Stories are texts written by people that are not necessarily coming from sexological or related disciplines. Those texts present emotions and perceptions and are thus highly subjective. Opinions expressed in stories only engage their authors and in no way represent the positions of the organization.
☛ Ce témoignage est aussi disponible en français [➦].
Translated by Chloé Sautter-Léger
Sitting alone on an overly high stool. Scrolling down my Facebook feed almost mechanically.
I hear somebody walk up.
Twenty minutes earlier, when I had walked in alone, I had noticed the almost-subtle, slightly insistent look of the man in the back of the room.
I had smiled politely and turned away.
As he approaches now, I can’t help but think, Did my smile give the impression that I was available? Did being polite look like I was flirting? Was my subsequent shying away interpreted as an invitation to take initiative?
I have no interest in this guy.
He arrives, smiles, and sits down.
A tornado of social codes erupts inside my head. I say hi and turn away to look back at my screen. Agitating my fingers more quickly to make him think I am busy. Stay polite, but show that you’re not open.
“We had a history class together—do you remember?” he says.
I do remember, a little.
We speak for a while.
The conversation is interesting. I am only half attentive. I calculate each word I say. Constant fear that I might send a signal that will be interpreted the wrong way. Stay polite, but show that you’re not open.
After 15 minutes, he asks if I’d like to have a beer sometime this week.
“I have a boyfriend, sorry,” I blurt out.
“Ah, ok. Have a nice day then!” he says.
I can’t count how many times I used that sentence between the time I was 16 and 26 years old.
But why so often?
Why is that the go-to concluding sentence?
Do I have nothing else to offer than a potential intimate relationship, and that’s the only reason somebody can be interested in me?
Oh how terrible it would be to not “announce” my relationship status from the beginning, risking that someone might “lose their time” in a “useless” relationship?
My rejection is not explained by a lack of interest on my part, but rather by the rigid terms of my monogamous relationship, that “forbids” me to develop other relations?
It is the only acceptable reason for the guy not to insist?
When I was 16, with a late and unexpected puberty in bloom, I was accused, multiple times, of being “agace” (a term that fortunately seems to be less popular these days). My—previously unequivocal—intergender relationships suddenly became ominous as I transformed into a possible object of desire.
Young boys who had been my friends suddenly confessed their love to me. To their surprise, I declined. Apparently, through play and authentic affection, I was sending signals.
And this meant I was agace: a frivolous young girl having fun manipulating poor boys with lustful love.
This label appalled me. Since I was single, I would avoid all possible ambiguous relationships. I felt the need to bend over backwards to clarify my friendships with the opposite sex, and this left me constantly nervous.
I was cold and distant. People called me intimidating.
I didn’t want people to get close, afraid that I could change my mind and once again be labeled as agace. To be on the safe side, I “chose” my partners, making sure to always be the one from whom the initiative came in all relationships. Sometimes, I would lie, “I have a boyfriend, sorry.”
When I was in a relationship, I would overuse this classic sentence. Dating someone was like the ultimate protection.
At 26, I stopped using that excuse. The very action of using this benign sentence had a meaning that profoundly opposed my desire of agency. I was allowed to be more than a prospect, I was allowed to be a full-fledged person worthy of anyone’s interest.
Also, there are people from the opposite sex who can genuinely be interested in developing relationships other than romantic and sexual. To assume otherwise is insulting for these people.
However, even now, at 30 years old, I must seriously struggle to avoid uttering this excuse. It is too simple, too effective, too protective.
Each time I have a conversation with a man outside my circle and I don’t expose my status, I still grapple with guilt.
What if he believes there is a possibility...?
Maybe he thinks that not announcing my relationship situation is a sign of openness?
Am I agace?
Well, so be it.
If, one day, the only reason keeping me from pursuing a relationship is the fact that I have a boyfriend, then I will use that sentence.
But if that day comes, I will have to ask myself serious questions about the quality of my relationship and the motivations I have to remain in it.
*In our highly heteronormative society, this text describes exchanges with heterosexual men, since the author never experienced this situation and these feelings with people of other sexual orientations.