Gather round, gather round, friends, and let me tell you a heart-warming holiday story!
A heart-warming story that, I will warn you right off the bat, includes body-shaming, sexual harassment and sexualized jokes, R-rated language, and my unvarnished opinion of a pretty gross dudebro. If you want to avoid the worst of the sex stuff, you can skip to page 3.
So possibly that warm sensation in your chest is your bile rising, not your heart growing three sizes. I’ll let you be the judge.
Recently I was invited by an old friend to a holiday party with a bunch of artistic theatrical people I don’t know, and after some initial hesitation, I attended. It was a lovely evening all around; I met a bunch of really interesting people, enjoyed good food and drink, caught up with my friend, and got to dress up and show off my brand new blue hair.
I also met a young man who I am going to call Erik the Red, because he introduced himself as “[Real Name] the Red.”
Well. Saying “I met” him seems kind of passive for what actually happened.
Are you familiar with pickup artistry? I don’t mean here just lines like “Did it hurt when you fell from heaven?” or clever opening gambits like “Hey, I was having a debate with my buddies about James Bond: who’s your favorite?” I’m talking about the Game — the set of rules and techniques by which a certain set of heterosexual men seek to manipulate women into sleeping with them. PUAs use tricks like “negging” (giving backhanded compliments), outrageous accusations, “peacocking” with extravagant clothing choices, and specific kinds of physical contact to put women off-balance, to make themselves seem more interesting, to score.
I have read of these creatures, but I never expected to meet one in the wild.
So here’s the scene: I’m standing at a table at the edge of the room, on my phone, feeling out of place among all these actors and unsure how to get involved in the party, when Erik the Red, a big, clean-shaven, redheaded young man came rolling up. I think he mentioned something about my hair before we exchanged names.
Actual Dialogue I Am Not Even Joking #1
Erik: Anthea? That’s a beautiful name.
Me: Thanks! It’s Greek.
Erik: Greek? Does that mean this– [He touches my arm hair; not touching my arm, just touching the hair.] –is Greek too?
I laughed it off. It was weird, but whatever, right? People are funny. He asked me why I was standing around by myself, and I explained that I felt awkward among all these actors, having been off the stage myself for several years. “Several years? Like you’re what, thirty?” he asked, and I laughed and said “Close, 25.” He scoffed and said he was 26, and I asked him what he does.
Actual Dialogue I’m Sorry If You’re My Mother And You’re Reading This #2
Erik: Oh, I like to think of myself as kind of a triple threat, because I’m three hundred pounds and I can do the splits like it’s nothing–
Erik: And when I sing you’ll get a little wet too.
This is the moment where something truly extraordinary for me happened: I realized I did not give one single damn what this man thought of me.
Now, I am, both by upbringing and constitution, inclined to give people the benefit of the doubt, to believe that there’s something good and interesting in everyone, to treat other people with the same respect I’d like to be treated with. My sensei trained the motto We must improve our manners, respect, and self-discipline into me from the age of twelve.
And I didn’t give a flying fox about any of that with this guy. This guy who thought that I would mistake arrogance for confidence, who thought that he could touch me and make X-rated comments within five minutes of meeting me — he obviously had no respect for me, and I realized I wasn’t obliged to give him any respect in return.
Vistas of unimagined impoliteness opened up before me.
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