Occasionally, I remember something I posted on the old, hard-to-navigate, version 1 of this site and reproduce it with some edits. Today, I am reminded by my friend Arvind of the epic discomfort that can be caused by men who won’t take no for an answer. So, from the rerun file I pull “Scary Pick-Ups” and originally posted August 11, 2004.
I believe I have the humdinger of all bad pick-up stories, and I thought I would share. It starts in 1996.
Having immured myself in more-or-less rural fastness for some time, I went to Boston with a “friend.” I put quotes around friend, well, you will see why as the story goes on. We were set to meet some of her friends at a bar downtown. Upon getting to the bar, I was approached by someone with a standard sort of get-to-know-you line (“What’s your name?” or one of its cousins). It was fairly clear that he was on the make from his body language (standing too close, staring too hard), but I’m reflexively polite, and I smiled and made some sort of response that was intended to say, “Not interested.” He tried to continue the conversation – doing one of those conversational gymnastic things some guys do where they immediately tell you that you’re attractive and they want to get to know you better (note: this might work only when more than one sentence has passed between the two people in question, or if the woman just really wants to sleep with a stranger. Neither of these were true in this case).
The actual progression of this dialogue was fairly tedious in a surreal sort of way – he tended to respond to my ramp-up from polite but repressive through increasingly agitated variations on “What part of ‘NO’ don’t you understand?” with standard conversation-starters, as if he was actively trying to fail a Turing Test. One such interchange consisted of me saying that my “friend” (who had been standing by, watching this wacko’s efforts at courtship with ill-disguised amusement and ignoring my intermittent looks of mounting panic) and I were going to go now and look for our other friends, goodbye. He responded (ignoring my full beer) with “Can I buy you a drink?”
“Can I have your phone number?”
Further discussion on my part (as he followed me around the bar) went from, “Leave me alone,” to “I will get the bouncer to chuck you out,” to finally “If you don’t leave me alone, I will call the cops.” This last threat triggered a sea-change from pursuit to verbal abuse, which was somehow easier to ignore, especially as the live entertainment had started to ramp up in volume. He finally went away.
Fast-forward to two years later. I was in DC with some work colleagues, at an outdoor bar in Georgetown. Suddenly, I hear, “Don’t I know you?” I turn around and immediately recognize my nut-case from Boston. Semi-frozen, but with enough sense to say, “No,” I responded to his next conversational gambit with, “I’m sorry – I’m really not interested.”
Note to men: “What? I’m just trying to be nice,” is an attempt at emotional blackmail. I don’t go on guilt trips, but I do resent being presented with a ticket. I told him I didn’t ask him to be nice, go away and be nice to someone else. I could see he was on the verge of pursing the sledgehammer tactics with which I had become far too well-acquainted in Boston and started looking around for a bouncer, when my work-colleague Jessica spoke up from my side: “I don’t think you understood – the lady said she’s not interested.”
He turned on her and actually snarled, “What’s it to you?” (I know this sounds like a bad movie script, but it’s the absolute truth).
Jess didn’t even hesitate. “She’s with me,” she said calmly. As our friend the fruit-loop stood back and contemplated the implications of the significance which Jess placed on the word “with,” I leaned over (with body language that was intended to communicate intimacy) and whispered to her that yes, indeed I had met this guy before and he’s crazy as a loon – thankyouthankyouthankyou for helping me out, Jess!
Predictably, uninspired verbal abuse followed (and was ignored). As a post-script, I actually saw this guy in action again, but from a distance. I was at another DC watering-hole a couple of months later, but happened to have the good fortune to be talking with a man when this freak of nature walked into the bar. I pointed said freak out to the man I was speaking with, and we watched him trail around the bar, bouncing from woman to woman (even moving in on one woman when her date went to the bathroom). He didn’t even appear to see me: I presume it was because I had my male friend as an invisibility shield.
I still felt pretty freaked out for a week or two.