My drug of choice is writing––writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Mailbox: Creepy Guy Narrative (Part 3 of 4)

This is self aggrandizing/congratulatory/indulgent!  The way you described her beauty made you just as creepy.  Why didn't you post this from her perspective?  Describing him the way you did was also a trope.

Go here to read Part 2 or All the way back to Part 1

This is part three of a massive reply to some of the most common questions and criticisms about my article, "Changing the Creepy Guy Narrative."

This is self aggrandizing/self-congratulatory/self-indulgent crap!

I suppose it is, honestly.  I agree.  I told a very, "you'll never guess what happened!" story and then it went viral.

I karaoke a mean "No more Mr. Nice Guy" too.
It’s kind of funny. I got just about an equal number of e-mails and/or comments that this was fake and I obviously did no such thing as I did that it was blowing up my pedestrian actions into some kind of heroic moment. So an equal number of people out there think there was no way this could have happened as thought it was so banal that I shouldn’t make such a big deal about it.

We can't just GIVE you the liquid anger Discord!
We need to make back our investment.
Oh dear me!  He stole it from us.....
Who could have foreseen that.
I also notice something else, and this is just a side-effect, I think, of writing something that has gone viral online. When I wrote every other of my posts that happen to be about me or something I did "as a writer," they’re just my stories, and people either read them or didn’t.  No one thought I was self aggrandizing/indulgent/congratulatory when I wrote a post about a My Little Pony L.A.R.P. where I was playing Flim (or was it Flam?) and we conned Discord into drinking liquid friendship. Now THAT was me being hella clever, lemmie tell ya.  I was no mere terrified smart ass that day.  Oh no.

I posted this story success on the same four social media that I post everything and then watched in disbelief as my numbers from a year and a half of blogging were tripled inside a week. When something gets popular, people begin to act as if their eyelids were sutured open (using eye-droppers of saline to keep them moist), and they were forced to read it.

All I really did was snark some jerk. Not exactly the pinnacle of human achievement.

Unless....wait....is this about me being a writer? Because I know you probably could tell I’m a writer from the original post.  (You could, right?  ~rimshot~) I wasn’t exaggerating about that part; I really am a writer.

I know it seems self aggrandizing to say so, but it is actually true. Writers have incredible socialization skills--we are all jet-setting extroverts with impeccable senses of fashion and gobs of charisma. Not that we need it because writers have chiseled bodies like Adonis and people form queues to be around us.  It's all that sitting--it's great for the glutes. Plus, we make off the hook money and enjoy careers of extreme glamour. And everyone really just...adores that person who corrects people's grammar and reads so much that they know something about almost everything.

Favorite. People. Ever.

Strangers buy me drinks when they find out I smith words. I've had a different pair of twins "tuck me in" every single night since I first started this blog. I call up President Obama every time he uses the subjunctive case wrong--and I put him on hold. But...I'm afraid that part is actually true. It's not congratulatory, aggrandizing, or indulgent. I really am a writer.


The real problem here is that I want to agree with you.  I really, honestly do.  I don't think it should have been that big a deal.  It should have been a level of common human decency, unremarkable to anyone outside my circle of regular readers.  One more article of a non-writer event awkwardly forced into the container of seeing the world "as a writer." I didn't feel heroic, and I still don't.  I'm embarrassed by the people calling me "badass."  I felt like I was being a smart ass to a jerk who wasn't leaving someone alone.  It shouldn't have taken something special to recognize what was happening or do something about it.  I should have gotten a pat on the back from my friends and a "cool story bro" from others.

I would like to live in that world.

But as comments poured in and poured in and poured in (and poured in and poured in), it was impossible not to notice...

Of the nearly seven hundred comments this article has generated so far--and another two hundred or so on other social media and through private e-mails--fully a third of them have been from women (and a couple of men) who have gone through public harassment, often multiple times, and found no one to help them. A few wrote about being alone, but most were in a crowd–a crowd that didn't notice or didn't care, sometimes with people they could see pretending not to be aware of what was going on.  Some of these crowds even helped the creeper--telling the woman that she should have been nicer.

The comments of those who had been abandoned in their own such moments just kept coming and coming and coming (and are still coming at least once a day).  The gratitude was embarrassing, but mostly it was heartbreaking.  As I heard one horror story after another that ended with "I wish you had been there for me," I realized that my story went viral precisely because it was not "common" decency at all.

Please believe me when I tell you that I wish this article, and everything in it, had gotten the usual 250 page views, one comment, three likes, and then disappeared into the night.  I would gladly endure all the negative comments about how self aggrandizing it was to write it up if it meant I really was me making a big deal out of nothing.

But I think part the reason it struck a chord with so many readers is because we all really, really wish that someone telling a story about intervening when a guy won't take no for an answer was self aggrandizing/congratulatory/indulgent. We don't want it to be worthy of this much attention. We want it to be common, banal, pedestrian.

But it isn't.

Why did you describer her beauty?  That seems a bit creepy too. Would you have helped her if she weren't beautiful.

Two reasons:

One is that it was true.  I was not writing a didactic story where everything was as it "ought to be." I was holding a mirror up to a real event and trying to be as honest as possible.  Would it have been a "better" story if she hadn't been conventionally attractive? Perhaps. I also could have added zombies, a fight between pirates and ninjas, a battle that ended on the top of the train with me holding a guy's head up as we went through a tunnel and a coup de grace pun (like "You should have quit while you were ahead!"). Then it would have been a MUCH better story.

The reason I chose to give her appearance emphasis in the article was so that I could contrast it with her body language. I noticed her, but I also noticed she was saying "Stay Away!" It also served as a contrast to my actions. I noticed that she was beautiful but clearly uninterested in social interaction and I moved on. That's the way men should behave. There was no "fortune favors the bold" bullshit.  There was no "I couldn't help it because you're so beautiful" bullshit.  There was no "baby if you didn't want attention, why are you rocking that skirt" bullshit. I noticed, admired, and then proceeded to take out World War Z and read.

Would I have helped her if she weren't beautiful? Absolutely. I wasn't trying to get anything from her. This wasn't the tired ol' "man saves damsel from barbarian--gets panties with phone number written on them as reward--saves world from crab people" trope. And other than a mouthed "thank you" I didn't get anything from her. I was sitting behind him. He was sitting behind her. She was desperately trying to go back to reading. She and I didn't really interact. My beef was with him and how he was not recognizing that he was hitting on someone who wasn't interested. I wanted to show him what that was like including the not getting the hint part. I was snarking him. Helping her was a happy side effect.

Every single "thank you" that I've gotten on this thread (anonymously and from people I have never laid eyes on) has made what I did as much "worth it" as her thank you did that day.

Why couldn't you have posted this from her perspective? [Yes, I really got this question from several people.]

Wanting to hear her story is a fine thing to want. Complaining that this is a story about a guy from a guy's perspective is a little disingenuous but I understand the impetus. Complaining to me that I didn’t post her story puts you in danger of looking a bit foolish. There are some biological realities to face.

Do you also complain that McDonalds has a terrible antipasta selection or that Glee never has a grisly murder to solve?

I’m sure I could write a story from the perspective of a character in that position, but at that point it would become fiction no matter how honestly or truthfully I portrayed her. However, to be perfectly honest, several of the comments from people in similar situations are in the replies and they are all remarkably similar. They describe an unbelievable sense of relief that someone had their back, both socially and possibly physically. (And none of them describe being annoyed at the loss of their agency or how white knighty their helper was being either.) There are dozens of such stories in the replies and even more everywhere this article has appeared. It really doesn't seem too difficult to get a sense of how she probably felt.

But I'll point you in that direction if I ever find out that she has written about it.

Pinky swear.

Describing him the way you did seems like it created its own bias and trope. You even admit that you decided to make him retroactively look like a jerk.

I wrote my post just a few hours after the incident. My fingers were having trouble hitting the right keys because I was still on an adrenaline high and shaking. There was no way I was going to be objective. I had to own that.  So I admitted my bias to my readers and let them draw their own conclusions.

But man, he really did look like a douche. Like if I met him away from some attractive woman he could harass, I would expect him to turn to me and ask, "Bro, do you even lift?"

And you might be surprised at just how comfortable I am portraying a guy who wouldn't stop harassing a woman literally begging him to leave her alone as an asshole.

Continue to Part 4 (What about teh mens!  You are badass!  Thank you.  And thank YOU!)

[So this three part article became a four part article.  I promise that the excruciating pain is almost over. I do need to give a reply to my "What about teh menz!" commenters, but I realized that I also wanted to say something in reply to the comments that were brave, candid, honest, and genuinely moving.  I didn't want a feedback mailbox to such a breathtaking thread of sharing to only be focused on the howler monkeys flinging their poo.  That meant I needed at least one more part.]


  1. This comment needs no reply: it's just another thank you from a woman who has been there, and who really hopes that more people will be as brave and helpful as you were. Thank you.

    Also, your replies to common trends in the replies you've gotten have been really rather hilarious as well as trenchant. I think you might be a writer. ;)

    1. Thank you so much! (Though I must admit that I've been coasting by for YEARS on context clues for the word trenchant, and I finally had to go look it up. :-p)

  2. Ah, but you committed the ultimate crime. You're a self-confessed man. You can't have an opinion on women self-defence, sexual harassment, sexual predation or anything of that kind, because you're a man! You're the problem! Go polish your horns and stay out of our business!

    And breathe.

    Sorry, chuck, but this is a field in which you can't do right. I'm of the female persuasion, but I still can't do right because I believe in trying to resolve the issue by training women (which means, apparently, that I blame the victims).

    If it's any consolation, we can be chauvinist pigs together.