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SINGLE IN THE CITY

A Dian Fossey-like night in the dating jungle

September 11, 2003|Samantha Bonar | Times Staff Writer

A friend recently threw a dinner party in part to introduce me to an eligible young bachelor.

However, before I could connect with the bachelor, I was intercepted by a determined interloper. I know not everyone feels this way, but the guy was old enough to be my father, and that bugs me.

It's a mystery to me why older men feel entitled to much-younger women; the reverse scenario rarely happens, and when it does, it conjures up images of Mrs. Robinson.

The interloper, with the aggression of a silverback gorilla who knows he is about to lose his primacy in the troop, planted himself in the chair next to me, engaged me in conversation and would not budge. When the Eligible Young Bachelor crossed the room and stood in front of us, attempting to break in, he practically pounded his chest at him.

Dismayed, the hostess came over and whispered in my ear, "He has monopolized you enough! I'm seating you next to the E.Y.B. at dinner, and putting him at the end of the table."

The E.Y.B. and I had a nice chat during dinner and I forgot about the older gent's unwanted attentions.

After dinner I wandered into the kitchen and stepped out onto the hostess' teeny balcony for a little fresh air. Everyone else went into the living room -- everyone, that is, but the silverback, who cornered me on the balcony. Who did he think I was, Dian Fossey?

There was only one way out, and that was down. However, the hostess' condo is on the third floor, my web shooters were feeling a bit rusty, and Tarzan was nowhere in sight. Finally I weakly expressed a desire to join the others.

When I left the party, the E.Y.B. asked for my phone number but the interloper didn't, so I figured, all's well that end's well.

Unfortunately, it was just beginning. The next day the interloper called the hostess and asked for my phone number. She e-mailed me and asked if she could give it to him. My response was something along the lines of "NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

So the hostess said everything she could think of to discourage him without bruising his ego, from "She's not the girl for you" to "She's dating the E.Y.B." (not, er, technically true). He insisted that he and I had "made a connection." She wouldn't budge on my number.

Impervious to the hints, he then asked a mutual acquaintance if he could use her computer and surreptitiously tracked down my e-mail address.

He e-mailed me and said he would like to continue the conversation we had started at the party. He left his home e-mail address, his work e-mail address, his home phone number and his work phone number. I figured the best way to discourage him would be to not respond. Clearly, if I wanted to get in touch with him, I knew how.

The next day the interloper called the hostess and left a message saying maybe I don't check my e-mail -- or maybe he should be more aggressive? Is this guy Sherlock Holmes' much, much dumber brother, I wondered? A bloodhound with emphysema could pick up more clues.

The harassed hostess too thought it best not to respond. Then I got another e-mail from him. This one said: "I find you charming and attractive. Let's have dinner sometime," and cited several things he believed we had in common.

Did he even ask himself whether I found him attractive and charming, I wondered?

"Why does this always happen to me?" I complained to my opera buddy Cicely during intermission the next night. "Why can't I engage in polite conversation with a man without him getting the idea that I'm interested in him?"

"You have a sweet demeanor, which makes it easy for men to project their delusional fantasies onto you," she said. "You need to work on developing an expression of faint disdain." Cicely's got the look down pat, but she went to Exeter and Harvard so it comes naturally.

"OK, I'll practice in the mirror," I said.

The next day I called a male friend, fumed about the situation in particular and men's arrogance in general and asked for his advice. I was torn between continuing to ignore the silverback's communications and blowing him out of the water with a "Get real!" response.

My male pal told me to calm the heck down and advised: "Just e-mail him: 'Thank you, but I am not interested.' "

Could it really be that simple? I did it. It worked. I never heard from him again. I didn't have to be passive, I didn't have to be aggressive, I simply had to be direct. It was a lesson for me. I guess that's what they call "assertiveness."

Still, I am practicing my disdainful expression. I don't want any more monkey business.

Samantha Bonar can be contacted at samantha.bonar@latimes.com.

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