In the universe of post-divorce dating, or any dating for that matter, confused signals can occur — all sorts of misfires and miscommunications.
Take Aurora's case, for example. When her date signed a very early e-mail with an effusive "I adore you!" it gave her pause, and a mild case of indigestion. "I don't know," she wrote to her friends, "Would that be a red flag for you? It seems a little... enthusiastic."
People do tend to get a bit carried away when topics like "Is this guy an insane stalker or just kind of a dork?" come up, and nobody wants to stand by while a friend wanders into a potentially dangerous (or even a run-of-the-mill unpleasant) situation, so there was, of course, a chorus of "No no no!" and, "Drop that guy!" and,"Red flag! Red flag!" along with the more reasoned "He sounds a little too interested, doesn't he?" type of comments.
A few weeks later, though, Aurora was still dating him, so one had to ask. "Oh, it was no big deal," she wrote, "His one great flaw so far is that he just really likes me. Also, I think we have different standards for the word ‘adore.' I pretty much only adore God. He adores streaky bacon (he's English), the TV show "Coupling," and early Depeche Mode."
Good on her, then, for taking a deep breath and giving herself permission to ignore that particular red flag. Maybe we ought to ignore them more often. Of course I'm not talking about the kind of chills-producing "uh-oh" flags that personal security expert Gavin de Becker talks about in his popular book The Gift of Fear, when he tells you (especially the female "you") over and over to follow your instincts, and if you think there's something wrong there probably is.
No, we're talking about the silly things, teensy irritants that are more on the order of an itchy errant clothing tag than a proper "danger! danger!" flag, yet are often enough to make us back out of a potentially enjoyable dating situation. Something about the dude just doesn't match our concept of "perfect for me," like Aurora's guy's choice of the purplish "adore" over a more buttoned-down "I like you very much."
There's a huge difference between the way our friend Marisa's dangerous, unstable ex-husband waved a giant blood-red flag in her face early on ("He gave me a ring after we had been together two months, and said, ‘That'll keep the wolves at bay.' He should have just peed on me," says Marisa.) and the way Lorraine's date showed himself to be a total goofball when they'd only known each other a few weeks:
"When we'd gone out three or four times, he gave me a picture one of his musician-roommates had taken of him, naked and holding up his guitar to camouflage the unmentionables. What the hell? Why is your male roommate taking naked pictures of you? Why did you give this to me? Am I supposed to think this is sexy or something? " Lorraine still can't think of the picture without laughing at, not with her now-husband, but it was obviously all to the best that she decided, at the time, to let it go. And there's Bonnie, who when I asked about "red flags" said, "Oh, Jack couldn't stand his mother, and that was sort of a red flag for me. Then I met her."
Everyone loves a mother-in-law story, so I would have ended this there, but I'm saving Minna's red-flag incident for last, since it's indisputably the best. She was going through a rough divorce when she met the guy in question (so, as it happens, was he) but no matter how she's feeling she's always vivacious and well turned-out, not to mention having the kind of figure that makes normal guys talk like hard-boiled L.A. detectives: "She had more curves than the Pacific Coast Highway and was twice as fast," that kind of thing. That's no excuse, though, for what he said to her the night they met: "I will be honest: I'm warm for your form."
He really said that. And they're getting married anyway.
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