I wish I had something pleasant to write, but I’m in quite a mood.
The backdrop is this: Driven by a desire to be vulnerable again, I decided to revisit dating again, in recent months. It makes me terrified to be vulnerable, for I’m afraid of abandonment, and my trust issues are deep rooted. But while I have been treading on this new territory, what I wasn’t anticipating was being harassed.
I’ve been staying in the Upper West Side in Manhattan, with a wonderful writer who likes to host artists.
Three three nights ago, a fellow houseguest knocked on my door at 11.30 PM, while I was texting this lad who I fancy- who, well, of course thinks I’m weird (but have a cute smile), because umm, why not? What’s not weird about someone who looks like an insomniac raccoon half the time, parties like an apocalypse is approaching (which it probably is, per my bank account balances), and travels solo in places she should not be alone?
But I digress: A fellow houseguest knocked on my door. When I opened it, he said, “Are you sleeping?”
“I almost was,” I said, keen to end the conversation and get back to my texting frenzy.
“Well you seem honest. Can I ask you a question. Do you know what friends with benefits is?” He leaned in as he spoke, all up in my personal space like it was his birthright.
I stepped back. “Yes, I know.” The last time I checked, English was my first language.
“I want to have friends with benefits with you.”
Seriously? Of all the mofo bullshit boundary crossing madness?
“I’m not interested.”
How about how unattractive I find someone who waddles like a penguin, or someone who sees me as a transaction, chattel, to be solicited for sex, without knowledge about my personal life, or even my basic habits. When had we become friends, to take it one step further? I began to wonder what brought this on, recounting my limited encounters with him and his mother, who were both visiting since earlier in the day: I had offered them coffee, and when I was asked, also my lotion. In return I saw him gargle and spit nonchalantly into the kitchen sink, which was filled with dirty plates, and then later he told me that my meal- of french fries and tuna, was gross and fat inducing. At that point I said quite clearly that I’m not trying to lose weight, and retired for the night. How on earth had my refrain resulted in this flustering encounter?
“I have someone else,” I lied. “My ex, he’s coming into town next week.” The things we women do and say, to stop unwanted attention?!
“So, even better.”
“No, I’m not interested.”
“Well, if you change your mind, let me know,” he said.
Right before I shut the door on him, he added, “And don’t tell anyone.”
That night, I barely slept, worried about having my room broken into or violated, clutching a bottle of pepper spray one of my girlfriends gave me after a random in Williamsburg grabbed my crotch two years ago while I was walking home from the train station. Perhaps I was hyperbolizing with my reaction, but to have someone in your personal space who is so inept at basic etiquette is despicable to me.
It didn’t end there.
Two nights ago, he hovered outside the living room, waiting for me to emerge, and approached with puppy dog looks and a soft “How are you?” as though we were having an intimate conversation.
“Fine,” I said curtly, and walked off.
Yesterday, there was a dinner party at my hostess’s house. Before dinner, he tried to suggest he has a friend who is looking for an assistant.
“I have ten years of work experience,” I responded. “I don’t want to be anyone’s assistant.”
“Send me your CV,” he insisted, while I chopped up ginger for the curry I was making for dinner. The kitchen is tiny- I felt I was being predated on.
“I’m doing something right now,” I said, wondering why this man was being so aggressive in his desire to connect.
I avoided him all evening, but today morning, right after I got off the phone with my mom, he approached me again. He said, “Wash the dishes and clean up the kitchen. My mom and I did all the small ones.”
Ladies and gentleman, loading a dishwasher is not the same as washing dishes. As someone who has been constantly cleaning up after this houseguest, I was furious to be bossed around- I hate it when men think they have the right to do this, and I had been planning to wash those damn dishes and clean the kitchen once I had a moment to finish my coffee.
“I was going to do it anyway,” I said. “I don’t need to be told.”
“What did you say?”
“I said I was going to do it anyway,” but then remembering my manners, I added, “Thanks for letting me know.”
I was seething by now, at him just as much as I was at myself, wondering why I had remembered my manners.
I have met thousands of folks throughout my life and there has been one commonality among all the differences: many are afraid to do things they want because they are worried about what others will say or think.
You have to do you. You only have this one life, I concluded.
Back in my room moments later, I started writing a strongly worded message about how he needs to leave me alone. Then I heard him in the kitchen, probably getting ready to mix his damn spit with the dishes again, as he gargled. I came out to deliver a monologue.
“I find your proposition from the other night disgusting, deplorable, and pathetic. You don’t even know me, we are not friends, and I don’t need to be told what to do. Just stay the f*** away from me for the rest of your time here,” I said.
“Can I say something?”
“No,” I said. And walked off.
I have difficulty asserting myself with people when I have been wronged, but I think I did well in this particular instance. I’m still seething. Still feeling wretched. Men like this make me remember why I took such a long break from dating- they assume that their interest in me denotes a right to my body, my time, my boundaries, and they chip away at my carefully crafted happy-go-lucky posterior with crude suggestions.
I don’t have wise words, but I think I will sleep much better tonight.