A good reply, naturally, came to me the next morning
This past weekend I had an experience I haven’t had in months (since the “shutdown” of our state due to Covid-19) … a man was trying to get into my pants (or in more modern lingo, hook up with me) and I was shell-shocked, totally at a loss as to how to deal with it.
The following morning I had the answers regarding what I should have said, after having rolled it over in my mind way too many times. As I’m sure many of you can relate, we often come up with a good comeback, or reply, hours or sometimes days later. That was the case with me with the attempted pick up.
“It’s just a room key. You ain’t gotta lie to me. Can’t you just use me like I’m using you? How it goes is, bar closes. There’s no king bed covered in roses. Just a room without a view. I don’t want a number, you ain’t gonna answer Let’s just stick to the one-night standards.” — Ashley McBryde, One Night Standards
I was at a private party where we sang karaoke. I knew probably two-thirds of the people there, karaoke people from my area. We all consider ourselves “friends,” as in, we share a love of singing in public. I was with a (real, as in she has my back if I need it — the way true friends should ALL do) friend of mine, “an old hippie chick” as she calls herself.
Shortly after we arrived my friend was talking to the people who put on this party. My friend noticed that a man we know (I’m calling him Ben, changing his name to protect the guilty) was there alone. She asked the couple we were sitting with why that was. They said that Ben and his girlfriend (who I know) had a big fight and she stormed out at some point in the recent past. Shortly after they told us this fact — say about five, maybe 10 minutes later — Ben was at my side, chatting me up.
Even though I had a small buzz going from a few drinks consumed at my friend’s house prior to going to the karaoke party, my warning antennae shot straight up (or call it intuition, or that I had a gut feeling of what was coming). Ben was being overly friendly and complimentary. I immediately sensed, or maybe even literally saw, the big “come on” coming on. My brain took notice of how he was talking to me and decided it would be best to switch to non-alcoholic beverages to ensure that I could firmly deal with the come-ons from this man, which I did.
Okay, so I wasn’t exactly firm and forthright in my reactions and for that I am almost ashamed. Almost. Because his behavior became more icky as the night — and his alcohol consumption — wore on. It actually sucked the fun out of my evening out to some extent because I had to deal with this. I actually FELT BAD (and then later felt bad about feeling bad) because I should have been honest and assertive in a sense that I wasn’t, and told him some truths straight out, worried about hurting his feelings (if he indeed has any real ones) or wounding his quite-possibly-fragile masculine ego.
Yes, I know you younger ladies out there will probably say, “Who cares about his feelings if he’s preying on you?” and I totally get that. Let me explain (and yes I know some of you might say I’m over-analyzing this, making too much of it — because, duh, women get hit on all the time!! — but that’s what we people with anxiety disorder do: we think a lot. Too much. So if you’re with me so far, cool!!)
One reason I felt bad has roots in my upbringing as a Boomer to be a “nice girl,” pretty, ornamental but not too opinionated, outspoken, or “pushy”, basically arm candy per se. I’m pretty sure other generations after mine can relate, but I hope not. I’m hoping you younger women are becoming less of the “nice girl”, that is she who is never forthright, assertive and sticks up for herself. I’m reading stuff by many younger female writer on Medium that seem to show my hopes are coming true and better gender relations might be coming to us … some day.
A lot of us grew up with the “Disney dream” in which we’d find our Prince Charming. He would provide for us and we’d live happy ever after, and all that happy-go-lucky crap. We were taught to be “good girls,” to not hurt men’s feelings, not speak up too much (God forbid should we have an opinion and worse yet, share it!), to always be pretty, demure and kind of in the background (basically, a man’s accessory). Because if we presented ourselves as human beings with brains, thoughts, opinions that might have conflicted with a man who happened to be nearby, we might alienate said man and then — gasp!! — end up alone, unmarried, an “old maid,” as they used to call the never-marrieds in my generation. Heaven help us, not that.
At the same time feminism was gaining a foothold in society and many of us were becoming aware of the ways in which women were being “held down” and marginalized and it made us mad as hell. Women spoke up, started a revolution, one that is now showing up (thankfully!!!) in the attitudes and mindsets of many young women: that being, we are who we are and your approval, and attention, as a man is not necessary. (An aside: It would be nice though if we could get men to pay attention to the fact that we are more than just ornaments and can be smart, productive, savvy members of the workforce.)
I believe from my reading on Medium that a lot of women share my attitude gained in my middle-age years, which is “I’m not going to tailor my behavior toward getting your attention because that no longer is my life’s focus. So if my being my own woman with my own views offends you, you are free to walk away, Jay.” It is truly heartening to me to see that there ARE women who aren’t solely, or mainly, focused on pairing up. To them I raise my glass and say “Cheers!!” Live your dreams, go for the gusto, and write your own stories. Don’t be afraid to say your truths.
Though admittedly — as this story shows — I don’t always say my truth straight out, as in this case, what I should say in order to avoid or defuse a certain situation. Though I do vividly recall telling a male friend back in the late 80s who was constantly hitting on me, “Randy, you have GOT to know that I am NEVER going to fuck you, okay??” He got the point, and we remained friends who occasionally went out to dinner, with no more hard-core pressure to get laid. Apparently being brash and blunt sometimes is the answer.
Anyway, I’ve been single for most of my adult life. Sad to say, over the years I put too much emphasis on “getting a guy” like a number of other women also do, for whatever reason. The attention, getting a possible mate (or a booty call, more likely), or finding someone to “rescue us” (good luck with that!!). I can’t help that many women (and men too, come to think of it) in my age range are divorced and/or on a second or third spouse. I’m pretty sure this is because — as it was in my case — because they were looking for a man for the “wrong” reasons. And hence, some of us got divorced … and lived happily ever after.
As the years since my last divorce (finalized 19 years ago today) I’ve “come into my own,” as people say. I’m a lot more comfortable with myself and am fine doing life on my own. As a result of this mind shift my way of relating to men has changed, happily, from looking at men as “potentials” to looking at them as humans. I LOVE it when I’m out in public and can speak with a man who isn’t outwardly hitting on me. In other words, talking to me like another human being and not a potential conquest. I’m sure many other women can relate.
Because I’m aware of the “hook up culture” I watch how I relate to men, especially in a setting where alcohol is being served (read: bars). If I am absolutely not interested in knowing a man beyond acquaintances, I will not act like I am “interested.” I try to watch my body language and squash anything that might be considered flirtatious. Yes, it is plain and simple bullshit that we women have to watch out for ourselves, guarding our words, actions, and maybe also our alcohol consumption in order to avoid being preyed upon/attracting the “wrong” kind of attention.
Because there are always going to be men out there with whom you won’t feel safe and one must keep her guard up. So safety in numbers is a good idea: bring a real friend who will have your back if needed. And you have hers, if she needs it. In fact, maybe we should all have the backs of women we don’t know, and I have a good example/experience to share on that thought: several years ago my ex-boyfriend noticed a woman we know getting preyed on by some slick dude. He went over and started talking with the woman, which had the effect of the other guy losing interest. We saw that she was so drunk she was definitely a target, and we intervened, successfully, and I’m proud of that. If only more people might do the same for others as my ex and I did for this woman.
Which leads neatly back into my story about having been hit on. Previously I thought the man in question, Ben, was good looking and a nice man. After last Saturday night I have a foul taste in my mouth from seeing him not exactly being “nice” (more like pushy) and don’t really care to join the local karaoke scene any time soon. From the beginning, I was merely nice and non-flirtatious with Ben, hoping that he would “get the message” (yes, too passive-aggressive, I know; some men can’t see a hint in front of their face, even if it’s on a bright neon sign).
Throughout the evening, while I was guzzling club soda and singing my heart out on stage, he continued being overly nice and complimenting my this, my that, etc. I was still friendly, but not forward, trying not to make him think I was interested in anything besides conversation (and yes, I know I can’t control how men perceive what I’m saying). Ben persisted, seemingly not getting the hint.
And I in turn probably just wan’t as assertive as I could have been in trying to let him know that I wasn’t interested in a booty call with him. Looking back I think my shell-shocked reaction was my anxiety being triggered by him — either because he was trying to pick me up or because I sensed something in him that didn’t sit well with me. Either way, I could have been more forthright. In my defense, recall that I was trained from the cradle on to be a “nice girl” who didn’t rock the boat so I could lure some “great catch”. And it’s sometimes hard to get past decades of training/programming, but I am trying.
Now back to the story already in progress (yes, I digress; it’s what us with Attention Deficit Disorder do): Ben not only wasn’t seeing the forest for the trees, he said three things in particular that totally turned me off. I’m sharing this story not because I want to broadcast that “oh wow, I’ve been hit on!! (giggle giggle)” because that happens to many women on a regular basis, so that’s not a big news story. What I want to share are the behaviors and things he said that made me think, “Hmmm, he’s not such a nice guy after all” in hopes that other women will read this and take note if they find some guy laying out a similar scenario trying to get laid.
First, Ben was told that I have a man in my life. His response was, “Well, we just won’t tell him!” Strike one. Yes, I know one might call me passive-aggressive (again!) for telling him about my man and hoping that would make him back off. I guess I figure that a decent man would, indeed, either back off, apologize for being so forward and/or go find someone else to chat with.
Later in the evening (and as his drunkenness progressed) he made some comment about how “there’s nothing wrong with a one-night stand”, with which I agree — as long as there is mutual consent between the people involved. There wasn’t that in this case, as I was clearly uninterested and he was obnoxiously pressing the issue nonetheless. Strike two!!
Strike three came maybe a half hour after strike two, when my hippie friend and I said we were tired and wanted to leave to go hit the hay. It was then Ben whined about the fact that “some of us have to go home alone.” I thought in my head, “Well, dude, I’m sleeping alone tonight but that’s fine.” My man was miles away at the time, as this was a girl’s nights out. This last comment of Ben’s struck me as the most offensive. I perceived it as sort of trying to give me a guilt trip in hopes I’d change my mind. I’m not sorry I didn’t fall for it. Rather, I was actually appalled by this attempt at coercion/manipulation by guilt. Icky, and inexcusable. Sometimes my girl’s nights out include meeting a man, or men, who make me appreciate all that much more the dear man in my life.
So he left and my friend and I went back to her house and called it a night. I rolled over in my head many times about what I could have said to deflect him nicely, so as to not hurt his feelings, yet firmly to get my point across. Hopefully when/if this situation happens again — and it is likely it will — I’ll remember some of my responses. Either that or I can just tell him what I told my then-male friend Randy 30-odd years ago. Now THAT was certainly to the point and communicated the message clearly!!