eternal ingenue. But these days, I’ll take what I can get.

Why did I think she was in love with me?

Because she kept staring at me with a certain hostility that I interpreted as sexual hunger. And she kept walking past me in the gym for no apparent reason!

At first, I paid no attention to her. She was just one of the many cute kids who lingered in the locker room postworkout, applying lip gloss, and merrily discussing the typical woes of their age: landlord problems, boys who forget to phone, hangovers, and whether bridesmaids have the right—no! the duty—to tell the bride her wedding color scheme is all wrong.

I don’t socialize when I’m at the gym. I work out, tidy up, and get the hell out of there. So, for a long time, I ignored the kids in my locker aisle, and refused to engage in their giddy small talk—until, as mentioned above, I noticed the cute girl staring at me.

She has one of those cool, cruel, unwavering stares that usually signals a cool, cruel, unwavering soul. In other words, just my type.

So, I started looking back. While she certainly appeared straight, her clothes suggested a different story. Unlike her compatriots, she didn’t wear girly fashions. Instead, she favored loafers and slacks made from the type of pragmatic fabrics only a young dyke would love.

“I think a girl at the gym is in love with me,” I told my friend, Stacy.

“You think everyone is in love with you,” she said wearily. “What facts do you have to support your claim?”

And she was right. I do think everyone is in love with me (in spite of lots of evidence to the contrary)!

“Well,” I said, warming to the subject. “I’m the only person in our locker aisle she’s not friendly to. She seems to be deliberately ignoring me.”

Stacy, who is just as attracted to willful ambivalence as I am, said, “Sounds promising. What are you going to do about it?”

“I’m going to ignore her back,” I said, triumphantly.

“Brilliant!” Stacy said.

And she wasn’t being sarcastic. Age has its benefits. Stacy and I have learned over the years from much trial-and-error that the surefire way to get someone’s attention is to act like you don’t like her.

So, that’s exactly what I did. And it worked. I moved my locker to a different aisle. I staggered my workout times to throw her off balance. As a result, she began to circle closer to me.

Each time I’d catch her gazing at me in helpless confusion, I quietly would congratulate myself that I finally had learned how to play the game. I was in control of a romantic situation at last. But soon, I grew too confident, and overplayed my hand.

One morning, when I was feeling particularly cheeky, I decided to say something to her when I caught her looking at me in the locker room mirror. “Hi,” I said, reverting to playful, puppy-dog type. Her gaze hardened, and she quickly turned away from me.

I smiled at my own stupidity, but I knew the game hadn’t ended. She may have youth, but I have experience. And my experience tells me that eventually, I’ll win.

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