From the rerun file: scary dudes edition

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.
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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?”

“No. Goodbye.”

“Can I have your phone number?”

“NO. Goodbye!”

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.

Comments

  1. I am unable to resist the urge to want to punch him from just reading your post. You ladies must have the patience of saints to deal with intrusive fucks like that on a daily basis!

  2. Thanks, Arvind.

    With age comes invisibility (or mostly), so it’s not so much a daily occurrence – well, except for the lovely gents at the bus stop outside my parking lot at work, who REALLY want me to have a nice day.*

    So. Um. Yeah. It’s a thing.

    *Which only goes to show how you start to forget it right after it happens when it’s so pervasive.

  3. The delusional, angry entitlement. It burns.

    And you know, even if the creeped-out feeling stays low-grade in these individual interactions (which it doesn’t always, because the aggression is always just under the surface), they build on one another. At best, the idiot in a parking lot at the grocery store gets his head taken off with both cumulative barrels when he demands a smile; at worst, we stop going out.

    For me, it’s a little of both: I carry practiced responses to the predictable and do not fear being a bitch (because saying no is going to put me in that category anyway, so I might as well answer the command to SMILE! with STAND UP STRAIGHT! BRUSH YOUR TEETH! WEAR A NICER SHIRT!) – and I hardly ever go out to clubs or bars, even though sometimes I’d like to. It’s just too grim.

  4. Kimberly says:

    I don’t go to watch Drew play in his bands because I hate getting hit on.

    My “best” story: when I was 17, I worked as an apprentice pewtersmith with a business that performed (for lack of a better word) as 18th c. crafts persons at juried, period craft fairs.

    I was CLUELESS about when I was being hit on most of the time. Usually, my boss or his wife would point it out afterward. It was usually harmless and didn’t bother me. At a craft fair in Ripley, WV, I started becoming very uncomfortable when this guy (he was late 30s-early 40s) kept asking for my address/phone number. When I replied that we were from out of state, his response was, “That’s okay, I’m a truck driver!” I willfully misunderstood what he was asking for and gave him a card for the business (which was located about a 3-hour drive away).

    A week or so later, my boss calls me, saying that this guy, “Tim Smith,” had called him saying that he was in town and wanted to see me. I forget how the rest of the conversation went, but it comes out that he’s looking for a wife. My boss tells him, “Jackass! She’s 13!” (I was 17). Never heard from the guy again, but I was seriously weirded out for a good month after that. At subsequent shows, we would use the phrase “Tin Smith” as code to indicate feeling uncomfortable with a person at the counter.

    I LOVE the idea of responding to “Smile!” with “Stand up straight!”

    This thread made me think of this site: http://www.ihollaback.org/
    It used to have more photos of men caught cat calling or being otherwise inappropriate. There is a Baltimore chapter, but no DC.