This story started Thursday night when I found out that after having very minor foot surgery on Friday, I wouldn’t be allowed to drive to a social event I had been planning on going to. (The surgery turned out to be less minor than anticipated and I couldn’t go at all, but that’s a moot point.) My boyfriend was going as well, but due to circumstances couldn’t give me a ride. So instead, I sent a message to the group, asking for a ride.
(I did not ask for a ride to surgery, as I had someone already giving me a ride. I only asked for a ride to the social event. There was no way to mistake this, unless you just didn’t read what I wrote.)
Thursday evening I got a response from some guy I haven’t met, offering to give me a ride to the social. It was polite enough and friendly enough, although not written in the most formal of tones. (Like calling me his friend when I’ve never met him. But some people do that. I can deal.) My boyfriend had met him before and said he was pretty cool, so I wasn’t worried.
I didn’t get home until late that night, so instead of calling him as he’d requested in his email, I sent him another email in response detailing why I was emailing rather than calling, and thanking him for the ride. I also included my phone number and offered that he call me at a time that was good for him. Then I went to bed.
The next morning I woke up, turned on my phone and my computer and found that not only did I have an email response from this dude, I also had a voicemail and 3 texts. That was odd.
The email offered to give me a ride to the surgery as well as to the social, although the tone was more of an assumption that of course he would give me a ride, rather than a polite offer of something I had not asked for. He also called me m’dear and signed it “love.” Ok, he was trying to be nice and used overly familiar endearments, but maybe he did that to everyone.
The first text was at 3am, asking , “how are you?” and “still awake?” Obviously I was not. Adding his name was an afterthought in a second text.
The third text was at 7 am, and it said “good morning” and “you up yet?”
I didn’t check the voicemail as I was busily trying to get out the door, and I assumed it was from him as well.
At that point I figured he just didn’t know what mode of communication I would check first, and he wanted to get in touch with me to make plans. I occasionally leave two messages with someone, either email/voicemail or email/text if I’m not sure how to get in touch. Although, even rushing, the tone of his emails and texts bothered me. I didn’t know him. He was being overly familiar. It started tingling my creepy sensors.
But, my boyfriend had met him and said he was pretty cool, and since I trust my boyfriend’s judgment, I tried to give this dude the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he was overly friendly and lacking social skills.
So I texted him back, saying I had a ride to the surgery but thanks for the offer. I also asked if he got any sleep – seeing as he’d texted me at 3am and 7am.
His response was similarly familiar to his other texts, but he accepted the rejection and said that he “just wanted to get out” and “taking care of a friend is always great.”
At that point I was weirded out and wasn’t sure that I wanted to get a ride with him later, either, considering he kept calling me a friend when I had never met him in my life. But I was still trying to give him the benefit of the doubt. So I texted my boyfriend, asking how well he knew this dude, and that this dude was hitting my creepy sensors.
As I’m on my way to the surgery center, the dude texts me a few more times. First, he asks what the surgery’s for. I answer politely leaning towards “this is minimal, I just won’t be allowed to drive later.”
Then he asks me what my plans are for the day. I don’t text him back. I’m busy, I’m annoyed, and I’m definitely not wanting to hang out with him in any way.
Then he asks me when is the surgery. This, I figure, is an ok logistical question, since he’ll have to pick me up later to go to the social. (Though at this point I’m considering having him pick me up at a neutral location, which shows how wary I’m feeling, though I’m not quite at the place of wanting to cancel the ride and find someone else. I’m still going with the “other people I know, know him.”) So I answer with a fairly general time and include that there will probably be waiting around because I don’t want to give him a clear answer.
I then tell him about a Cool Thing going on nearby that he should go check out if he’s bored. (In fact, I wish I could have gone to the Cool Thing, but ah well.) AKA, stop texting me if you’re bored, get off your butt and do something. Without me.
As a response, he says the Cool Thing sounds pretty cool, but he’s totally willing to provide me with company if I’d like. (No more mention has been made of my actual ride to this surgery, and he doesn’t ask if my ride is providing me with company.) Have I mentioned that I’ve never met this guy ever and why would you want a complete stranger keeping you company before or after a surgery? If he wanted to hang out with me that badly, he was getting a chance later, when he was going to GIVE ME A RIDE TO A SOCIAL EVENT.
I don’t say, “Fuck off,” as much as I’d like to. Instead I say “I’m good.” It’s still short and terse enough that he got the point.
Finally, I listened to the voicemail. It also offered to give me a ride to the surgery. It was more polite and lacked endearments, thank the universe. That simple lack of endearments made me think a bit better of him – like he was merely – merely? lacking social skills, rather than being creepy and stalker-ish on purpose.
However, at that point my boyfriend texted me back and said that he didn’t know the dude really well, he’d only hung out with him at events a couple times. He had seemed normal at events, though.
I explain that the dude is being creepy and making me feel stalked by offering to help out so very much when it’s clear I don’t need the help, nor do I want it. Seriously, how many times does he have to be rejected to get the point? Three, apparently.
My boyfriend agrees that it sounds odd.
However, he also points out that I’m cute and maybe this dude thinks he has a shot. [insert sticking-out-tongue emoticon]
This is where I get annoyed. Not at the creepy dude who’s low on social skills. (Ok, I’m already annoyed at him.) Not at my boyfriend, really (who’s downplaying my fear of being stalked and the rudeness of this guy’s actions). But at society. At a society that says a guy won’t hear a girl’s refusal until she says it three times. At a society where men are privileged so much that they don’t even see it, that being a “cute girl” is a reason to be harassed and stalked. That even someone who’s generally a good person, a good guy, can excuse another guy’s actions because maybe he “thinks he has a chance.”
I text my boyfriend back, telling him that being creepy and making me feel stalked is a really bad way for this dude to make me like him, no matter what.
My boyfriend doesn’t response. I assume he feels sufficiently reprimanded, as he should. But more than that, I hope he got my point. I hope he realized that what he saw as a teasing reason for this dude’s actions is really no reason at all, that it’s a harmful assumption, and that it leads to creepy dudes everywhere feeling validated in being rude to girls.
I doubt he realized all that, it’s a lot to realize. But maybe he understood some of it. And maybe, over time, he’ll understand the rest.
As for creepy dude? I never met him. I learned that I wasn’t allowed to go anywhere that evening, and texted him with a medical excuse for not using him as a ride. I was a bit upset that I couldn’t go to the social, but I was also relieved that I wouldn’t have to interact with this awkward, creepy dude while not at my best.
Of course, before giving up, the dude had to ask if there was any way he could help me. I told him no, I’m good, and, again giving him the benefit of the doubt (he had, after all stopped texting me finally), thanked him for the offer.
I would say that I, at least, was raised to be polite. But I don’t think that’s quite it. Yes, I was raised to be polite and this dude missed bits of that lesson somewhere along the way, but there’s more to it. I was raised to acquiesce, to smooth things over, and to not hurt other people’s feelings. These are fine skills sometimes. But sometimes you need to be rude to creepy dudes. You need to follow your intuition, even if you’re afraid of being mean.
And here’s the clincher. If one of my guy friends had been annoyingly helpful in the same way as this random dude, I would not have been creeped out. I might have been annoyed, but I wouldn’t have felt like it was really weird. Because the thing that was underscoring this entire interaction? Was that I didn’t know him. He didn’t know me. We had never met face to face. All we had was a social group, slightly, in common.
I could have told him to stop texting me, I could have told him he was creeping me out. I didn’t. But you need to realize that society does not set guys and girls up to be the same in certain interactions. There are no excuses for rudeness.
Also, some good links (with excerpts) about not being creepy:
“3. Acknowledge that no one’s required to inform you that you’re creeping (or help you to not be a creeper). It’s nice when people let you know when you’re going wrong and how. But you know what? That’s not their job. It’s especially not their job at a convention or some other social gathering, where the reason they are there is to hang out with friends and have fun, and not to give some dude an intensive course in how not to make other people intensely uncomfortable with his presence. If you are creeping on other people, they have a perfect right to ignore you, avoid you and shut you out — and not tell you why. Again: you are (probably) a fully-functioning adult. This is something you need to be able to handle on your own.
Shorter version of above: It’s on you not to be a creeper and to be aware of how other people respond to you.
Also extremely important:
4. Acknowledge that other people do not exist just for your amusement/interest/desire/use. Yes, I know. You know that. But oddly enough, there’s a difference between knowing it, and actually believing it — or understanding what it means in a larger social context. People go to conventions and social gatherings to meet other people, but not necessarily (or even remotely likely) for the purpose of meeting you. The woman who is wearing a steampunky corset to a convention is almost certainly wearing it in part to enjoy being seen in it and to have people enjoy seeing her in it — but she’s also almost certainly not wearing it for you. You are not the person she has been waiting for, the reason she’s there, or the purpose for her attendance. When you act like you are, or that she has (or should have) nothing else to do than be the object of your amusement/interest/desire/use, the likelihood that you will come across a complete creeper rises exponentially. It’s not an insult for someone else not to want to play that role for you. It’s not what they’re there for.”
“Dear Creeper, No Creeping! and Creeped Out:
I’m not slithering around on the floor and hissing with my forked tongue when I say that the situations described in these two letters are pretty good examples of what Rape Culture is and why it is so insidious.
Step 1: A creepy dude does creepy, entitled shit and makes women feel unsafe.
Step 2: The women speak up about it to their partners.
Step 3: It gets written off as “not a big deal” or “he probably didn’t mean it” or “he’s not a bad guy, really.” Any discussion of the bad behavior must immediately be followed by a complete audit of his better qualities or the sad things he’s suffered in the name of “fairness.” Once the camera has moved in and seen him in closeup as a real, human, suffering person, how can you (the object, always an object, as in “objectified,” as in a disembodied set of tits or orifices, or a Trapper Keeper, or a favorite coffee mug or a pet cat) be so cruel as to want to hold him accountable for his actions? Bitches, man.
Step 4: Everyone is worried about hurting creepy dude’s feelings or making it weird for creepy dude. Better yet, everyone is worried about how the other dudes in the friend group will feel if they are called out for enabling creepy dude. Women are worried that if they push the issue, that the entire friend group will side with creepy dude or that they’ll be blamed for causing “drama.” Look at how LW #323 put it: ”how can I approach this subject with my boyfriend, and make him understand a) how serious this is, and b) that he is not responsible for Ben’s reactions, without making him feel defensive?”
Wouldn’t want someone who covers up for and defends a proto-rapist to have to have SADFEELS, right? (LW, it’s not your fault you’re asking the question this way, it’s just that our culture sucks about this and your boyfriend and his friends have been giving you constant messages that Ben is to be coddled while you are to be shushed in the hopes that it will all blow over).”