Monday, June 11, 2012

I Flatter Myself That Your Refusal Is Merely a Natural Delicacy


     It has come recently to my attention that some of the girls close to me have become the victims of stalkers. Not the dangerously unstable I’m-going-to-knife-you-in-your-sleep kind. The weird, uncomfortable kind, the guy that suddenly starts showing up all the time or texting you a thousand times a day. The guy who won’t take a hint. I’ve never been stalked in this way myself (and I can think of about six hundred reasons why), but I know a reasonable amount about the phenomenon owing to having listened to the experience of my friends and the amount of research that I have done on the subject. I am here, therefore, to share what I have gleaned. No particular reason, I just haven’t written a post in a while and I was thinking about this all day. 



     These guys are called date-stalkers, by the way. I’ll be referring to them as such throughout this post. 


     I will first outline the specific situation that I am addressing. If you recognize it from your own life, I hope I can help you. Basically, the date-stalker is a guy who you were nice to once or twice. Maybe you went on a date with him. You probably gave him your number at one point. He is interested in a romantic relationship. You, however, are not, and you’ve tried to be nice about refusing him, because you’re just a nice person. But he doesn’t seem to get it. He is contacting you excessively, maybe showing up where he knows you work or hang out. He might not seem dangerous, but he just won’t leave you alone. He might be a really nice guy. Maybe he’s sweet and funny. But he won’t. go. away. 


     Shall we start, then, with his origins? You may have noticed that the title of this post references Pride and Prejudice. Why, you may be saying to yourself, is that? The thing about Pride and Prejudice is that it’s supposed to be the iconic chick flick (what’s the book version of a chick flick?). But its best-kept secret is that it did not buck the male-dominated trends of the day in which it was written. It’s the story of a woman who learns her place. It’s not about Lizzie’s journey to find love. It’s about how she finally gets past her naturally mistaken female sensibilities and Mr Darcy lands the woman he deserves. Darcy, Collins, and the date-stalker have something in common: the belief that all that is needed to win (rather, to earn) a woman is persistence. The hero always gets the girl in the end, even if the girl initially did not want him. 


     We like to think we’ve moved past the whole women-are-property thing, but our art shows that this is not the case. Every romantic comedy, every love song, is about a man finally getting the woman of his choice, simply because he is the hero and therefore deserves her. Sure, maybe in the beginning she’s with someone else, and she might even really like him. But because he’s not the main character, he’s not right for her. She doesn’t make her own choices. The story makes choices for her. As a society, we love the story of a woman falling in love against her will.


     And that’s what the date-stalker counts on. He is, after all, the hero of his own life’s story. He deserves the girl. And if she initially displays reluctance to be with him, so what? They all do that. In the date-stalker’s mind, there are only two options. The first is that she’s mistaken, and she really does like him but doesn’t know it yet. He reasons that the only way to fix this is to show her his wonderfulness by constant contact. The second option is that she is secretly attracted to him and is conscious of this feeling, but is playing hard to get. Because that’s just something women do, apparently. 


     Long story short, this guy cannot take hints. There is honestly no amount of hinting, no matter how thinly veiled, that will convince him that his attentions are unwanted. Anything short of, “Not a chance in hell, creeper,” is interpreted as, “I’m afraid of the feelings I have for you, but you can fix that by bringing me coffee when I don’t ask for it, thus displaying your gentility and thoughtfulness.” He’s not a bad person (well, he might be a bad person. I'm not going to rule that out). He’s just convinced that he deserves her. She says, “I don’t want a relationship right now,” and he hears, “Later.”


     It’s a problem. Women are notoriously afraid of being rude, and the phrase “not a chance in hell” is always going to feel rude. These girls either pity the date-stalker (“I’ll let him down easy”) or fear him (“He’ll erupt at me if I just say no straight-up!”). However, pity is dangerous (because the date-stalker views it as attachment) and fear is not based in reality. Yeah, maybe she’ll get a nasty text, but that’s the point. It’s only going to be one text. These guys are looking for someone they can control. If a girl makes it clear that she does not fit this requirement at all, he moves on. It’s that simple. He doesn’t want her. He wants her to submit to his will. And her refusal to do that is literally the only thing that will convince him that she is not the girl he wants. 


     But, Andrea! you may be saying. What about all the stories of girls who have been slain by stalkers? What about the girls who say, “I don’t want you” to a guy and are promptly murdered? And it’s true, those women do exist. There are stalkers with the potential to become violently, even fatally angry. However, this only happens after it has been established that his woman is indeed his woman. That is, only after the woman herself has made it clear that she is completely under his control does he feel threatened by her desire to leave him. A date-stalker has not reached this point. And like I said, he might not be nuts. He just thinks he’s entitled to whatever woman he wants because that’s what he’s been told his whole life. 


     So, the antidote to a date-stalker? Boundaries. Clear, firm boundaries. Women don’t like to be firm. Society likes its women submissive and sweet, but if you don’t take charge of your own life, if you don’t lay down the law and make your own choices, who is going to do it for you? The date-stalker, of course. That’s his whole point. 


     Don’t negotiate, don’t let him down easy, and don’t fear him. Your only option (and I mean only option) is a crystal-clear No


     I do not want a relationship with you. You are not the right person for me, and you never will be. 


     It has to be firm and unbreakable, and it has to come from you personally. 


     Does that sound rude? Well, yeah, maybe a little, but the thing about rudeness is that it’s cultural. The rules of social convention were set by men (in most of the Western world, anyway), with the clear intention of giving them the upper hand. The date-stalker’s biggest advantage in his quest to dominate you is that society is largely on his side. 


     Fortunately, the individual is on yours. Nobody wants you to be hassled by this guy. We won’t look at you coldly or think you’re a terrible person for protecting your personal space. I am not a man, but men and women really aren’t that different, and I think I speak for most men when I say that the entitlement mentality is held only by the minority. 


     You’re not a china teapot that he can buy at the thrift store. Don’t act like one. 

5 comments:

  1. As usual, Andrea, love your thoughts. But, I think I disagree with your evaluation of P&P. Couldn't we say that Elizabeth's initial impression of Darcy was wrong and it was good, in this case, that he persevered? Her assessment was wrong. He was a noble person and through his persistence, she finally recognized that. Or, do you not think he was noble...merely selfish for acting only in his lover's interests as it suited him?

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  2. No, I completely agree with your interpretation of the story, which was exactly my point. The story itself is flawed. It teaches women that we are not smart enough to trust our instincts about potential mates, and it teaches men that women don't know what we want. In real life, refusing to accept a negative response is a sign of disrespect and possessiveness. It's not cute. It's rude.

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  3. The thing is, some women are eventually won over by men who pursue them. But the men are usually good-looking and Italian. Doesn't seem to work for anyone else.

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  4. I'm not saying it never works. Heck, it would work on me if the gentleman possessed large enough biceps. I'm just saying it's not a healthy way of doing things.

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