Fuck Off, I’m Reading (or, Why I’m Such a Rude Bitch)

*Note: this all happened over the course of a few months starting in January 2011, so while the events are all accurate, the quotations are not verbatim. However, they are accurate in tone and meaning.

Picture it: It’s a beautiful sunny day.  I’m sitting on a park bench with my boyfriend.  I’m reading, he’s quietly strumming on his guitar.

I hear him say hi to someone and I look up.

and that’s when I realize my bright sunny day is about to be less sunny and more “OMFG I don’t want to deal with this asshole right now.”

Now, I happen to be reading a damn good book at the time, and I’m at a really tense scene that I would rather not be pulled away from.  With most people I’d put the book down and try to participate in friendly conversation, but I tend not to extend this courtesy to my Mortal Enemies™.  Especially not Nice Guy™ Mortal Enemies™.  He’s kind of sort of friends with my boyfriend, mostly because my boyfriend doesn’t know when to tell people he dislikes to fuck off, so I discreetly cross my fingers and hope they’ll just talk to each other and let me read my book.

No. Such. Luck.

“Hey, whatcha readin’?”

“A book.”

“What’s it about?”

“Psycho Axe-Murderers who kill people who interrupt them when they’re reading.”

Mortal Enemy smiles smugly.  I can hear his thoughts- what a bitch. His brain is saying. What did I ever do to her?

Well Mortal Enemy, let’s back up a few months and I’ll tell you.  Might want to take a quick bathroom break.  This is a long story.

I am shy and have a hard time making friends. I was in college for 2 years before I finally managed to bond with someone over a cigarette between classes, and I didn’t exactly end up BFFs with this person either. I eventually decided to join a club.  Around the time I made this decision someone started a Secular Student Alliance on my campus.  I’m an atheist, and the club was still small enough that I figured I’d have ample opportunity to interact with everyone, so I joined.

Fast forward 4 months, and I still barely knew anyone in the club.  It was January, and my holidays had been filled with an overabundance of family and a disappointing lack of friends. Then the club president announced a meet-up on the Facebook page.  I didn’t have a car, so I would have to get someone to come pick me up, but that was even better because then I’d HAVE to interact with someone.  So this guy- fuck it, let’s just call him Avery.  Avery picks me up along with this other guy- Randall.

Just a quick aside- I was in a car with two men, one of whom (Avery) I only knew from club meetings and the occasional interaction on Facebook, and another (Randall) who I didn’t know at all. Society has conditioned me to be mortally terrified in this situation, and I was.  I hid it rather well, though, and luckily Avery was a nice guy.  Not Nice Guy™, but a genuine nice guy.

So after an awkward car ride where I tried to speak awkwardly with a couple of guys who both turned out to be nearly as awkward as me, we arrived at the park where the meet up was being held. We all talked, and everything was going smoothly.  I was even speaking up more than usual, and I was ecstatic that I might actually be making some friends.

Then it got kind of cold out, and I shivered.

Apparently, if Randall is attracted to you, and you’re not attracted to him, this is the wrong thing to do.  He came up behind me and started hugging me, as if trying to keep me warm.

“Um, don’t… don’t do that.” I said.  Randall seemed a little disappointed, and I kinda felt bad for making him feel bad, but the uninvited physical contact was making me uncomfortable, so I felt justified.

We ended up going to IHOP afterward, and somehow it ended up where I was sitting with Randall at my left and Avery at my right.

Now, Randall was clearly not used to talking to women.  I don’t mean this to be disparaging, it’s just a fact.  Instead of asking me about my interests and things like that, he chose to keep complimenting me over and over again.  Not that I wasn’t flattered, but there’s only so much you can hear “I think you’re really pretty,” from the same person before it gets boring.  Meanwhile I tried to ask him about his interests, his major, etc, and rather than really engage in conversation he just kept falling back on repetitive compliments on my appearance.

“So, I saw on your Facebook that you like Stephen King?” A voice drifted up from over my right shoulder.  I looked over and saw Avery looking back at me.  Sick of the one-sided conversation happening on my left I turned to him.  We got into a long, geeky conversation about our favorite Stephen King novels, and which ones we didn’t like that much, and like OMG best author ever, right? In my fangirl haze I completely forgot Randall existed.

I ended up engaging in great conversation with the rest of the group, too.  I soon realized I’d finally found a group of people I could really get along with.  I was disappointed when it came time to leave because this was the most fun I’d had in ages.

We were all standing outside as everyone said their goodbyes and dispersed to their individual cars.  Again, it was fucking cold out, and I fucking shivered, because that’s an involuntary fucking reaction to being fucking cold.  and again, Randall came up behind me and started hugging me. This time I got a little pissed.  I shrugged him away and again said “don’t do that.”

I don’t respond well to people acting against my stated wishes and continuing to touch me after I’ve said not to. and did I mention that apart from the short, failed attempt at conversation we hadn’t spoken at all?  but I figured he probably misread me and thought I wanted him to hug me and within a couple of days I was willing to once again chalk it up to awkwardness and a limited ability to read body language.  Specifically, “fuck the fuck off” body language.

A month or so later, school was back in session, and it was time for Club Rush.  If you’re not familiar with the term, it’s basically where all the campus groups set up tables and tell everyone why they should join their club.  At my college it went on for four days,  and you couldn’t get into the cafeteria without climbing over several people, or enjoy your lunch without one of the groups blasting their music at the highest possible volume, making you deaf for the foreseeable future.

I was helping out at the SSA table, and while Randall was never all that active in the SSA, he was very active in some other campus groups, and was manning a table near ours.

It’s pretty much my philosophy to be as nice as possible to everyone I meet, just because I don’t want to lose potential friends and I don’t want people to get the wrong impression of me.  So while he was getting on my nerves more and more as time went on, I tried to walk the tightrope of being nice, but not so nice to where he’d misinterpret my intentions.

He eventually picked up one habit which I didn’t find cute, at all, and just reminded me of some junior high school kid who can’t figure out how to talk to girls. He started stealing my glasses. As in, reaching over and snatching them off my face.  Repeatedly. I didn’t enjoy putting up with that shit from my nephew when he was 2 years old. and here was what I assume to be an adult expecting me to find it somehow endearing.  Every time I told him to stop, and he kept doing it.  Eventually Avery asked me if I wanted to go get something to eat and I agreed.  He told me later that it looked like I was about to lose my shit at Randall and he had wanted to get me away before I lost my temper altogether.  and he was right, I was clearly and justifiably pissed that this guy was continually invading my personal space for his own fucking amusement.

By the time the final day of Club Rush rolled around I had given up any pretense of civility.  He was still trying to snatch my glasses off my face and I finally just snapped.

“For the last fucking time, keep your fucking hands to yourself. I mean are we in kindergarten? Did you fail to learn the fucking rule of social etiquette that says ‘don’t fucking touch people without their permission?’”

I can’t remember what he said in response, but it prompted me to say, “Well, I guess I’m a bitch. What can I say?”

“Yeah,” he said, “most blondes are.”

From that day forward, I refused to interact with Randall more than I had to.  As I said, he wasn’t as active in the SSA as I was, so thankfully I didn’t have to deal with him that often.  If you haven’t caught on yet, he’s the one that interrupted my boyfriend and me when we were in the park. Hopefully my behavior toward him that day is now self-explanatory.

And Avery? The one who talked to me like a human being, talked to me about my interests rather than my appearance, recognized when I was getting justifiably pissed off and gently diffused the situation without mansplaining that I was somehow overreacting? He’s my boyfriend.  Imagine that.

So consider this Lesson #1 in Miss Pandemonium’s Guide to Being a Decent Human Being:

Treat everyone like a human being.  Just because you’re attracted to someone does not give you the right to invade their personal space, make awkward comments on their appearance, interrupt them when they’re busy, and make yourself feel better by discounting their desires, opinions, and emotions as less important than yours. Acting like you’re entitled to whatever you want from a person, regardless of what they want, is not going to get you any closer to a date, or sex, or whatever it is that you’re aiming for.

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