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Footsiegate

Today I want to tell you a story about flirting. About a married woman who put herself out there, who dipped in her toe to test the erotic temperature of a man married to another. But first and foremost, it’s a story about the other woman, the one married to the man.


I am that second woman.



In this week’s essay I want to share a recent flirtatious encounter PM had with a girlfriend of mine, along with all the irksome thoughts and feelings that I experienced as a result. It will ultimately take me several essays to work through all my musings and theories on married cishet men and women and the topic of flirtation. And spoiler alert: I’m generally aggravated with all parties, myself included.



I hope you enjoy this first installment and that I leave you wanting more. An alternate title of this first piece could have been, “He’s getting flirted with and I’m not, and I’m friggin’ annoyed.”



Let’s dive in, shall we?


As I’ve said in past essays, in my mind, to flirt is both a statement and a question: I notice you. Do you notice me? And we attempt to communicate this in a variety of ways… with some of us being better at this language than others.



Sometimes it takes a third party to really read the vibes. And from where I was sitting — in several cases, literally — several lady friends have been testing the waters with PM. Unfortunately for them, he’s mostly clueless and for the most part wishes to remain happily so. But more on this topic of married men and their apathy toward flirting in my next installment.



I’ve dubbed one of PM’s recent, flirtatious incidents ‘Footsiegate,’ and I present it here so that you, dear reader, can make up your own mind whether this female friend was, in fact, erotically prodding PM (metaphorically and literally, in this particular case) or whether I’m making the proverbial mountain out of a foothill (née molehill).



A few weeks ago we made last minute plans to get drinks with another couple — let’s call them “Erin” and “Patrick” — who’s prior plans had fallen through and so, by happy accident, had a babysitter. Our kiddos had already planned to spend the night with the grandparents. And Voilà: impromptu double-date!



Before you start salivating — because, yes, this does sound like it could be the beginning of a salacious tale — sorry to disappoint but no orgy was had. Just plain old flirting. But I’m getting ahead of myself.



We met at a favorite, local watering hole and parked ourselves at the corner of the bar. PM sat down first, at a stool at one corner of the bar. “Erin,” immediately following him, took the other corner stool, diagonal to PM. Rather than take the seat right next to his wife, “Patrick” grabbed the stool one spot down from his wife. There wasn’t a seat available on the other side of PM, so I had a quick choice to make as I approached the bar. Do I slip onto the stool between husband and wife? Or do I try and finagle some other option?



The obvious choice, though not so obvious to socially-anxious-me at the time, would have been to be a big girl and just take the stool left between “Erin” and “Patrick.” In hindsight, this would have been the perfect opportunity for me to playfully engage a very handsome man. As for “Patrick,” leaving the stool between he and his wife free for me made total sense. He had made the kind choice — to make space for me to feel included instead of relegating me to a seat at the far end of the group.



But did I make the obvious choice to take the seat between the couple? No. No, I did not. *grimaces*




I pulled the seat out to make the necessary room for me to slip in — the stools all squeezed very close to one another along the bar — but at the last second decided that it would be easier if I moved the stool out and over to the corner. My friend scooted her stool over a little closer to her husband to make room, but I was essentially sticking out at the corner, between her and PM.



I know. I know. What is wrong with me? I’m embarrassed for myself even as I type this out. In what universe is moving a seat less awkward than taking the one available, even if it meant I had to shimmy in and wedge myself between a couple? *shakes head*



I find I don’t have a great answer as to why I felt too damn nervous to just sit in the seat left open for me. *shrugs* This seating arrangement would have had me squeezed next to an attractive man. Nothing wrong with that. And given that I’m always belly-aching about not having opportunities to flirt, it should have been a no-brainer. But psychoanalyzing my head-space in that moment will have to wait for another day. *crinkles nose in disgust*



So back to Footsiegate, because that’s what I’d rather talk about than my propensity to self-sabotage. *sighs*



Drinks were ordered. And despite my awkward seating choice, conversation over the course of the evening was light with lots of laughter. PM and I didn’t know this couple all that well, so there was lots to talk about. I had already ducked outside for a jay, and as we chatted and I relaxed more, I settled into my seat and pulled my legs up, crossing them on my stool. All the while, apparently a migration of foot and leg onto PM’s calf was happening under the cover of the bar top.


But not my foot. Not my leg.




To be clear, I remained completely oblivious to the foot activity in question while it was happening. I did take note, however, of how my female friend had positioned herself at the bar — “Erin” sat herself with her body angled toward PM, with her back toward her spouse. Even though we were there conversing as a group, her body language communicated something — at least to me — about the focus of her interest, even before I knew about the curious, traveling toes.



When we arrived home from the bar late that night, I admitted to PM that the seating situation at the bar had felt odd to me. Even though I had been sitting right there, I had felt I was more of a voyeur to the conversation taking place between him and “Erin” than a participant, especially given her physical orientation toward him. She had leaned on the bar toward PM all night, giving him her undivided attention and eye contact regardless of who else was speaking.


I point this out and sullenly confess to PM that I had wondered whether I should just change my seat and sit on the other side of “Patrick,” because he wasn’t really being included much in the conversation either. I wasn’t upset over it so much as I disliked feeling left out, I explain.



PM listens quietly as I describe the vibe I had gotten. Then he drops this little (shocking) detail:


Yeah, seating was a little odd. (pause)


And this weird thing happened… (another pause)


Somehow “Erin’s” leg ended up really far over on my side of the bar.


This caught me completely by surprise, and my eyebrows rise comically high on my forehead, “What?! Her leg was where?”


He continues in a straight-forward, deadpan manner, but I can tell he’s also a tiny bit nervous.


At some point I felt a foot run up my calf and then stay there. I didn’t think anything of it at first, because, honestly, I thought it was your foot. After a little while, I realized that your legs were up on your chair and that it was actually “Erin’s” foot. I made eye contact and smiled, and she smiled back. She moved her foot, and I assumed it was just an accident.


Me: “Okay. That’s a little odd. But could’ve been an accident..."


PM clears his throat before going on:

Then later, I felt her foot slide up my leg and rest there right below my knee. Actually, it might have been her ankle the second time… I ignored it and kept talking for a bit, until at some point I paused and made eye contact with her again. She pulled her leg away and apologized, but I smiled again and said, “It’s fine.” She didn’t do it again. I think it was probably just an accident.



Hmmm. An accident? Now I’m not so sure, and honestly, I’m not convinced PM believes himself either. In order for her foot to reach PM’s calf (his legs were facing the bar straight ahead of him), she had to reach her leg across the front of my stool and the corner of the bar.



I didn’t want to jump to conclusions, so, like any good detective, the next time I was at the same bar, I surveyed the scene. And while I admittedly did not use a tape measure — that would make me a lunatic, right? 😳 — “Erin’s” leg would have had to cross a distance of almost 2 feet at the corner of the bar, give or take, to reach his. That’s some serious leg extension, especially given the fact that she’s not a tall person.



I’ll put it another way. Had I been sitting in the same seat as “Erin,” I would not have been able to get my foot anywhere near my husband’s leg without an intentional reach. And according to PM’s description, this wasn’t a bump or two. This was a slide. And rest. Twice.



I have a hard time believing this was incidental contact. In a culture where vulva-owners are programmed to take up less space, to be mindful of our bodies in relation to others, we just tend to be more aware (and careful) of the physical space we take up.



I remember taking a Women’s Studies course in college where we discussed the ways we sit in a shared public space, like on a bus or airplane or on a park bench. Those of us who identified as women talked about keeping our legs together and our arms and elbows pressed close to our bodies. If we were to read a newspaper on that bus or bench, we would fold it  over so as to remain small, always careful not to take up too much space or to infringe on the space of others. (I’ll let you consider for yourselves the contrast of how cishet men operate in the same shared spaces — knees open wide, elbows on armrests or arms stretched across backs of benches, a newspaper spread. They are culturally-groomed to make themselves comfortable, to take up more space, even when in close proximity to others. But I digress.)



As I ponder how I orient my body in shared spaces, I do think I’m careful. Especially in proximity to men. Of course, part of this social dynamic involves what vulva-owners have been taught is appropriate, safe behavior around penis-owners, ever mindful that even incidental physical contact might be taken as a sexual invitation by some. We’re raised to always be, in some sense, on guard. (It’s exhausting, isn’t it?) And, of course, given the strict expectations set by our compulsive monogamous culture, married folks have to be extra careful we aren’t sending any wrong messages.



With all this in mind, if I make physical contact in some way with a man who’s not PM — even if it’s a hand on an arm, or a playful bump of a shoulder, or a press of my arm as I lean in to speak quietly — in almost every case, the act is quite intentional on my part. I’m aware of the contact. Sometimes hyper-aware. I’m gauging response.



Do accidents happen? Sure. I also have those penis-owning folks in my life that I have known for many years and are more like brothers to me, and there are times where I might playfully enter their personal space. But even when I don’t intend for the contact to be flirtatious, it’s still rarely accidental. And if accidental physical contact does happen with a penis-haver who’s not my spouse, it certainly won’t happen a second time unless I want it to.



So back to Footisegate. Was a crime committed? No. Absolutely not. Was there flirtatious contact? I think there was, especially when one takes into consideration her overall orientation towards PM the whole night.



But the real question is, how do I feel about it?



After PM told me about what happened right under my nose at the bar, he proceeded to share other instances where similar things had happened to him with other women. I think he was trying to make the whole thing sound unexceptional — nothing to see, nothing to talk about. Well, I wasn’t buying what he was selling.




To say I was agitated by the end of our conversation would be an understatement. I was jealous. And annoyed. But not at the women attempting to playfully flirt with my husband. Well, maybe a teensy bit, but not in the way one might expect. And I wasn’t annoyed at PM either. Well, maybe just a little at PM… But more on that next time.



Let me be absolutely clear. I’m not jealous over him, in a possessive way. I’m jealous of him, in an I-wish-that-would-happen-to-me sort of way.



When I shared the story with a close friend, one of the first questions she asked me…after the obvious ones about all the dirty deets… was how this might affect my friendship with “Erin.” Turned out this was a good place to start in assessing how I felt about the whole thing. I answered her honestly and said I didn’t think it changed anything. “Erin” seemed to be testing the waters for herself and that’s fine with me. I’m all about not owning your partner’s erotic self, after all.



As far as PM is concerned, I’m glad that he's receiving affirming attention from an attractive friend. He deserves to feel admired and appreciated by someone to whom he isn’t beholden.



But at the same time, I am a little jealous. Footsiegate is not the first time I’ve witnessed my girlfriends give PM flirty attention, and I know it also happens when I’m not around. I can’t help but wish I was occasionally on the receiving end of some erotic attention by handsome male friends.



But it’s more than just that. I’m also jealous of this friend who bravely put herself (and her foot) out there. I friggin’ wish I had that kind of BVE (Big Vagina Energy), the kind of confidence to just give it a go and see what happens. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, as they say. And here I was, too chickenshit to even to squeeze into the seat next to my friend’s attractive spouse, a seat that would have perfectly afforded me the chance to flirt and test some waters for myself. Instead I chose to let anxiety and fear take the reins. *frowns*


After sharing the details of Footsiegate with my friend and confidant, her next question was more from the realm of fantasy. “And so how do you arrange this trade?” she asked. I could picture her knowing grin as I read her text. She knows I’d still love to explore a form of ENM like swinging, with the right people under the right circumstances.



I laughed and replied that I do feel like my friend should be bringing something to the table…to trade, if you will. Even if it’s just a husband who’s willing to flirt with me. Like I said, I am jealous of the experience, that of both the flirter and the flirt-ee.



So, yes, Footsiegate and the conversation it engendered did bring up irksome feelings, but I found it also served as a reminder to me. PM’s not just the guy who ate the last piece of cake that I had been saving for myself. (Not. Cool. *shakes head*) He’s not just the partner who finds social gatherings so exhausting that he starts hounding me to leave halfway through a party. He’s not just the man who seems to magically disappear right at the kids’ bedtime.



My husband is friggin’ hot. And funny as fuck. And kind. And unbelievably intelligent. And a smokin’ hot lover. In this messy life of ours, when it would be incredibly easy for me to focus on the things about him that annoy the shit out of me, it’s good for me to be reminded of the whole package that I married. It’s good for me to see him through the eyes of others.



And when I step back, I realize that’s it’s no surprise that women want to flirt with PM. That they might want to be the object of his attention. And, honestly, I don’t want him to be surprised by this fact, either. He should know he’s a catch.



Can it be a little terrifying to realize that your partner, at 42 years old, is hot and that others notice him? Most definitely. But I don’t want him to stay with me because he feels he has no other choice. Over the years PM and I have continued to choose to be with one another, through all the beauty and the ugliness and the pain and the elation that life has brought.



But can it be a true choice when we feel that we have no other options? For PM to feel stuck on the path he chose over 20 years ago, to not look forward to the next 20 (or at least to the next 5 or 10) — I think that would be a recipe for resentment, for apathy, and perhaps, down the road, even infidelity.



It’s good for both of us to be reminded that our marriage isn’t a given in perpetuity. Being together is a choice. And  hopefully it’s a choice that we think is best for ourselves as individuals and not one we’re making only for the sake of our kids or our extended family or a career or financial stability. Ideally, both of us should feel like we got the better end of the deal.



But what about me? The married, 43-year-old mother of 3?


It would be nice for PM to be reminded more than once in a blue moon that other folks with penises (ones who are smart, attractive, funny, and kind) notice and appreciate what I’ve got to offer. Forget PM — it would be nice for me.



Or should I just feel lucky that I’m with a partner who seems to only get better with age? *scowls*



I’m grateful for my sexy husband. I really am. But if I have to be reminded so goddamn often of his charms, I really wish these lovely ladies enjoying a playful flirt with my husband would do me a solid and bring something to the table for me. Like your cute ass husbands.



I don’t know: Maybe give your spouse permission to flirt. Let him know you think it’s okay if he gets attention from another woman and gives some in return. I’ve certainly found that having conversations with my partner about flirting with other people can be a sexy step toward reigniting passion within our relationship.


So when I said earlier that I was maybe the teensiest bit annoyed about the women attempting to playfully flirt with my husband, it's with the realization that my aggravation actually stems from my feeling bereft of similar opportunities.


I really am so pleased if my openness and honesty about sex and pleasure and passion has created a safe space for other vulva-owners to have fun with their erotic, flirty side. (Even when it’s with my own sexy spouse, right in front of me.) That’s part of why I started writing — to shed light on the erotic experience of women…mothers especially… within long-term relationships. And to hopefully help create a culture that doesn’t shame and blame vulva-owners for being complex human beings.



On the other hand, I also feel a little left out. Like a party planner who gets to watch everyone have a fabulous time at the event she meticulously planned and executed. (For the record, I do throw a pretty good party, and I think I’d do a pretty decent job pulling off an orgy as well. But I digress…)


Ultimately, I’d just like a chance to flirt with your husband. That’s the long and short of it. Am I really asking too much?


Be on the look out for my follow-up piece on flirting (and fluffing) husbands, where I explore possible reasons why they’re so friggin’ clueless.



Until next time, stay kinky 😉

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