Before I got married, I got “hit on” (such a weird term) by men at a fairly normal rate. Not every second, but not never. I honestly think at least a little bit of attention follows every single woman out there– it’s just a matter of how you interpret said attention. No matter who she is, if a woman puts herself in enough social situations, she’s going to interact with a random guy. Some girls say, “Oh he was just being nice,” if a guy strikes up conversation. Other say, “He was totally trying to flirt with me.” Either way, the same interaction transpires.

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I don’t like when people say that certain women get “hit on” more often than others, because I don’t think that’s entirely true. Traditional or socially popular “good looks” have almost nothing to do with a man approaching a woman, because men rarely see a gorgeous girl and say, “I’m going to go talk to her.” Usually, we– men and women alike– end up talking to whomever is standing close by or happens to bump into us on the way to the bathroom.

Occasionally, I’d have a guy go out of his way to ask me out, like handing me a business card on the NYC subway, or approaching me out of the blue in Harris Teeter, but those times were rare. Who knows? Maybe it was only rare because I tend to look homeless when I go to Harris Teeter, so girls who actually look functional might get approached more often than I did. Even still, I don’t think the majority of men in this world have the gumption to make advances on women out of nowhere, even though that’s what movies tell us happens all the time.

Now that I’m married, I’ve certainly noticed a difference in how men interact with me– which is a good thing. I’d have serious concerns about society if they didn’t. Actually, I already do have serious concerns about society, so at least this is one area that doesn’t add to the pile. Men definitely don’t strike up conversations with me as regularly, and the ones who do generally back off quickly once they catch a glimpse of the ring.

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Some are subtle about retreating after realizing I’m not available, while others have exclaimed, “Wait!! You’re married?? Ugh.” To which I respond, “Yes…I don’t think I did anything to make you think I’m not, other than sitting here, eating my loaded cheese fries (should’ve been the first red flag– no single girls eat at bars), and talking to you about why peanut allergies seem to be a much bigger issue in this day and age.” Maybe he should’ve checked my finger. Or maybe he should have listened to me talk a little more closely, because I tend to say “my husband” in every other sentence. Oh, well. Quite a few times, I’ve ended up playing wing woman for these guys the rest of the night, which is a whole new level of fun on the rare occasion I find myself in a bar with friends who aren’t by my side the entire night. But those are stories for another time.

Yesterday, I had a particularly interesting experience at a Starbucks. The whole thing happened as I was packing up my computer bag to go grab lunch after realizing I hadn’t written a single word in 45 minutes because instead I was scrolling through the “foooodieee” feed on Instagram (seriously, go look up that handle, and thank me later). Here’s a sneak peak of what you’ll see in your Insta feed, which is 10000x better than seeing selfies or Kylie Jenner’s latest train wreck of a photoshoot:

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Anyway, clearly I was not in the headspace to expect any interaction with strangers, as I was deep into my thoughts on food, and what I should order once I arrived at Chipotle. Chicken or sofritas? Guac or no guac? Spicy salsa or plain salsa? All of it?

All of a sudden, there was a human standing right in front of me, attempting to break me out of the glazed look I must’ve had on my face.

Him: “Excuse me. Excuse me. Um hello?”

Me: “Oh, hi, uh, yes?”

Him: “I’m heading out to grab some lunch, and I was wondering if you wanted to come with me.”

Me internally: Where am I. Why is this happening. Visions of decadent food dancing in my head. (Why did I just reference The Nutcracker?)

Me outloud: “Sorry, I’m married” while flashing my ring and half smiling apologetically.

Him: “Ah, yes, I guess that would be weird.”

Me: “Haha…yeah…”

As my husband would say… Still got it! Actually, no, this was more alarming than funny. I couldn’t help but think that this guy was kind of an idiot for not looking at my left hand the whole time he was apparently staring at me as I scrolled through “foooodieee” Instagram. And if he had seen the ring, what did he think would happen? Did he think he had a shot? All of it was just really weird, but I was too hungry to think much of it at the time.

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A few meals later, that little episode got me thinking about how uncomfortable it is to be shown attention once you’re married. I know a few girls either at work or in the outer circles of our friend group who’ve had little crushes on my husband, and he and I both think it’s kind of funny. We also think it’s funny when guys hit on me. But ultimately, both of us feel a tad guilty at the thought of other people finding us attractive, because neither of us want to give off any sort of vibe that we’re available on any level. Maybe guilt is extreme, but that’s just how seriously both of us take our monogamy. (Not saying every couple needs to be this way– just speaking from our personal perspectives and choices!)

In situations like this awkward one at Starbucks, there’s not much I can do except say exactly what I did– “Sorry, I’m married.” But in social situations where we have conversations with these people, it’s extremely important that as married people, we never even get close to the line of flirtation. Some people say flirting isn’t cheating, but Aaron and I are not those people. Giving any sort of attention to someone of the opposite sex is a big no-no in our Relationship Rule Book.

I have to be extra careful that my behavior isn’t taken the wrong way, as does Aaron, since we’re both outgoing people who often treat everyone we meet like we’re new best friends. I remember being my friendly self one night at the bar that my friend owns, and realized later in the evening that my behavior could’ve been seen as flirtatious from an outsider’s perspective. Even though I made it clear to the people I was chatting with that I was married, I still went home feeling like I could’ve done a better job being completely above reproach. No one ever said anything to me– and I even asked my friend (the bar owner) if I did anything wrong, and she assured me I didn’t. But still, I just knew in my heart that I needed to carry myself differently from then on out. That learning curve is pretty high in your first few months of marriage, especially when your husband gets deployed right after you say “I do.”

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At the same time, we don’t want to be stand-offish just because we’re married. I think both of us know how to carry on conversations without giving the wrong impression, and that’s incredibly important. It’s our responsibility as married people to control the way other people view our behavior, and to make sure they never take it as an invitation to be flirtatious. Flirting is a two way street, so there’s rarely an occasion where you can completely “blame it” on the other person.

Respecting your marriage by not inviting other men (or women) to come onto you is easily lost in a world where we so easily use our bodies and looks as confidence. When I get dressed up these days, I want to look sexy for my husband, but I also don’t want other guys to look at me**…so what do I do? Almost always, I air on the side of conservative, and save the sexy looks for when we’re alone or in a more private-ish public setting.

**I understand the recent argument all over the media that women shouldn’t have to worry about men looking at them in a sexual manner, but I’m also not going to pretend like it doesn’t happen or wear clothes that perpetuate it. And yes, I know the particularly gross dudes will be inappropriate even if you’re wearing a paper bag, but dressing conservatively is simply my decision. You feel free to handle your wardrobe however you see fit.

Now, I’m not one of those people who thinks women shouldn’t care at all about their appearance. Even though men and women alike should be drawn to what’s on the inside, physical attraction is undeniably important in relationships. It really is. Thus, when you’re single, it’s fun to present yourself in a way that makes you the most approachable. (This has pretty much nothing to do with clothing, and everything to do with demeanor. Keep that in mind, ladies.) On the flip side, this means that once you’re married, the way in which you present yourself needs to change a bit. No longer are you putting yourself forward in a manner to attract a mate. Been there, done that.

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In my opinion, we can’t put any sort of weight on knowing that we’ve “Still got it!” once we’re married, because that’s a sign that you care if other people besides your husband find you attractive. It’s a fun phrase to sarcastically say, but it really shouldn’t be a big deal if anyone else thinks you’re hot.

I am most certainly not saying that caring about your appearance should go out the door once you’re married, for the record. Rather, the motivation behind displaying your most attractive self should change out of respect and loyalty for your spouse. Instead of hoping that your demeanor helps entice a mate, you should want it to be a way you connect with the mate you’ve already found. That’s a pretty significant mindset shift. To put it bluntly, why would you need validation in the form of “likes” on a picture of you in a bikini, or how many men still approach you at bars, once you’re married? (Or before you’re married, for that matter…but you know what I mean.) All confidence-boosters in the sex appeal, intelligence appeal, or personality appeal departments should be coming from your husband. And if they’re not, then that’s a pretty big fish you need to fry.

I like to dress up. I like to feel pretty. I like to meet new people. However, I like my husband more than I like all of that, and always do my best to ensure that none of those things get in the way of respecting my marriage. Still, I’m not above falling into the trap of saying “Still got it!” I mean, yes, it’s pretty funny to say those three little words. But, if you’re married, take a good look at your heart and make sure that you don’t legitimately find any pleasure or validation from the attention of others. And make sure you’re not presenting yourself in a way that asks for it, because that’s a dangerous line to walk.

To end on a not-so-serious note, however, I will say this about being married: Flirting with your husband is still really fun. I love joking around with Aaron over dinner, or partaking flirtatious banter with him when we’re out with friends. No need to get rusty on your game! Even if that game is directed at one person for the rest of your life. Hey, you gotta keep the spark alive!

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