succumbing to peer pressure

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A post that I will surely regret in the morning

Went out with a couple of female friends tonight. Received (of course) both wanted and unwanted attention from the opposite sex. One guy in particular was quite...dedicated. Not especially creepy or threatening, but definitely beyond the bounds of friendly or desired and certainly missing some pretty universal social signals. On the walk from the bar to the car one of the bar tenders happened to be leaving as well, and commented on how patient the three of us ladies were, in reference to this particular man. We thanked him, said good night, and continued on our way. In the process, we commented on how 'being patient' was really just part of the job description of being female and out at a bar on a Saturday night. Accepting unwanted attention seems to be par for the course for every female I know, and accepting it, and passing it off, with grace and compassion seems to be a skill worth acquiring. It really bothers me that it wasn't even a blip on the radar for any of us that we had to deflect this socially awkward and inappropriate attention. It bothers me more to know that I am partly to blame for it - I am quick to assume that someone is awkward rather than mal-intentioned. But regardless of the motivation behind the action, people who behave in socially unacceptable ways should be told so. Perhaps in forgiving and compassionate ways, but nevertheless, it should be suggested that they modify their behavior. Why should we (women) always be the accommodating ones? Why should it be my job, why should I acquire the skill, of gracefully deflecting and dodging some over-attentive guy at the bar when really I just went out to spend some time with my friends? Why is it assumed that I'm flattered that you sat down and want to know my name? And you know what? Now matter how clever and funny you think you are, and I pretend you are, suggesting that flashing my breasts will 'earn' me french fries is offensive. So fuck you. I should have said so to your face tonight.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The flashing thing sounds jerk-ish. I think to your broader point that the default assumption of one sex being the designated pursuers and one side being the designated pursuees is often going to leave both sides unhappy with their role. I can see how being the target of unwanted and awkward attention sucks. On the other hand having to repeated go out on a limb and likely get shot down sucks in a different way. Yay for being married and not having to deal with the whole situation!

2:08 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

You're right that both roles suck. I just came home more frustrated with my failure to act more pro-actively - I'm not the kind of person who let's people treat me that way, and when 'subtle' signals didn't work, I should have been blunt. I'm a blunt kind of person. And maybe that guy would have just walked off thinking I was a bitch, but maybe, someday, it would have sunk in that you shouldn't treat people that way. I'm frustrated that I perpetuated the extremities of the roles we play.

3:41 PM  
Blogger reyn said...

Scipio makes an excellent point that I've made for years. For some of us, getting up the nerve to intrude on an attractive girl's evening is usually replaced with thoughts of pepper spray and agonizing hours in the ER waiting room. I suppose there's some inherent irony here--the (considerate, thoughtful) guys from whom you may want attention are the ones least likely to offer it directly.

That said, subtlety is should be reserved for subtlety. When someone offers you fried food for a peek at your chest, it calls not for subtlety, but overtness.

Tasers are pretty overt.

8:21 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

Both Steve and Reyn are right, of course, that it's the timid nice guys who have to work up the courage to approach strangers. And it sucks that our society continues to be set up in such a way that that is 'your' job rather than 'my' job. But it's actually a subpopulation of those nice guys with whom I'm annoyed. The overtness of an offer of food for nudity does actually make that situation easier to handle. It's the more subtle guy, who isn't overtly threatening or abusive, and yet still has managed to overstay his welcome, that I don't know how to handle. And it's that guy I feel more responsible for - for every Case nerd I allowed to linger awkwardly in my doorway long past a zillion social signals, I helped turn that Case guy into a full-blown grown-up who has no idea how to interact with women. Am I solely responsible for that? Of course not. Did I play a part in that? Certainly. And again, I'm only talking about a subpopulation here (if you're worried that you might be that guy, you're not. by definition, worrying about overstaying your welcome prevents you from doing so. If you are self-aware enough to be self-conscious, you're not that guy). AWB and I have discussed it extensively - although we object to the misogyny of The Pick-up Artist, there is a certain merit to teaching men how to read body language. Because there's no universal list of acceptable and unacceptable behavior in this gray area. Of course, there are boundaries - making eye contact and saying hello is pretty universally ok and offering food for nakedness is pretty universally not. In between, it's all about context. And that's where you have to learn to pay attention. Am I making eye contact with you? Leaning in when you talk? Touching your arm when you say something that makes me laugh? Please stick around. Are my eyes glancing over your shoulder? Am I leaning away from you? Returning to conversation with my girlfriends during lulls in our conversation? Are there lulls in our conversation that I'm not trying to fill? Then thanks, but no thanks. You've made a valiant effort, and I will respect you immensely if you suddenly see someone else you know on the other side of the bar or suddenly need to pee or find some other way to exit gracefully. Please don't continue to bend my ear for the next three hours.

8:48 AM  
Blogger katey said...

Just because every group has it bad doesn't mean that all groups should take it without complaint. Society forces people into all sorts of roles, and we should speak up, like you just did (boy, do I get the frustration with feeling like it's too late...), and say it. This is a pet peeve of mine as well, and I'm too damn polite to just be a jerk about it and tell someone to piss off. (Unless I've had a whole lot to drink. In vino veritas, etc.)

Many men are somehow boxed into thinking it's their job to pursue. Many men are also boxed into thinking that any kind of close relationship with another male is "bad". (I had a recent experience with this-- did I tell you about that? Anyhow, I'll email you.) There are all kinds of screwed up things we do to men.

This is one of the screwed up things we do to women. It's inexcusable, and there has to be a better way. I wish I had some wisdom on the subject, but I've been wishing that for years.

Maybe I need to write a horror story about it! Yeah!

(Yes, this is my answer to everything.)

8:42 PM  

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