A little more than a month ago, the day before I left for a weekend excursion to the mountains with my family, I received a text message from someone I did not know. I did not screenshot this conversation for reasons that will become apparent below, but later wished I had just for the sake of having proof. I couldn’t stop thinking about the weirdness of this exchange, so a couple hours after it happened, I wrote down what I remembered in my Notes.
The message I received said something like this:
hey Gordon it’s Manda. we met on bumble last time I was in town. I am here again staying with my cousins and wanted to meet for coffee
A simple wrong number, and what appeared to be an honest mistake. It’s also possible some dude gave this woman an intentionally wrong number which made me feel bad for her. So I quickly wrote her back a brief message, and the following exchange occurred.
“Hey, sorry this is the wrong number. But good luck to you out there.”
well this is mortifying. you don’t seem like a nut. are you a nice guy?
“No need to be mean for an honest mistake. Hope you have better luck.”
(I’d like to note this is now twice I have attempted to short circuit this conversation.)
rofl… you are so funny! I’m stuck with my cousins all week. any interest in chatting? what do you do when you’re bored?
(No response from me as I have no interest in continuing this conversation with some rando who got a wrong number. I then received an unsolicited photo of her face, and the following message)
you know my name and have seen my photo. how about you?
“My name is Jon and I am a happily married father of two. I hope things go well for you while you’re in town. Have a lovely day.” (Alternate reading: I will answer this question, but after that, please leave me the fuck alone.)
omg u r ridiculous! what do you like to do for fun… [blah blah blah blah]
On and on this text message went just desperate for me to engage in this conversation despite the fact that I attempted to be assertive but not rude in ending it. I decided I was going to ignore her from here on out, and even showed Kristin the texts like – “Can you believe this shit?” Ten minutes later I got this message:
I just got back from a super tough bike ride. I am very sweaty and about to hop in the shower. Would you like a couple more photos?
I wrote back immediately: “No I would not. Please stop texting me.”
With the futility of my attempting to end this conversation three times already fresh in my head and this chick’s Michael Myers-like relentlessness in pursuing me, I had a feeling the photos were coming anyway, so I knew I had to take more dramatic action. I blocked her number and deleted the thread. I put my phone down and was a bit disoriented and deeply unsettled.
I haven’t had anyone advance on me romantically in an uninvited way (digitally or otherwise) since before I started dating Kristin in 2004, and possibly even longer than that. So to say this was disconcerting is an understatement. After some time reflecting on it, I stumbled upon a truth that can only be gained through empathy.
This must be what it’s like to be a woman pretty much ALL THE TIME.
You give no discernible daylight in a conversation except for the most rote level of politeness, yet you get a mélange of irritatingly persistent, desperate, horned-up losers making unwelcome passes at you all day, every day.
I shared that insight with Kristin and she more or less confirmed my suspicions. Men will make a run at you in basically any circumstance whether you’re ready for it or not, which therefore turns you into a de facto jiu jitsu blackbelt in conversational redirection. That seems thoroughly exhausting and profoundly unfair. I got but a small taste of it, and it triggered me to write ~1,000 words about it to unpack it.
And look, I’m not stupid. I recognize this interaction may not have been on the level. It could have been some Russian bot trying to get me to share my credit card information, or some bored weirdo attempting to catfish me for god knows what reason. But if we take it at face value, the truth I’m left with is only what I felt, which was uncomfortable and a bit perturbed at how I couldn’t seem to stop this interaction.
I reflected on times in my own life when I pursued women who clearly had no interest in me and I wouldn’t let it go. Times when my advances, probably innocuous in my own mind at the time, were unwelcome and overbearing. Granted, I’ve been off the market for 17+ years, but college was fertile territory for being an oblivious dipshit (at best, and at worst, an outright creep), and my hope is that none of my pursuits ever crossed the line. I don’t feel like they ever did, but that’s ultimately not for me to judge.
Further, given that I was last single in 2004, I also just missed the seeming ubiquity of people sending each other nudes, and I am intensely grateful for that because that seems like it adds a potentially very fraught layer of complexity to interactions. I suppose that’s one of the takeaways here. I do not envy anyone attempting to navigate an ever more arcane web of communications channels in service of romantic coupling and tiptoeing around their assorted landmines.
The larger point is that men functionally have no knowledge of how women experience the world, and any time we do get even a small facsimile of what a woman deals with on the reg, it generally unnerves us at best, and horrifies us at worst. So when it comes to telling a woman what to do, how to behave, how to respond, or how to take care of her own body, men would be best served to shut the fuck up and listen for a change instead of railroading the discussion like usual.
And fellas, if she’s not giving you any daylight in the conversation, it’s for a reason. Take the L, sit your ass down, and respect the boundary. That is literally the bare minimum we can do, and we don’t do it enough.