Last night I went to meet a friend in Williamsburg to see the Mike Birbiglia flick, “Don’t Think Twice” at 9:30. Innocent enough, right? Almost. As I approached the theater with one earbud in, one out (for safety) someone came up from behind me, put his hand in the crook of my elbow and declared a breathy, “Hey,” into my ear. It was very startling. For a split second I thought, “This has to be someone I know, fucking with me.” Why else would someone do that? Who could be that stupid? I mean, a lot of people, it happens all the time. I even flashed a few names through my head of possible culprits (my friend I was meeting, perhaps? My friend Danis, a known trickster?) before I even turned my head. Nope! Not a friend. Not even an acquaintance. Just a stranger – you know, actually wait no you don’t, it’s a fucking stranger. “Hey, you’re very pretty, I was wondering –“ As I pulled my body away from him I told him, “Contrary to popular belief, women wearing headphones don’t actually want to be talked to.”
Of course this is, as we call it on the streets, a conversation starter. “Whoa, I was just trying to talk to you.”
Me: Okay, but coming up behind me and touching me is a really bad way to do that.
Bro: I wasn’t behind you!
Me: Yes, you were, which is why I had to turn my head around to see you. Some advice: don’t approach strange women from behind on a dark street!
Bro: But we’re on Metropolitan!
(Little known fact: Metropolitan Avenue in Brooklyn is in what we like to call an Anything Goes Zone of human interaction.)
Me: AND IT’S DARK! (I am definitely screaming at this point)
Bro: But I wasn’t –
Me: I’m sure that you don’t have any bad intentions. BUT YOU HAVE TO UNDERSTAND THE OPTICS! FROM A WOMAN’S PERSPECTIVE, WHEN A GUY GRABS YOU FROM BEHIND IN THE DARK AND GOES “hey” IN YOUR EAR CAN’T YOU SEE HOW THAT IS NOT OKAY? HOW THE HELL DO I KNOW IF YOU JUST WANT TO TALK OR DO SOMETHING ELSE?
Bro: Whoa, hey, listen clearly something really bad happened to you and I’m really sorry about that and I wish you well.
Me: THE ONLY THING BAD THAT HAPPENED TO ME IS YOU GRABBING ME JUST NOW. YOU WANTED TO TALK TO ME, SO I’M TALKING TO YOU.
Bro: (as we come upon some passersby) I was just trying to say hello. You don’t have to be so crazy.
Me: THAT’S RIGHT, I AM FUCKING CRAZY. WHICH IS ANOTHER REALLY GREAT REASON NOT TO TALK TO STRANGE PEOPLE ON THE STREET BECAUSE PEOPLE! ARE! FUCKING! CRAZY!
I left that interaction feeling triumphant, even though I knew I accomplished nothing. By screaming at him, I didn’t change his mind about how he approaches strange women. If anything I just reinforced a previously held belief that “women are crazy.” But that’s the thing about crazy women. We often only reveal ourselves when men do something batshit insane. It sounds like common sense. Yeah, of course you don’t approach women from behind in the dark, touch them and whisper in their ear. It sounds like common sense, right? Right?
Here’s an alternative way to handle that situation, dude bros who may have gotten lost and managed to read this far: jog ahead a few steps so you’re actually in the woman’s purview. Then say hello. No need to invade someone’s personal bubble, just say hello from a non-invasive distance.
I hate to be Cliché Buzzword Girl, but this is male privilege. #NotAllMen for sure, but to be completely oblivious as to how this behavior might make a woman feel displays a lack of judgment and consideration that disqualifies you from conversation privileges.
….Oh, you thought this was over? It ain’t over. After the movie, which was great, I met up with my boyfriend and others at a nearby bar. I was already not in the best mood and was dealing with some personal issues on my phone – challenging in the bar with limited cell reception. As I’m standing in a circle of people I know, next to my boyfriend, a Rogue White Dude at the bar reaches over, puts his hand to the side of my waist and asks, “Are these people bothering you?”
NO BRO, YOU FUCKING ARE. <– screamed something to that extent, pretty hazy on the details due to Xtreme Rage, but I do remember slamming my half-full (see how optimistic I am?) High Life on the bar in front of him and storming out. As I passed the bouncer, I told him a guy grabbed me and pointed him out. At which point there was an exchange of thoughts and ideas between him and my boyfriend, which led to my boyfriend getting an elbow to the throat by the bouncer and being told to leave the bar.
We’re not asking for a lot here, guys. This is bare minimum shit. Preschool rules.
Keep your hands to yourself.
Don’t talk to strangers.
And if you think this is crazy, boy you have no idea what crazy can be. This isn’t crazy. This is Klemp Justice.
(OMG I really hope that asshole didn’t finish my beer. Ugh, he probably did.)