Ambivalence means never having to say you're anything.

-Spy Magazine

The transition from FriendshipLand to NakedLand is not an easy one. The border crossing is tricky, not to be navigated lightly, and not for the faint of heart. It should really only be attempted by those of us in our 30s and 40s. We've dodged a lot of bullets and we're usually poised to handle the ramifications...

Or so I thought.

Personally, until recently, I have ALWAYS (without exception) been the border that's being negotiated - in that nearly every one of my guy friends has, at some point or another, indicated that their interest in me has "transcended" friendship and moved into the corporeal realm.

Usually they make this clear via the infamous "show don't tell" technique. (Oh. Did I mention they're usually drunk?) And to my credit, I always try to handle their delicate incipient feelings of attraction as sensitively as possible - i.e., with a joking elbow to the gut and a vigorous shove, accompanied by those three little words every guy longs to hear: "Get OFF me!"

I hope they're all reading, and that they're enjoying a hearty laugh at my expense.

Because I'd spent so much time on the other side of this particular fence (of seduction), I had a pretty good idea of the way things were supposed to go.

Alcohol would be required. Music of a certain nature. And a situation that would require the two of us to be horizontal - a movie, for example. Easily accomplished: one TV is in my bedroom; the other is in the dogs' room, and I'm not disparaging anyone's masculinity when I say I have yet to meet the guy who's man enough to wrestle Martha for the remote.

Choice of movie is also very important.

I hadn't planned ahead (because frankly, this idea was fairly new to me, and at least somewhat inspired by red wine) and I was limited to the options of what was on cable.

All I knew for sure was, it had to be looooooooooong. I'd need time to work my "magic."

I clicked in vain, searching for Gandhi... Ben Hur.... Titanic.... No dice.

I finally settled for Magnolia, won over by the bonus factor of the sexy Aimee Mann soundtrack.

I was content to stay at the hand-holding stage for at least the first hour of the movie - this being a considerable improvement over the complete lack of physical contact we'd enjoyed up to that point.

At some point, however, I arbitrarily decided, "I'm goin' in." This went against every instinct I've ever possessed and all I hold holy when it comes to dealing with the opposite sex. I talk a good game (right here at the safety of my keyboard), but in real life, I am NEVER the aggressor. (At least not initially.) My ego is far too fragile.

Continuing my Discovery Channel narrative here, let me point out that it's a testament to how interested I was that I continued the pursuit, despite the more or less complete lack of receptivity on his part. (And I think, to be brutally honest, that what limited response there was, could be, in all fairness, attributed more to Aimee Mann than to me.)

As if that wasn't bad enough, then I got The Speech. The one that starts out with a hesitant, "ummmm, Rhonda...."


Right away you know THAT's not going to be followed up with anything GOOD. It's not likely to be "why don't you...take off your clothes?" for example.

It's probably going to be something like, "Oh. I forgot I have a cat! Bye!!"

Instead, it was a little more ambiguous. Something along the lines of "maybe I'm over-thinking this...." followed by some more stuttering, and disclaimers.

If this had been the military, it could definitely be said that he was operating under the "DO NOT ENGAGE! DO NOT ENGAGE!" command. (We're goin' home boys! Viper has the lead. Viper has the lead.)

Naturally, blinded, confused, and stupefied by the white-hot light of attraction, I somehow insanely managed to translate this to: GO! GO! GO!

I don't know what he was going to say. But suffice to say I never REALLY let him finish the thought.

The last thing I remember with any coherence was that things started heating up somewhere around the time the frogs started falling from the sky in the movie and that, somewhat absurdly, I kept hearing the lyrics to "It's Raining Men" in my head. (In my own defense, I did have a fever, and pneumonia in one lung, and that MIGHT explain a LOT of how wildly out-of-character most of my behavior was. It was also Friday the 13th. Though I don't think you'll be seeing THIS version at the multiplex anytime soon.)

Although the sun should NEVER have been allowed to rise on this unholy and unintentional alliance, he (implausibly) stayed around for most of the next day. Which ended with a goodbye hug so chaste that it would've been appropriate for his grandmother. Naturally, I took umbrage at this - sensing that, unlike Nana (I hope), I possessed such specific anatomical knowledge of him by that point that a hug seemed somehow...inadequate. And insulting.

So he left.

Hop Sing suggested I should've ended things by leaning over and taking a giant nibble out of his posterior region - then when he asked why I did that, I could've responded with, "Oh I just wanted to see if you'd KNOW a good time if it bit you in the ass.... And obviously you don't."

That made me feel so much better that I promptly deleted all three of his numbers from my cellphone speed dial. And then I went to dinner and a movie with friends.

That was that, I assumed. Fairly philosophically.

We talked sporadically through the next week. (I was still sick - leaving me with too much vulnerable phone time on my hands.) We saw each other the next weekend - always in a group. In fact, when I gave him a ride to his car after one event, I thought he was going to lose a limb, all but leaping from a moving vehicle in his desire to get away from me as quickly as possible. My truck has a 17-inch drop (if you skip the running board, as he most assuredly did, in his haste) and I figure that had to hurt.

"Tuck and roll," I called thoughtfully (as I drove away, but I'm not sure he heard me).

By the next night, however, I was growing increasingly confused. After my house emptied of the usual cadre of revelers, he sat on the edge of my bed, clutching the post in what appeared to be white-knuckled fear. If we'd been in the jungle, I feel sure his skin would've taken on the pale-blue floral pattern of my duvet to avoid detection.

He reminded me of those poor hapless American soldiers who inadvertently wandered across the Bosnian border - like maybe in search of a Coke machine or something - and then WHAM, they were captured. In a big net, I think. Just like that. Hostage! He was wearing more or less the same look of stunned terror, at least.

(God this is so embarrassing.)

I guess this left my options at: torture, or the Big Talk. (One and the same, if you ask me.)

I hate Big Talks. I hate Little Talks.

I hate to conversationally acknowledge that there's anything going on in a relationship with the opposite sex at all. I prefer to shut up and let things happen (or not), because I figure they will anyway.

I'm never sure what's to be gained by hashing it all out because I think Big Talks are predicated on several Big Myths. 1. that we know what we're feeling, 2. that we're able to articulate those feelings, and 3. that we're willing to articulate these feelings. Those are some mighty big presumptions (where I'm concerned anyway). Because I think, anthropologically speaking, it was pretty much just last week that I shed the last of my fur, began walking upright, and stopped dragging my knuckles along the ground.

I tried to make it easy on him. I said I sensed that he was regretting that we'd shifted from FriendshipLand to NakedLand? I said I sensed that he didn't want to live in BoyfriendLand? I said my guess was that he'd probably only gone along at all because he couldn't think of a polite way to resist? That maybe he'd misguidedly thought I was all cool and casual with the occasional foray into NakedLand, and that maybe he had the misimpression that I host a lot of sleepovers where I wake up all my guests in a manner that's designed to make them feel like the (most recent) President of the United States?

I let him off easy with an occasional nod of the head and a few grunts of assent, until he finally acknowledged that "FriendshipLand would be best."

And I just had to decline that option.

Because, I'm sorry, but the only opening we have right now is for The Boyfriend. And THAT job description includes the Hibbity Dibbity. We can keep your resume on file, though.

Oh sure, I HAVE lots of guy friends, but it's been a long time since I met a guy like THIS. One who wants to talk about all the same art and movies and music that I do and who can make my stomach hurt so hard from laughing that I feel like I've done an hour of situps (not that I know what that feels like, but I can imagine). A guy who can talk about supply-side economics and why deficit reduction led to the economic boom precipitated by the desire of other countries to invest in America and the self-fulfilling prophecy that the current regime has managed by predicating their FIVE-year taxcut on the necessary manifestation of a recession, and ..... Well, ok. Maybe this doesn't sound like foreplay to everyone, BUT I so rarely encounter intelligence AND humor that I'm getting flushed just remembering.

But that's that.

There wasn't any drama. Or rancor.

I just told him I can't be around him. I wasn't being mean. I mean, c'mon. There's a REASON the fox doesn't guard the henhouse. And there's a REASON alcoholics don't make good bartenders. I'm not made of STEEL people.

Oh it's not like I was picking out china for Chrissake. It's not like I thought he was The One. I was just kinda hoping he'd at least be Next.

It's my Wing Men who are inconsolable. First, because they really liked him. Second, because they're genuinely mystified.

They instantly turned into Mannix.

"WHY does he just want to be friends? Is it another girl? Is it another GUY? Does he find you physically repulsive? Does he have issues with blondes? Issues with commitment? Issues with nipples?"

I said, Hell I don't know. I didn't quiz him. And he's not legally obliged to provide a reason.

I think they're only stunned because the idea of a guy passing on a prospective girlfriend with a well-stocked fridge, no roommates, and a propensity for "presidential pardons," is something that - to date - is still mostly fantasy material for them. They'll grow out of that, just as he has.

Fortunately, he had only infiltrated the outer periphery of my social circle, so there isn't much to explain to anybody at this stage. (Well, except for 50,000 readers.) There's nothing messy to disentangle.

I was just sad. And I did what I always do when I'm sad. I called in the A-team, a list of out-of-town celebrity buddies of mine who are always guaranteed to supply a much-needed ego boost. I made one of them write me a song. From Australia. It's pretty good. You'll probably hear it on his next record.

As one of my friends pointed out, via email, "A mere 8 hours after facing one of the biggest losses (of the weekend) and now you must open your home to an entire houseful of celebrities. You must go on, you must go on! I wish that when I was faced with Heartbreak Hotel, famous men would swoop in and cheer me up with song and verse. Can anyone say distraction?"

Hey. I think we all have to grieve in our own way, and this is mine. I'll just pick another boy off the Boy Tree and move on.

The Ass Brothers sent me an email today saying that they are here for me - that they will even make the supreme sacrifice of accompanying me to lesbian bars should I decide to change my sexual orientation, concluding with, "Chicks making out with other chicks.... Oh yeahhhhhhhhh."

As you can see, they're taking this pretty hard.