I’m no good at flirting. I just haven’t had much practice. There were times in my life when I would have liked to, but the opportunity rarely arose; I seem to give off a “don’t come near me” vibe. The year in Benares, when my female teammates were abundantly grabbed and “eve-teased” by Indian men on the street, no one ever came near me, and few even said a word. I think I scared them off (for one thing, I’m larger than many men in Benares).
So men never approach me, and it’s usually been up to me to make the first move. Which is usually a miserable failure, because most guys don’t like that, either.
There is an exception to the rule, however: when I’m feeling horrible, whether for physical or emotional reasons, that’s when men suddenly get interested. I suppose I look more vulnerable, and therefore approachable. In Washington once, in the deep of winter, I had a bad cold and was freezing my butt off on an outdoor subway platform. That’s when a guy came over to chat me up. Another time, riding home on the bus, I was immersed in my own thoughts, and ill as well. As the bus pulled to a stop, a guy brushed past me, murmured, “I think you dropped this,” and handed me a note. I was so befuddled that I barely even saw him, but I was pretty sure I’d never seen this piece of paper. I opened it up, and it read: “Roses are red, violets are blue, you’re beautiful and I’m in love.” With his phone number. It was touching, but I was already taken.