I took a little nap, and when I woke up I laid on my stomach and wrote in my journal. It was glorious!
I was interrupted by a dude with a bike who just sat down next to me and said “What are you writing?” He was maybe in his mid or late thirties, had obviously been out for a ride, had also obviously had a few beers. He wasn’t drunk, but maybe uninhibited.
My first reaction was “Okay, he’s forward, but I’m willing to have a short conversation with pretty much anybody.” But he was asking more and more questions about my writing, saying he was also a writer. (When I asked him what kind of stuff he wrote, he said “Oh, you know, Shakespeare” and wouldn’t elaborate. !!!!! ) He kept asking me to read him something from my journal, obviously with romantic/carnal type intentions and was being more and more pushy. He didn’t seem to understand the word “No.”
I started feeling pretty vulnerable, even though we were in broad daylight, since I was still sort of lying down, and didn’t have shoes on. I pretended to joke with him while I hastily put on my shoes, since he obviously wasn’t taking a hint. When I got up to leave, he said “What, you’re leaving?” I told him simply that it was time for me to go. He said, “I hope I didn’t scare you away.” A huge part of me wanted to say, “Yes, you scared me away. You sat down with me without asking, and you’ve been trying to pry into something I’m clearly not interested in sharing. I was enjoying myself alone, and you’ve ruined it. And you’re creeping me out.” But I didn’t. I just said “No, of course not” and left.
This isn’t the only example of this type of thing happening to me or other women I know, but this time I felt compelled to talk about it.
I’m reminded of some article I read part of awhile ago written by a man to women, saying basically – “You’re doing yourself AND men a disservice by lying about why you’re leaving or rejecting us. Just tell the truth.”
I would love to. Why didn’t I? The truth is, I was afraid of offending him. And not just cause I was afraid of disappointing him, which I know factors into an embarrassingly large amount of my dealings with men, but rather, that I was actually kind of AFRAID to tell him that, indeed, he had scared me off. I knew we were in a public place, but I also knew that I wasn’t that far from my house. I knew that he was a lot bigger than me, and if he’d had any kind of readily accessible empathy at all, he wouldn’t have had to ask the question in the first place. I would LOVE to be able to tell insensitive men to back the fuck off, but even now, I feel too weirdly frightened to. It feels shitty.
The other thing that I was reminded of was a movie I saw a couple weeks ago – a movie made in the last year – where the entire romantic love affair progressed like this: Man asks woman to go on a date. She says no repeatedly. Scene cuts to the couple on a date. Man asks woman to come back home with him. She says no repeatedly. Scene cuts to the couple in bed. And so on.
There are so many examples that show us that when women say no, they actually mean yes, or at least maybe. I can also think of examples in my own past behaviour that clearly exhibits this trajectory. Occasionally, it would be that I’d changed my mind, but usually it was because there came a point where saying yes and accepting the ramifications was a lot easier than saying no.
So maybe that’s another reason it is so fucking hard to say no to a pushy man. “No” doesn’t actually mean anything — except maybe a coy “yes” to a depressing amount of men. There isn’t a way to do it without essentially saying “I’m not saying no” as you back away slowly and hope he doesn’t notice…
As a result, I wonder if women have a harder time distinguishing between our own “yes” and “no”s. I know I’ve been confused in the past. “If this man thinks this is a good idea, then I must just be missing something.” It upsets me, and I have a feeling I’m not alone in this.
I know a ton of men who aren’t like this. I’m lucky to know so many. But every so often, I have an experience that reminds me just how lucky I am. And that makes me see how much more work we have to do to level the playing field.
I’m curious to know other people’s thoughts on these kinds of things…