If I can make myself understood to the linguists, it seems that the same does not extend to American men. Indeed, I feel like the Goldilocks of rejection at this point, oscillating between too strong and too soft. I comfort myself that, by the time I leave, I'll be expert at blow-offs. With that in mind, I thought I might share with you some of the more choice lines used on me and my colleagues. What follows is something of a primer on how not to hit on women in combat zones or, for that matter, anywhere else.
Don't hit on women outside of restrooms or before 6am. The two really go hand in hand. If I've just stumbled out of the B-Hut, bleary-eyed in the impossibly bright morning sun, it is not the right mood in which to hand me your number and ask for a lunch date. It will not happen, and likely the only reason I will ever speak to you again is because I didn't have my contacts in and so can't be sure who it was that accosted me. In fairness, the same rule applies to couples. I don't care how dark the corner behind the shower cabin is, I can only stare straight ahead so intently. I will notice on my way back from the shower that there is only one pair of feet on the ground where there used to be two.
Don't ask, your voice rife with disbelief, why aren't married? Why? Because I was waiting for you, of course. Seriously, what answer is this meant to provoke? In asking, are you hoping to spur me to contemplate my life, suddenly feel the gaping hole where marital bliss should be, and wrest the nearest man to the altar? Of late, it's been provoking the opposite response - I have an unreasonable urge to state with absolute sincerity that marriage just isn't in the cards for me. Rather, I intend to get fabulously wealthy and sleep with a succession of impossibly good-looking pool boys.
A related question to avoid is who do you work for? The sub-text I consistently read from this question is what company in its right mind would send a little girl like you out to a scary war zone like this. This question inspires a similar response to the last, but as it is asked almost exclusively by other contractors, I'm tempted to answer that I'm here to sleep with the troops, in an effort to boost our up-coming re-bid. Civilians, obviously, aren't in my contract, so they should move along.
Avoid over-enthusiasm, such as proclaiming that the women in question is a catch. Really, the total package! These sentiments might be lovely to begin with, but they get old quickly. And it goes from tiresome to highly suspicious when the suitor feels the need to add that he, too, is something of a catch. I suppose that the inference one is supposed to draw from this is that if you're a catch, and I'm a catch, perhaps we should catch one another! Unfortunately, if you have to articulate that you, yourself, should be viewed as a catch, it leaves some room for doubt, no? Perhaps I'm not being generous enough. Maybe attractiveness is akin to the link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda - if you say it often enough, and with enough conviction, you can convince 30% of the country it's true!
This next come-on is a bit like the last, but with a fun back-handed twist. It's the You're really cute here, but only here technique. One young man (actually the same excitable one from the previous example) went so far as to note that back in the States, we'd be on par, but over here I'm really something. I honestly wasn't sure what to do with his 'compliment'. There were just many excellent sub-texts to read in to it! I could have concluded that, really I'm a dog, and he wouldn't hit on me if he weren't so desperate. But if that's the case, should I not just wait for the most desperate hottie I can find? Really, if I'm that must cuter here, why not shoot for the moon? However, I felt that it also might be a reminder that I will not always be so comparatively foxy. I should, in that case, stick more to my own 'level', I suppose, so that I don't get dropped by the no-longer-desperate bit of delicious I managed to land in theatre. Words of wisdom, I suppose.
But my favourite line encountered thus far (1 1/2 months in - time flies!) was the starkly straight forward "I like your figure". Thank goodness, as I was working on it just for him! I was actually dumbfounded for a moment when hit with this observation, as I had no idea social mores had broken down so far. I mean, we're on a military base. There's a post office, and a coffee shop, and you can eat Baskin Robbins ice cream every day! We're living on a little slice of Americana, admittedly surrounded by burqas, donkey carts and the occasional IED, but Americana nevertheless, and that's the best come-on you can articulate? As noted by another gentleman, I'm hotter here than at home. You're going to have to work a lot harder than that.