I believe that life has a way of teaching us valuable lessons before we are able to destroy ourselves through careless misconduct. Allow me to elaborate with an instructional tale.
Professor Plum came into my workplace often, always a pleasant and kind customer. Since he is so high above me in social standing (I am still a student), I shook his hand whenever he extended it in greeting, even though this practice made me feel uncomfortable. Many handshakes thereafter occurred without incident, and the splendid conversation that always ensued led me to think it would be acceptable to maintain this level of physical contact with a stranger.
I should have known something was wrong when he began to hold my hand for a second after our handshake was complete. After a while, he began to cup his left hand over our clasped hands during the handshake. Apparently, he had begun to regard me with an eye of favor, for he presented me with an engagement ring about a week ago. I asked him if he was serious. He looked me straight on and said “Yes.” As much as I like him, I told him I couldn’t accept it, whereupon he grew morose and left the building. Now he’s in another country.
WHAT! More importantly, HOW??
There’s only one possible reason: I shook his hand, or rather, I allowed him the liberty of shaking mine. What else could it be? I am at a loss. I took care never to speak to him in a flirtacious, “charming,” or sexually suggestive manner. And it can’t be how I dress. Every day, I wear plain useful quiet shoes, thick stockings, skirts that extends to my ankles (no slits), and collared long-sleeved shirts. This dress code applies regardless of the temperature. My hair is always tied neatly in a bun. I don’t want men to look at me, and I certainly don’t want them to propose to me. He knew this. Why did he have to embarrass me?
It doesn’t matter. Forget it! I am done, done, done!!! No more bantering with men for my own vanity. No more cute witty Shakespearean quotes to puzzle those who have a care to try to “figure me out” or to impress those who don’t. No more musings on hyperspace, or whether Hebrew was the Edenic language, or why bacteria have no circadian rhythms, or Milton’s treatment of the felix culpa, or whether there are any Heldentenors in our era who can sing Wagner properly. I have learned a valuable lesson: From now on I will keep my mouth shut and my hands to myself. NEVER again will I shake hands with a man, and NEVER again will I talk with a man in a non-business setting unless there’s someone else present. This is the only way to reclaim my dignity.
I feel better now. Carry on.