Let’s start with an anecdote about the time I gave out my number to a guy when I didn’t actually want to.
It was last Monday. I walked into a Starbucks, and a man behind me in line asked if I had any suggestions on what he should order. I answered his question. Then, I grabbed my coffee and left to meet a friend.
My friend’s apartment is on the same block as this Starbucks. And as I’m waiting for her to buzz me into the building, the man who I had just met chased after me, found me, and he asked for my number. I gave it to him, although I certainly didn’t want to. But I was a little startled to say the least.
Yeah, this is not the start to a Nicholas Sparks novel.
Admittedly, this is not the only time I have given a guy my number when I didn’t actually want to. Even when I know mid-sentence of the request that I absolutely do not want to give my number away, for some reason, I feel inclined to. I don’t want to use the “I have a boyfriend” line, because I worry that’s bad karma, since I’m the ultimate single girl.
Although I will also admit that how I handle these situations probably doesn’t deem me worthy of good karma either; this is just how I handle these things. I give the guy my number, and after they inevitably reach out, I don’t respond. I pretend like nothing happened and the world spins madly on.
Four texts and a phone call later, this guy was not going to let this pan out the way it normally does for me.
Here’s a timeline for you:
11:20 p.m. “Hey its ____ from Starbucks today! You were definitely right about that tea, it was really good :)”
11:36 a.m. “Sorry about the late txt last night lol. Didn’t realize I got off so late.”
5:56 p.m. “Hoping that this isn’t a fake #. You seemed real cool in the Starbucks yesterday, and I was just hopin to get to know a beautiful girl.”
7:06 p.m. He called. I ignored it.
7:07 p.m. “#ouch”
Honestly, this whole occurrence made me angry. But was that fair? Did I lead him on? I mean I did give him my number.
OK, let’s talk about what I’m sure every person goes through when someone grabs their attention unexpectedly, be it through shouting, grabbing, throwing a paper airplane, or in my case, being chased after.
The response I always have in these situations is something along the lines of, “Wait… whaa?” But that’s just it. No one is ever in their element when abruptly confronted, let alone by a total stranger who just chased after you. That in and of itself is kind of terrifying.
Also, the fact that he called me right after not receiving a response from me to three of his texts and then texting me one final time with “#ouch” (how clever) all within less than 24 hours? I’m sorry, but what was he really expecting to happen with that? Did he expect me to say, “Hey! Actually I was ignoring you, not because you’re a total stranger who chased after me, but because I’m all about playing hard-to-get. If I wasn’t going to respond to your first three texts, of course I want you to call me! After all, who doesn’t love a man who takes charge?” Followed by what? Blushing, eyelids fluttering, and massive giggling? #bye
Based off of previous events, I can defend myself and other women when I say that it is valid for us to feel inclined to answer “yes” to a guy when we really want to say “no.” And here’s why.
Let’s look at the negative consequences we have seen painted across our society when a woman does not want to give a man something in return. And while I’m sure a lot of you will disagree with me, or say that my defense is made up of just excuses, you can come talk to me when women are no longer being killed for telling a guy “no” to prom, being killed for stating their beliefs, being killed because they didn’t say hi to a guy, or when they’re no longer asked to smile to strangers on the street.
Margaret Atwood once said that “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.” The events I just mentiond took place because men were reacting to a woman’s response that they did not agree with. No, this is not me singling out men. This is just me stating what has happened in the past. No, not all men are evil and are going to hurt us. And no, not all women are saints. But we shouldn’t deride the women that have felt threatened by some man in one form or another.
In my case, it was 5-foot me being chased after by a larger-built 6-foot-something man who I had just met. I’m not trying to be dramatic, but I also shouldn’t have to justify my feelings, either.
The manner in which he went about asking for my number is not solely what makes me so angry; it’s about how he reacted to me when I wasn’t giving him the response he had been hoping for. In his third text, he says I “seemed real cool” and that he was just hoping “to get to know a beautiful girl.” So, he finds me cool and beautiful—so what?
I couldn’t help but feel that him calling me beautiful was his strange way of bribing me to respond to him. And I’m sorry, but the dichotomy of the standards of beauty that are held for women vs. men is why his reasoning for aggressively reaching out to me made me so angry.
This stranger calling me beautiful in turn actually made me feel pretty hideous. Because I couldn’t help but consider that he was only being “nice” to me as a means to get what he wanted from me, not out of simply being a nice human being. His response gave me this perception that if men are nice to women, they expect something from us. In my case, it could be me responding to him, or XX amount of dates, or XX amount of anything he could possibly want. Whatever it may be, he and no other man should assume anything they want is something automatically granted to them out of an illusion of what may be considered being “nice.”
The thing is, when women say “yes” to a man when we really mean “no,” sometimes it’s because we find ourselves with no other option. It’s something we are practically brainwashed to say. When we do say “yes” when we mean “no,” we then victim-blame ourselves for what happened afterwards. The thought process then becomes, “This is my fault.” He was being nice to me. After all, I did give him my number. So I’m the one who’s wrong for responding the way I did, for responding the way he was hoping wouldn’t be the case.
But his escalated texts and his phone call are a good illustration of why I felt compelled to say “yes” when I really meant “no.”
Maybe that’s cowardly of me, but I couldn’t help but be a little scared of responding with anything less than what I thought he would want to hear. Would turning him down have saved him humiliation? Maybe. But considering how he handled things, it looks like he would have taken it pretty badly either way.
This anecdote is one of the many reasons why I can defend women who may feel obligated to say and do whatever we think a man wants to hear, because maybe we’re just scared. And I don’t think that’s something to criticize, that’s not me being sexist.
That’s just what it feels like to be a woman—or at least a woman like me—in society. That’s why women may say “yes” when we mean “no.” At the time, it seems less stressful. And saying “no” is never that simple, but as it turns out, saying “yes” isn’t, either.
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