another dude at a bus stop, another lesson in HOW NOT TO APPROACH WOMEN
- 929 words (if poetry, lines) long
OK, so, last week's Fictionette is live! Yayyyyy. It is called "The Revolution of the Flies." It bears a certain similarity to Rush's "The Trees," which was not at first intentional but which I came to embrace by the end.
Below the Friday Fictionette cover, you may also notice pictures of pretty sunflowers! The very spindly one and its buddies (not pictured here) sprouted from seeds I pulled out of a bag of wild bird food. The big burly one that isn't blooming yet is out near a bus stop I use to get to Longmont for my Cafe of Life appointments. I wanted to put them side-by-side for comparison. Hopefully I'll get to see the big burly one bloom. It's going to be amazing.
There's a story that goes along with that sunflower photo. That story is called "Men Act Entitled To My Attention And/Or Gratitude On Public Transportation, Chapter 3,852." (You may recall the previous chapter in this series? OK good.)
So I took that photo today while I was waiting for the pedestrian light to change in my favor. It's a long light, so I had plenty of time for sightseeing. What I want you to know is, I was standing there with my bike for quite some time before I crossed the street and settled down at the bus stop.
At the bus stop there was a man, also with bike. He was listening to music over some speakers he had tucked away somewhere about his person. I was happy to leave him to it. I wasn't feeling social. My plans did not include social interaction. I was going to knit until the bus came, and then I was going get on the bus, open up my laptop, and write until we got to my stop in Longmont.
However, Dude is feeling social. And what he says to me is, "You took a picture of that weed, huh?"
Men? People presenting as male who happen to read this blog? I want you to know, if you don't already know, how that is likely to come across to a woman traveling by herself on public transportation. He may well have meant to communicate that he had taken an friendly interest in me and would welcome a conversation. Well and good, but I didn't want him taking an interest in me, I didn't want any conversation, and what I heard was, "I've been watching you for the last five minutes or more. Just so's you know."
Now, even if his first overture had not been so creepy, I still would not have welcomed conversation. I wanted to be left alone. But I really didn't want anything to do with this guy now. "That's my business, not yours," is what I said.
Rude? Maybe. But here's the thing: No one is obliged to give you their time or attention just because you talked to them. Anyone may refuse the invitation to interact. And if you're a guy approaching a gal before getting on the same bus as her, you gotta realize--she cannot physically get away from you without upsetting her travel plans. She has no escape other than the one you grant her by accepting rejection gracefully.
Turn it around; imagine if you were obliged to engage in conversation with every single person who, at no cost to themselves, decided to aim words at you. Sounds exhausting, doesn't it? At this point I invite you to Google the term "emotional labor." Or better yet, "men act entitled to women's emotional labor."
Men like to act as if commanding womenís attention is their birthright, their natural due, and they are rarely contradicted. Itís a radical act to refuse them that attention.
In any case, I've learned that "rude" is a lot more effective at getting guys to leave me alone on public transit than is contriving to make my "no" sound acceptably polite. Or, Gods forfend, than a lack of "no" at all. You know. The polite but non-inviting response? "Yes. I was." (silence) In my experience, guys who are invested in gaining women's attention will read an invitation into any attention, no matter how negative. I mean, they're after attention. If you give them any, they win. And those kinds of guys tend to define "rude" as "a woman saying no to me in a way I can't pretend to ignore."
Since my very desire to be left alone reads as "rude" to Some Dudes, I have learned to stop worrying about politeness in these situations.
Anyway, he didn't get violent, thank goodness. I have been lucky; I have not yet encountered men who get violent when women tell them no. I damn well know women who have. And I know of some women who have, and who aren't around to tell you the story anymore except by being a statistic. "Men are afraid women will laugh at them; women are afraid men will kill them." This is not exaggeration. This is our world. I have been exceptionally lucky.
No, he just got petulant. "I'm just trying to be nice and have a conversation," he said. "Some people are nice in this world."
That sound you just heard? That was me running all out of fucks to give.
"I was just trying to be nice," said with that resentful tone of voice, is always a lie. No one who says that is trying to be nice. They're trying to oblige the unwilling recipient of their so-called attempt at niceness to render them tribute in the form of affirmation, gratitude, and attention. They're trying to get rewarded for Making a Grand Gesture of Niceness. What they're not doing is concerning themselves with whether their "niceness" is needed or wanted, or even experienced as pleasant.
This is much like the pissy retort, "I was just trying to help!" in response to the helpee informing the "helper" that their attempts to help aren't helping. Doesn't matter if the helpee is polite enough for tea with the Queen; the very fact that they aren't rendering the "helper" sufficient gratitude is enough to condemn them in the "helper's" eyes. "Helper" in scare-quotes, again, because such people aren't concerned with whether their target is actually helped.
Anyway, he got one more dig in when we boarded the bus, about how he didn't want to deal with "aggressive people." Funny how we can define "aggressive" in such different ways. I consider it "aggressive" to refuse to respect someone else's wish not to engage. But whatever. He didn't say boo to me the rest of the trip, and I for one appreciate it. (There's the gratitude you were looking for, Dude.)
So those of you reading this who want to do better, here's your takeaway for the evening.
- Don't be creepy. Telling me you've been monitoring my behavior is creepy.
- Having a conversation, like having sex, requires consent from both parties. Respect my "no."
- When there's no physical "out" available, respecting my "no" becomes even more important.
- "Nice," like "help," is in the eye of the recipient.
- You aren't entitled to anyone else's time, attention, or gratitude, unless you're paying them for it. And sometimes not even then.
So that's my story. Guaranteed there will be others as I continue being a woman in public.