Issue #6: A Problem Of PerseveranceApril 15th, 2012 by Claire
a problem of perseverance.
I flew to New York last week for a wedding. My cousin, a VP for an investment banking firm, was finally tying the knot with his college sweetheart. And they certainly held nothing back when it came to their big day…
Dressed, smoothed, and polished in my formal attire, I knew just as soon as I stepped through the entryway of the high-rise venue in the middle of Manhattan that I had never been to a fancier wedding.
After an evening of mingling and great food, it’s time to move out to the dance floor and work off all the olive wraps and quiche rolls I’ve been snacking on. This has become somewhat of a standard protocol for my side of the family — even after a couple hours, we’re usually still out there holding strong and busting a move (or pretending like we can, anyway).
At some point, I realize I’m dancing in and out of a couple different cliques of people, and one guy in particular has become very focused on me. Jason — my newlywed cousin’s financial business partner — has approached in full and started dancing with me.
You know what’s worse than awkward romantic situations? Awkward romantic situations with people who have connections to your family… in front of your family. He’s not just dancing in a casual, friendly manner — if he’s not looking me up and down, he’s staring me directly in the eye… and he’s singing. Singing at me. I discreetly edge back to my own group, but that doesn’t stop him from following.
One of my friends catches me on the arm.
“Well, well… it appears you have a male suitor out here…”
“Don’t leave me, Will.”
“Oh, don’t worry– we’ll be right over here getting loads of pictures.”
The worst part? My mom, dad, sister, brother-in-law, aunts, cousins… well, you get the picture. They’re all watching this go down. My mother is even encouraging it in all her naivety, sneaking me little ‘thumbs-up’ gestures off to the side. And they are getting loads of pictures.
I’m not interested, and I’m doing all that I can to show my indifference to this guy without being impolite. I’m pretty sure he is at least a little tipsy — he’s having trouble with the concept of ‘dancing’, but the fact that he’s still able to hit most of the words to ‘Runaround Sue’ has me wondering. He could be fairly sober in the midst of these blatant advances, and that would not bode well for all intensive escape purposes. I prefer escaping from drunk people; they’re slower and they’re more likely to forget about it later. I edge a little farther away, trying to maintain my courtesy while turning more of my attention back to my own crowd.
I eventually get off the dance floor, but twenty minutes later, I’m cornered in the hall.
“Oh… Hi, Jason.”
“There you are! I’ve been looking all over to see if you want to dance!”
“Oh, I really think I’m done for the night.”
“What? No way, come on —”
“No really, my feet can’t handle anymore.”
“No, I’m serious — but you should go on out there and bust a move anyway.”
“You have to dance, it’s almost the last song…”
And this continues until it dawns on me that this guy might think I’m playing some sort of game, because he starts pushing harder — but I’m not! There are no games, here. It’s true, I don’t want to dance with this guy — I know nothing about him and he creeps me out — but my toes also feel like they’ve been shredded. It hurts just to stand. I only got up out of my chair to wish the bride and groom farewell. If Michael Jackson started playing right now, I’d have to sit it out… and if you’ve ever seen what happens to me when a DJ plays ‘Beat It,’ ‘Thriller’, ‘Blood On The Dance Floor’, or really anything by the King of Pop, you’d understand why that’s kind of a big deal.
“I’m sorry, I just really don’t have another dance in me.”
“Well… there will be plenty of time for that later.”
‘Later’? When’s ‘later’? What does that even mean? He slips me an ‘intriguing’ smile, and I am so baffled. All I can think to say is, ‘Actually, no; there will never be time for anything later, please leave,’ but that’s mean, and this guy has done nothing mean to me so far, so I flounder for something nicer to say. But there’s nothing. Really. I stare blankly for a moment. This situation is progressing entirely too fast for my mind to comprehend. I desperately try to trace back some sort of basis for all these come-ons, but I’m simply coming up empty. So, I throw out some word vomit:
Maybe this guy doesn’t realize I live on the other side of the country? Maybe if I can throw that bit of information onto the table he’ll leave me alone. At the least, it could give us something less awkward to talk about.
“Do you live in New York?” I ask.
“Oh, yeah. What about you?”
“Portland… You’re from Portland?”
“Yeah… Oregon…” (I really want to make sure he’s not thinking Portland, Maine.) “It’s pretty far…”
“Portland… really?” He shakes his head, thinking hard. “This is never going to work…”
‘This’? Whoa, back up the logic train! What is ‘this’? Where am I, who are you, and what just happened? I don’t feel like there’s been enough back-story for us to have arrived at our current destination. Did I miss something profoundly New Yorkian? Did I accidentally enter into some east coast unspoken rite pertaining to dance floor placement and new relationships? If I dance with you in a group for a few minutes at a family gathering because I can’t find a way to escape, are we suddenly on a date? That’s a pretty bold leap… and I don’t think so. I’m still cornered, and this guy really doesn’t want to let me by, so I forge the conversation on, trying not to think about how much my feet hurt.
“Yeah, well… it’s my first time in New York. Do you ever travel to the west coast?”
“I would if you were there.”
Oh my. Help? I scan the hall, but I don’t catch the eyes of anyone who can save me. Jason continues:
“So are you coming out with us after this? To the after-party?”
“There’s an after-party?”
“Yeah, you have to come.”
“Well, I don’t know… my flight’s tomorrow, and I probably —”
“What time is your flight?”
Foiled. It’s not until 2pm. I could lie and say it’s at 6am, but I hate lying… and there’s always the chance that this guy will ask someone else about my flight time.
“Well, it’s not real early, but I —”
“Not real early?”
Yeah, that was a lame response on my part. But was it lame enough for Jason to get the picture? Apparently not. I’m laying down the awkward disinterest pretty thick, here. I hope he really is sloshed, because if he’s this dense and pushy when he’s sober, I’d hate to see what happens when he’s hit his limit.
I try again:
“My flight’s around noon, but I’m not really a partier. I’d rather not. I should really get a good night’s sleep.”
“Nah, you need to come out with us, we’re going down to…” etc. etc. etc.
And the coaxing continues.
Please don’t make me play the ‘sober virgin’ card. I don’t want to, but I will. If it means freedom, I will play it boldly and awkwardly, like an emo kid making his final strike in a Pokemon tournament… and then it will be your turn to be speechlessly baffled.
Jason continues on about the wedding and the after-party, and I begin to realize the problem:
We are both hinting at two opposite desires, and my hints are weaker. We are at social war: ‘interested’ versus ‘not interested’, and if I want out, I’m going to have to be more blatant than Jason. I’m going to have to drop the nuke of rejection — I’m going to have to nut-up and say, “Look, I’m not interested in being with you. I enjoy conversation and getting to know people, but I’m afraid you’re mistaking my normal social behaviors for sexual interest, and that would be completely incorrect. I don’t want to go anywhere with you. In this case, things are exactly as they seem: What you are interpreting as hard-to-get is actually nothing more than rock-solid disinterest. I am not attracted to you, sir. Good day.”
That’s not an easy thing for a nice person to say to someone else. Especially someone they may have to see again due to family connections.
I think that’s the real issue, here. Most guys are ready to fight until the last man standing, while most girls would rather call a truce than drop a nuke… and make no mistake, some of us ladies have to be pushed far beyond our comfort zones before we’ll drag out the big guns.
Then again, if guys want girls to lay them out with a point-blank rejection, shouldn’t they come at us with a direct and unmistakable solicitation? Consider:
“Hi. I’m Jason, your cousin’s business partner. I don’t know who you are, but I find you very attractive, and I’d like to get together next weekend to pursue a relationship… or maybe just sex, if I think I can get away with it.”
Now… while that’s probably a very true vocalization of what goes through a lot of guys (and girls) minds at the advent of meeting someone new, it sounds more than a little daunting, creepy, and off-color to lay it all out there in such a blunt, direct fashion. Most people would cringe at such a bold introduction, and similarly a lot of girls would cringe just the same at rejecting a guy in the same callous tone.
So, what do I do? I fire up the missiles!
I lose the war. I can’t find it in myself to be so brazenly blunt to my cousin’s business partner. Friends and family are within earshot, so I let Jason continue his coaxing while I work on devising a covert escape plan. To my relief — before I’m able to work up the willpower to deliver the ‘I’m a party-killer — I don’t drink, and I don’t have sex’, speech — a few of my cousins grab me by the arm to haul me off to the photo-booth for some Maddock family photo sessions.
I never saw Jason again. But I spent the rest of the night retracing my steps and thinking of ways to avoid such situations in the future.
I never saw Jason again. But I spent the rest of the night retracing my steps and thinking of ways to avoid such situations in the future.
I don’t know about everyone else, but I was brought up to be nice and courteous to the average fellow human being. I don’t take any pride in being impolite, mean, or having any of my positive actions misconstrued as being rude. If I am rude, I always feel guilty afterward.
But there are times when I feel as though I’m supposed to be outright insulting. Sometimes I wonder whether being a nice person often backfires into catastrophe because maybe guys don’t want a girl to be polite or courteous?
It’s almost as though, if she doesn’t intend to accept a sexual relationship, they would rather her be a complete jerk. But then, if she is a jerk in order to get her point across, she’s also labeled a cruel bitch.
I certainly don’t consider this to always be the case, but I have to admit that it occasionally feels real, as I am notoriously ‘too nice’ according to friends and family. And to tell the truth, I’m tired of being accused of flirting or leading someone on when such actions could have never been further from my mind. Not everyone out there is motivated by sexual desire. Some people, like myself, just want everyone to have a nice day. Is that such a crime?
Complicating the matter even further, I also tend look at everyone in a platonic light before considering anything romantic, where as many guys have admitted to me that they won’t even look at or notice a girl unless there is room for an ulterior motive or sexual potential.
Personally, I prefer friendship before romance. In my mind, romance requires trust and compatibility, and I can’t trust someone with my deepest emotions if I don’t get to know them first. So the idea that I would be leading someone on within the first five minutes of meeting is a bit of a stretch. But knowing all of that is still unlikely to curb the advances of a persistent suitor.
Here’s a related story:
Laura and I were great friends all through high school and beyond. Steve entered into the picture as a mutual friend during sophomore year of college, and though he was interested in dating Laura, she said ‘no’ time after time.
Steve would leave it alone for a bit, but then he became extremely persistent about dating her and just wouldn’t let it go. He even confessed his love for her late one night on the staircase of our apartment loft… and was told ‘no — not now, not ever’. It was unmistakable. Laura even broke off her friendship with him because he just wouldn’t drop his affections. And you can be sure her brothers had their shotguns all ready to go.
This went on for over a year. We used to joke about Stalker Steve and all of Laura’s imaginary restraining orders against him, time and time again. But you know what happened after two years of rejections? They got married.
Today, I’m friends with them both. Good friends. Good ‘let’s-stay-up-until-4am-screaming-at-Amnesia: The Dark Descent!’ friends. I absolutely love Steve and wouldn’t want anyone to think that I still affix ‘Stalker’ to his persona.
But I also have to shake my head, because a success story like theirs makes the social scene all the more difficult for the rest of us. As long as triumph after a year of rejected advances is possible, can I really blame a guy for emulating such extreme persistence? Can I really blame the male of our species for thinking that the female is insane and has no idea of what she wants? Not when you look at it that way.
But on a larger scale, I think most people, male and female, have some amount of ‘crazy’ and ‘I don’t know what I want’ in them… and as much as we gripe about it, I think that’s a large part of what keeps us all interesting.
I’ve always thought that one of our biggest faults when it comes to the battle of the sexes is asking, “Why do women…?” and “Why do men…?” without realizing that every person has a different history
I’ve always thought that one of our biggest faults when it comes to the battle of the sexes is asking, “Why do women…?” and “Why do men…?” without realizing that every person has a different history, culture, background, and set of acquired traits and features.
Men and Women are not collective groups. We’re not machinery; we’re not all programmed the same. Sometimes it can make us feel better or release frustrations by complaining about one group over the other, but there is no validity there. We’re all individuals.
Sure, there are sometimes trends and patterns, but “Why do women…?” and “Why do men…?” will always be completely unanswerable paradoxes. The questions are ultimately futile. You can’t shove fifty percent of the population into a little box. You might as well ask, “Why do white people…?” and “Why do black people…?” because very few people will ever react in exactly the same manner for exactly the same reasons.
In my short experience, most of the opposite-gender-haters have had one or two bad experiences that they’ve come to let rule over them. A girl gets dumped by a guy for another woman, so now all men are cheaters and skirt-chasers. Likewise, a guy gets the cold shoulder after paying for a few dates with a girl, so now all women are calculating, manipulative gold-diggers. If there was actually any truth to either of these statements, monogamous relationships and marriages wouldn’t even exist.
Don’t waste your breath. Next time, ask yourself, “Why does this woman…?” or “Why does this man…?” and leave the rest of us out of it. Take a look at the man or woman who’s caught your eye, not as a foreign object of your desire, but as an individual with an existence equal to your own. Then ask your questions. You might not always agree with or understand the answer, but at least there will be one.