It begins with the casual placing of a hand on your shoulder. Next thing you know it’s at your elbow, then your forearm. From here it can go one of two ways (in polite company): to the small of your back or onto your waist.
For the woman, it’s a strange experience, giving rise to a confused and confusing cocktail of emotions: excitement (you feel sexy and desirable), irritation (what right does he have to invade my personal space like this?), fear (where is the hand going next, and how the Hell can I stop it?!), and discomfort (he, a relative stranger, is doing this in plain sight of a roomful of my friends, all unfortunately sober).
Then there’s the real killer: hope. The hope that his desire to trace the contours of your body before you’ve so much as exchanged phone numbers indicates that he is genuinely interested in spending time with you.
I found myself being fondled in this manner at a ceilidh a few weeks back. A friend drew me aside with a meaningful look. ‘I think somebody likes you!’ The cynic in me was unconvinced. An hour later, Wandering Hands appeared to have found a new victim, and I was giving my friend stick for having raised my hopes. Cue his reappearance at my elbow, asking me to dance. The reel came and went, as did the window of time in which most couples kiss on the cheeks. My partner gave me a long close hug before drawing back a little and placing his hands squarely on my waist. The room was brightly lit and bustling with people preparing to leave. We stood there, he chattering away, me looking quizzical and repeating over and over to myself that none of this means anything. Ten minutes and a drawn out departure from the building later, he took my number. I set off home flanked by two friends, bent on convincing me that this guy was for real.