I spent a considerable portion of my early twenties going on justifiably shrill tirades against my catcallers. So naturally, I had a "What the fuck are you thinking!?!" moment with myself as I moved forward with this plan.
I've been called a stuck-up bitch and a cunt when I've ignored street harassers so I make a point of saying, "Hi," or "Thanks" when I get comments. This usually gives the man the attention he craved and he moves along.
But sometimes, this is considered an invitation to conversation. And since my impromptu street lessons had no effect, I wondered if men would be more receptive to talking about why this behavior is problematic in the only context in which they related to women: overt flirtation. I set a few ground rules before beginning.
My first rule was that I had to find them attractive. I banned anyone who used overtly sexual or degrading words or gestures to address me. That meant that guys who called me Sexy and Bitch were out along with ones who do that gross thing where they look your entire body up and down and make a noise that is usually reserved for expressing enjoyment of delicious food. While this took a bunch of men out of the running, I was still left with Cutie, Shorty, Beautiful, Honey, Sweetie, and Girl.
When you say I look hot in this outfit, it’s not a compliment. It’s an indication of your low standards, bro.
I gave my number to three men over a ten-day period, figuring that one would come through for a proper date.
Nikolai was a total sadsack. He sent pouty text messages about his ex and his job and how he just wanted to get to know a nice girl. Seeing as I am not an especially nice girl, I didn’t want to waste his time, so I canceled. Timmy was cool enough and I was ready to give him a shot when I received an invitation to his 22nd birthday party. I don't date anyone born after 1990, even as a social experiment. My only exception to this rule is if he is a member of One Direction, which he was not.
The date eventually went to James, a handsome guy that gave me a long once-over and a "Yo, sweetie, I like how you look" in Union Square. With the exception of atrocious text grammar and spelling, he seemed harmless enough.
As a precautionary measure, I sent my friends his name and number in case he was a homicidal maniac that needed to be tracked down later. I asked that my tombstone read, "Here lies Alana M. She lived as a stunt queen. She died as a stunt queen."
We met outside his workplace on the Upper East Side on a Sunday. He wore white shorts and bright blue Sperries that matched his fitted T-shirt in a totally on-purpose way. I am loath to admit it, but the look totally worked for him. At his suggestion, we walked through Central Park.
We sat on a bench across from a guy that paints $10 portraits in 10 minutes. Chitchat about our jobs and summer plans ensued. We had been together 15 minutes and he started commenting on my appearance, with particular emphasis on my legs. This would have been fine, though weird, but he then proceeded to explain his own plans to work out his legs to get them “a lot bigger,” pointing to his key problem areas by pulling up the white shorts.
At his insistence, we talked about our workout regiments. He said, “You may not believe this, but I used to be an average-looking guy. But I really wanted to date only super hot girls and you know, you get out what you put in so I started workin’ out. Cause you know, I don’t wanna date no fat ugly girl or some girl with no body.”
The charm offensive had begun.
Car harassers: the most cowardly of their ilk.
I asked him if he got a lot of dates from calling out to women on the street. I didn’t use “catcall” or “street harass” so as not to betray my distaste for the practice and get him defensive.
He replied, “Sometimes. You know, I’m just always on. On the street, in the car, online. You gotta ask for what you want or you’re never gonna get it.” Fair enough. Misguided, but fair enough.
I asked if he had ever had a girl get mad at him for his sidewalk lothario ways. He replied, “Yeah, this one girl was like ‘WHAT THE FUCK IS YOUR PROBLEM?’ but I just laughed cause like, it’s not that serious! Girls are crazy, you know? I could show you text messages of girls from two o’clock in the morning trying to get on this, you know. Girls are crazy.”
He then proceeded to explain that if a girl he hits on ignores him or rejects him, he takes it in stride because he knows there’s probably a better piece coming along anyway. The preciousness of delusional macho posturing sent my heart all aflutter.
Within an hour he asked what I was looking for to which I replied honestly: I don't have expectations on first dates and I like to just see what happens. I shit you not, he did the arm-stretch reach-around my arm, pulled in closer and asked, "Would you be interested in something ongoing but not, you know, serious?"
I didn't want to jump to conclusions about what he was asking so I replied, "Are you asking me if I'll have casual sex with you?"
He paused for a moment, visibly jarred that I had stripped the conversation of euphemisms.
"Well, yeah. I think you're very attractive and I'm not looking for anything too serious."
I laughed at the forwardness and the timing. I’ve known plenty of dudes that are only looking to bone but none that have been so shameless in asking for it within an hour of meeting a girl. I told him through a chuckle that I’m a lady that appreciates subtly.
He seemed confused at my amusement.
He was like, “I don’t understand why you even came here you know, if you weren’t like, interested. Like when you get down to facts, do you think I stopped you so that we could sit in the park and talk about our jobs and those portraits?”
He was such a self-serious goof that I couldn’t bring myself to be offended. I sarcastically apologized for wasting his time and suggested that he holler at another girl while the sun was still up, maybe she would want to come home with him. That it had been an absolute pleasure.
As I stood to leave, he summoned me back and got all serious-faced, took my hand is his, and said, “Yo, we can take this slow.”
I was desperate to know his definition of “slow” considering the pace of his other advances. Six hours slow? Another date slow? I repeated that I liked subtly and wouldn’t be one of the crazy girls blowing up his phone at 2 am and that I wished him the very best.
An incredulous look appeared on his face and he said, apropos of nothing, “Girl, you know if I took my clothes off, I’d be the best-looking guy here.”
Please recall that we were in Central Park. The largest park in the country’s largest city, and a very attractive city at that. I wondered if he knew the statistical improbability of his claim. I repeated my earlier compliment that he is indeed, a good-looking fellow, and that I wished him the best.
I rewarded my courage with a Choco Taco on the way out of the park and sent the most laughable details of the day to my friends.
That night, I received the following text:
He was nicknamed “Riff Raff” after the lyric, “Riff raff, street rat,” in Aladdin. Not after the YouTube rap sensation.
I sent the screenshot to friends, one of whom suggested I quote "Legends of the Fall" and write back, “I’ll wait for you. However long it takes. I’ll wait for you forever.”
Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, I got this with the text “Just for you :)”
Man, I wish I could go show you guys his head.
I guess he wanted to make good on his claim about being the hottest guy in the park that day.
Also, if anyone has some idea what “fauwe” means, I’m all ears.