Recently, I had the distinct displeasure of meeting a young man who was apparently confused as to why women would not want to be with him. I’m a good man, said… we’ll call him Gregoire, “I don’t get why a woman wouldn’t want to be with me“. I blinked into my phone, reading the Book of Lamentations of the Self-Proclaimed Good Guy. Yet, I gave Gregoire the benefit of the doubt: I asked questions, gave him space to elaborate. It wasn’t that Gregoire, the good guy was actually complaining about relationship troubles. We all have them. The singles among us all think we deserve decent people to be with, because we are decent, fun-loving, ambitious people. No, no, it was that Gregoire, the good guy felt as though because he was a decent person, women ought to be flocking to be with him. It was confusing to him why a woman like me, udee, would not automatically see his goodness and sign my name on the dotted line to be with him forever …or for the night. Ugh, who knows!
There is nothing unsexier than an adult displaying their acute failure to grasp reality. Humanity requires a baseline level of decency in most cultures. You don’t get rewarded for being baseline nice. And your reward for baseline decency should never be other people. This should never be your expectation! Tell me, how does your being a decent, nay, good person, mean that you expect your reward to be a binder full of women? Women have become the prize to be won when you offer your seat on the train to the elderly, eh? Or perhaps when you drive your more than tipsy female friend home from the block party, you expect your reward to be what, a snog maybe? Or maybe it’s her romantic attentions you want? What do you appropriately reward a man who decides, in his infinite goodness, not to defer to inappropriate behaviour, or assault or outright rape? …and we wonder, still, on this side of the 21st century, why feminism is relevant.
It is emotional manipulation to tout your goodness as sacrifice for others, because (a) what metrics have you employed to calculate that your level of special and alleged sensitivity is deserving of female attentions? and (b) you’re simply not that special – no one is. In the face of sounding too morbid, even after your death, after a period of mourning and healing, life will continue to move on without you. You do not deserve other people. You do not deserve a woman. We are not property.
It’s actually terrifying to think, as a woman, that there are men out there who take their chivalry aka goodness aka decency and expect women to queue up to be with them. What unbridled entitlement! Upon explaining to Gregoire why this was not at all tolerable, I still don’t think he understood. He thought I was hating on his confidence as a guy. After all, he mused, I’m not ugly. Ah yes, my dear Gregoire! It is that you are handsome that you ought more access to a woman’s emotional and physical body.
I had had enough and proceeded to distance myself permanently.
I know my mother didn’t expect that I would chug into my late 20s without a wedding ring and a husband in my bed; she began wifedom and motherhood far earlier. I currently don’t live near my mother, but I imagine that if I did, by now she would have recruited our entire church to troop in eligible bachelors into our family living room for fellowship. Love you, Mama B, but I am glad the Atlantic Ocean separates us right now. In all our interactions, she (bless her heart; she means well) seems to forget (or probably never learned) the childhood chorus:
But first comes love, Mama, first comes love! The song says so.
I went back and forth about sharing this story: how to share it, where to share it… I imagine it’s often hard to tell stories of intervention as the person who intervened without listeners/readers assuming you’re trying to give yourself a pat on the back. Well, I don’t care; I’ll share it anyway. Someone probably needs to hear it more than my assumption that I ought not tell it.
If you’re active on social media, it was impossible to ignore the viral video that circulated the web streets on street harassment in New York City. While the buzz of the video was still making its rounds, I got hip to the NWAP podcast. Episode 18 tackled the issue of street harassment in a way that I haven’t heard before: black men asking a woman, as the case was, questions and listening to how they can make streets safer for women who experience street harassment. This was a crucial discussion, and I learned quite a bit; particularly on how to intervene on a situation I identify as street harassment as a bystander.
I’ll go right ahead and say it, I know what street harassment looks like. And I know the difference between a man paying me a compliment on the street and a man demanding my attention in a way that makes me uncomfortable. Street harassment takes on many styles, colours and flavours. I have experienced street harassment from all kinds and races and ages of men in all kinds of settings: walking to the corner for soup during my lunch break, driving in my car on the way to the gym, exiting a restaurant with friends after a dinner party, waiting for my Uber ride from the airport… Just about each and every time, after the occurrence (despite my putting my best game-face on, keeping my eyes ahead of me, raising my voice to alert onlookers, etc.), I was left rattled and sometimes near tears, unable to understand why a stranger would speak to me, wag their tongue at me, attempt to touch me, or whistle at me in this manner. I didn’t ask for this kind of attention; it’s fucking horrifying!
So shame on men out there who deny the occurrence of street harassment, claiming that men will be men or that this is what to expect when women look good or whatever. When an elderly white man drives his pick-up truck way too close to you on a 45 mph street, gains your attention as you look over wondering what the hell is going on, thrusts his tongue out at you provocatively, all while you are both are driving, then come talk to me about me making this shit up. Ch’! Lemme breathe.
I was in NYC about two weeks ago, about to cross the street in Times Square. The circumstances of what I was doing there are irrelevant, despite that the writer in me wants to paint a pretty picture about what Times Square looks like at 8pm after daylight savings time. I was standing about two steps behind a lady. In typical manner, I was taking in her attire; I clearly need to up my fall boots game! A gentleman approached her, trying to strike up conversation. I could see her glance at him, shake her head and attempt to angle her attention elsewhere. He kept speaking, inching closer to her, saying things I couldn’t hear. Anyone could see she wasn’t trying to have a conversation with him, even though I was standing behind her; anyone could see she was becoming uncomfortable. Body language can be such a universal mode of communication.
So I stepped beside her (the man was on her left-hand side), and ignoring the man, asked her which direction was whatever-the-hell street I was already heading too. She barely really answered my question, but took a large step away from the man and closer to me, giving me her attention. The man said something along the lines of hey I was talking to her, but seeing as now we both ignored him, he walked away. The woman then resumed her position, turned to me and thanked me, saying this is why I hate coming to Times Square. We chuckled sympathetically, the crosswalk light came on and we went about our separate ways.
Now that I recount that story in written form, I’m tickled by how quickly she identified that I was re-directing her attention because I knew she was being placed in an unconformable position. This man wasn’t paying her compliments, he wasn’t asking for directions, he was harassing her. He saw her discomfort through the fact that she was shaking her head at him and he continued to speak to her, entering her personal space to continue his monologue. The. Utter. Privileged. Gall! It’s never quite enough to non-verbally decline attention as a woman, is it?
From what I picked up from the podcast, this is what bystander responsibility and intervention looks like: de-escalating a situation (hopefully!) before it even becomes one; re-directing attention, and ensuring victims/potential victims feel safe to exact their own agency.
I will never meet this woman again, I don’t even remember how she looks! All I know is at that very moment, in Times Square, one less street harasser was prevented from ruining her whole damn evening. Not because I was on my hero grind (I’m the oldest of five children, I have special setting for that), but because I thought I would care enough to act like I gave a shit about this stranger and her welfare.
I re-touched my lipstick, checked my hair, parked, took a deep sigh, and wove my way to find my date dinner ‘n’ drinks partner for the evening. After introductions and pleasantries on backgrounds and initially nervous cackles on my part and discussions on mutual friends and another round of drinks, we were being silly and cracking up like long-time buddies.
Now, as a woman beyond her quadranscentennial year of existence, I’m acutely aware of the type of energy I surround myself with – especially when it comes to dating, meeting potentials, whatever. I’m of the school of thought that believes when coming out of your home to share some stories and make connections over a meal with someone, you would take caution to, you know, act like you want to be there, act like you’re not naturally inclined to misogyny (dude, what?!), act like you don’t subscribe to Twitter logic, act like you read more than text messages from your boys to enhance your diction and thought-processes …you know, do the usual things grown-up adult males do.
Nevertheless, when you connect with someone unexpectedly and it feels comfortable and fun and you actually get to like said person and date one leads to ….sporadic silence and the reason for said silence is actually nothing, i.e. he’s not busy, doesn’t have a sig other (that you know of), didn’t die, didn’t procure a goldfish that died, here’s what I do:
1 | Re-apply my lipstick
Dating over 25 years old ought not include shedding tears over potentials who don’t really desire you anyway. And MAC lipsticks have excellent coverage girl! Get you some; autumn is upon us and these darker shades are lushhhhh!!!
2 | Reach out. Like, once.
You liked him, right? That’s legit. Extend the desire to hang out again, that you had a good time… Why wait to tell someone you thought dinner and drinks was a dope time for you? You’re not 22 anymore; stop reading Steve Harvey; own your feelings; say something. But, like only once or something. No need to grovel over iMessage.
3 | Replay the good moments of the night
Personally, I like to replay moments. I do it constantly. It helps me process. So good or bad, I’m constantly replaying scenes of interactions in my head. It always makes for a great brunch story anyway. See? I do it for the people!
4 | Create respectable distance for myself
So sporadic silence and lack of a second date has occurred to me enough times to figure out a coping mechanism: if I liked the fellow and I’ve reached out only to be met with my own echoes, I give it some time. Even if I get a casual, non-committal “hey what’s up?” text (we all know these annoying texts that are more ornamental than functional), I tend not to respond. I’ll wait for all the sparkle of my time with you to wane out. I don’t believe in wasting my emotions.
5 | Move on
You’re not a dating humanitarian. No one wins the Nobel Prize for blowing up someone’s iMessage until they respond and agree to another date or meet-up or whatever the hell people are calling these interactions these days.
 What I call sporadic silence: after the amaze date/meet-up, you barely hear from each other. Communication is painfully halted and/or piecemeal , if not, completely non-existent.
Where are the articles about dating and relationships for the woman in her late 20s?
…for the single woman on the precipice of 30, the single woman who is still growing in her womanhood, the single woman who has purposefully given up the college scene, but finds the “older crowd” a little too…married with kids. This the single woman who is self-aware and self-confident enough to know that rom-coms are a scam and most dating advice online is click-bait.
There is so much growing up that takes place between 22 and 28 – it’s the difference between having been able to legally drink for a year and finishing up a graduate program/negotiating a starting salary. After 25, you’re truly an adult, making adult-ass decisions, such as replacing your college love for vodka with an appreciation for wine and brown liquors. You’ve come to the point where the weekly Thursday-Friday-Saturday party scene is unsustainable. Thursday is for staying in (it’s usually wash day for me), Friday is reserved for socialising over drinks and appetizers, Saturday – you’re tired; it’s a Netflix night, and Sunday is for brunch and long naps. Listen, you’re grown, the over-excitable large party scene is only needed once…maybe twice a month. And you’re more apt to gather among friends in cute shorts over a grill, sipping homemade sangria anyway. Why all the loud noises every single night of what ought to be a restful weekend?
Dating for the post-25 year old is a different kind of beast, seeing as you’re becoming a different kind of woman. You’re more calculated about your time (‘no’ is a stand-alone statement), the language you employ is more robust (you code switch like a mutha!), your expectations have taken shape and heightened. In all, while still a creation in progress, you’ve become a much more defined, fleshed-out woman than your 22-year-old self.
For the sake of musing and to end my seeming laundry listing of how peculiar this specific age group is, I’d like to highlight a few realities that are perhaps unique to women who are actively dating between the ages of 25 and 30:
1 | Younger men are largely still immature, even though they will argue tooth and nail that they are not. It’s just true. Yes, there are the occasional exceptions, but dude, give it to me straight, how many exceptions have you met lately?
2 | Take the dating game lightly. While finding the kind of guy you’d like to settle with might be your ultimate aim, right now you’re dating. Don’t take every single date so seriously that you wear yourself out. Many dates, you’ll wind up sipping wine across from an absolute joker. Trust me, when brunch rolls around Sunday, you can cackle about it with your girls.
3 | Go with your gut about the whole damn thing. If communication sucks and you’ve been clear about your thoughts on the matter, go with your gut: it’s probably not going to work. If you think he’s harbouring more drama than you need in your life, go with your gut, it’s probably not going to work. If talking to him seems more forced than natural, go with your gut, it’s probably not going to work. Don’t ignore the spidey-senses you have. You have ’em for a reason.
4 | Your mid-twenties are an awkward time altogether. Guys at this same age range most likely aren’t going to have all their shit together – much like you might not; let’s be fair. Know what you are willing to deal with and be up front about it, because you should always go with your gut (#3) and you’re dating anyway, right (#2)?
5| Say what you mean, dammit. At times, this would mean you’re more communicative than he is. Maybe that means you actually initiate a telephone conversation to clear the air, rather than resorting to strained text message conversations. If there is any worth or merit therein, invest accordingly. You’re a grown up now; own the responsibility of your emotions, perceptions and thoughts.
don’t break the law, just pay your taxes
this world was built for us all – humanity first, they said
be peaceful, they said, not too much unrest please, they said
as your city streets still fill with the blood of your daughters
tree barks still marking open graveyards over which your grandmothers’ bodies hung to dry
sidewalks still wet with the bruises of the punched cheeks of your mothers
bodies whistling away in the winds
choking away their future, their health, their well-being, their humanity
shh, now, no need to wail this way, they said
why wail this way
justice is being served, trust the systems to save you
they said, be peaceful, sleep tight, don’t stir
yet your daily bed becomes colder; where are your children to fill your hallways
In stillness I hear everything
The thump in my chest the hum of the mosquito the buzz of silence
And deep within the bowels of my being rests your image
You are beautiful
How many different ways are there to say I miss you
How the most intense of emotions are communicated in simple phrases
Don’t you think
But I refuse to reflect on the void
I will believe in this
We are two entities of one singular instrument
Each part useless without the other
And yet unique enough to stand alone
written: July 4, 2008