Sex appeal. It's hard to define, but we know it when we see it. We've all seen the woman who can raise the temperature ten degrees just by walking into a room. All the women either want to be her or are tempted to drop a poisoned olive into her martini. All the men want to take her home—and not to meet their mothers.
I have never been one of those women.
Maybe sex appeal is genetic. Maybe it's learned. Or maybe it's simply a matter of paying attention. If you want guys to notice you, it probably is a good idea to notice them back. This is the part I've always missed.
Like the time, as a freshman in college, I was sunbathing on the grass near my dorm. The football coach came by with a couple of high school seniors he was recruiting. With the boys at his heels, he veered off the sidewalk and came over to ask me a question.
My work-study job was in the admissions office, so it wasn't completely unreasonable for the coach to ask me an admissions question. Except I knew perfectly well he knew the answer as well as I did. I answered him politely anyway, he introduced the two boys, I said hi, there was an awkward pause, then they went on their way and I went back to my book.
I'm sure you've seen the formula by now, but it was months before I figured it out. Coach has good football prospects. Prospects are 18-year-old guys. Coach sees girl in bikini. Coach makes introductions. Coach figures chemistry will do its work.
Except the coach didn't know I never took chemistry. He saw a perfect recruiting opportunity, but I blew it. The losing football season the next year was probably all my fault.
Fast-forward about 30 years. I needed to replace a couple of thermal-paned windows in my house. No big deal; I took the windows out of their frames and took them to the store for the repair.
When I went back later to pick them up, the man who waited on me was exceptionally friendly and helpful. He took care of the paperwork, loaded the windows into my car, and then asked me if I had someone at home to reinstall them for me. No, I said. He offered to come to my house after work and take care of it. I said thanks, I could handle it myself. I was a little surprised at the offer—it seemed like taking customer service a bit too far.
Later, telling a friend about it, I asked, "Do I look incompetent to you? That guy thought I wasn't smart enough to do a simple thing like put a window back in."
My friend asked, "How old was this guy?"
"About my age. Why?"
"Didn't you get it? He was flirting. If you'd let him install the windows, he'd probably have asked you out."
I hadn't noticed. Never mind.
One time, though, I did experience what it's like to have the attention of every guy in the place.
My husband's construction company was working on a job in Minnesota. They needed a new pickup, and my husband found a used Dodge in Illinois. He flew me there and dropped me off to drive the pickup back to the jobsite.
It was a gorgeous truck, one sleek ton of gleaming black and gray with chrome that had been polished till it sparkled. Only a year old, it was so clean that it even smelled new. Its Cummins diesel engine rumbled like a kitten on steroids.
I climbed in, adjusted the seat as far forward as it would go, and roared off toward the Interstate. With the power I had under the hood, the six-hour trip across Wisconsin and half of Minnesota was a piece of cake. It was late afternoon when I pulled into the parking lot of our motel, shut off the ignition, and let the truck grumble into silence.
I got out. I stretched. Then I noticed several young guys across the parking lot, obviously construction workers just getting off for the day. They were looking in my direction. I could see the desire in their eyes. They were practically drooling.
I knew exactly what they wanted, and I knew I had it. My reaction was smug satisfaction. I gave them a big smile, thinking, Don't you wish. What I have here is way out of your league.
I knew they were looking at my truck.