Last week one of my very dear and very married friends went on a date by accident. She had been working on a project with another company and one of the staff members suggested they all get dinner one evening. When the guest list dwindled down to just the two of them, she remained unalarmed. This might have been either tantalising or terrifying for a single girl, but for my married friend? She wore a wedding ring.
She only realised that her colleague had failed to spot it when she walked into the restaurant to find him dressed in a suit, pulling out her chair with one hand and holding flowers in the other.
As amused as I was by this tale in retrospect (I loved the idea of people asking her husband about it. "How's your wife?" "Oh, you know, dating a lot, but not really seeing anyone special"). I wondered how she dealt with it. The answer was, simply, immediately. She pretended not to see the flowers in order to alleviate some of the awkwardness and coughed up a little comment like, "My husband took me to this restaurant on one of our first dates". The trick, we both later agreed, was to stick your neck out early.
Though never married, I have been in less extreme situations like this before. We all have. And the reason we wait too long – sometimes whole hours or evenings – to make mention of a significant other is because we're actually thinking of ourselves. We enjoy the attention.
But we also fear that the mention of a boyfriend or girlfriend could be met with a legitimate "...and?" from the other party. The other party who, until that moment, had thought of us as about as sexual as a notepad. Thus, somehow, the "boyfriend" never comes up. Whole holidays are described and as far as this stranger is concerned, you went to a four-star boutique hotel in Greece... by yourself.
As I've grown up, I've learnt that it's worth the risk of blushing in order to put the other person at ease. Better to be up front. One likes to think other people will note the presence of a ring on your left hand. Too bad most of the population is right-handed.
Sloane Crosley is the author of 'How Did You Get This Number' (Portobello)