I really wanted to start this post with a Hamilton quote. Possibly “Burr, you disgust me”. But I didn’t want to associate the following story with the ineffable Leslie Odom Jr. or anything the handsome genius Lin-Manuel Miranda has created.
I had a date last night. As a single 31 year old, I am the bane of my Jewish mother’s existence. I probably in some way make her feel like she’s failed as a mother. Regardless…I had a date last night. And it went horribly wrong. But wrong to the point of it being so ridiculously wrong that it started to sound amusing in my own head. So congratulations interwebs, you get to hold on to this story.
Also – any to man who comes across this post: this is NOT how you go on a first date. This is NOT how you go on any date.
Flashback to about 2-3 weeks ago. I’m on the bus. A man about my own age is standing near me. About 4 minutes from my stop, he asks if I speak Hebrew. I figured he saw my tattoo on my left wrist that’s in Hebrew. Or perhaps my necklace (which contains four charms of Jewish symbols). We struck up a brief conversation. He was polite and respectful. He asked for my number. I said yes. Listen. People meet each other in all sorts of ways these days. I don’t hand out my number to just any Tom, Dick or Harry. He was well put together, and didn’t once comment on my body or elude to sex. In my book that’s a win. So my number he received.
Over the next two weeks, we had a few phone calls. About three. Each one was a little awkward, but then, I’m awkward, and we don’t know each other, so I chalked it up to that. We agreed to meet at a park near my house and take a walk.
Enter “Man”. He gets off the bus across the street. Crosses. Says, “Hello”. Hugs me. Then…grabs the back of my head while hugging me; like you would do with someone you are incredible intimate with. Ok. Strike one. Perhaps he just hasn’t been on many dates I think to myself. Perhaps this is how his family hugs. I don’t know, but it immediately puts me on edge.
We start to walk. We’ve gone roughly 3 minutes when this conversational gem occurs.
Me: So what do you like to do for fun?
Man: “I dated a nurse once. She took birth control pills so she didn’t get pregnant. Do you do that?”
Me: Excuse me? That’s incredible personal and none of your business.
We continue walking. We are 3 minutes into this walk, but we are far enough into the path through the woods that forward is the only direction to go. It’s also possible that I gave him too many chances. But, I also got the feeling very quickly that he was possibly on the spectrum and so I gave him more chances than perhaps I would have under other circumstances. Now, I’m not opposed to dating someone on the Asberger’s end of the spectrum. Ask most people and they would tell you that I probably fall somewhere on the spectrum myself (at least with sensory issues). My issue is being blindsided by social awkwardness and an inability to accept, “No” as an answer. Keep reading. My story gets better.
Our “conversation” continued in interview fashion, with me asking questions, and him mostly answering them but usually changing the subject, and him asking questions in return. Seemingly normal, but all with a great feeling of awkwardness. I tried to ignore the feeling in my gut that this wasn’t going all that well.
We got to our, (well ok, MY) destination, and turned around to go back. When I walk, I always end up with some type of nature in my hand to play/fidget with. Enter more awkward conversation.
Man: “What are you holding?”
Me: Oh, just a leaf. I like to fidget.
Man: “You don’t have to do that. Hold my hand.” (reaches for my hand)
Me: No thank you. I don’t know you and I don’t want to hold your hand. (Takes a noticeable step back).
Not to be deterred by a simple word such as “No”, our determined “Man” immediately goes up to the first person he sees, hands them his phone, grabs me around the shoulder and asks the person to take our picture. I didn’t even have time to process what was happening before it was already over. I must have looked insanely uncomfortable; because I was.
At this point, I’m now determined to make it back to the other side of the park path in one piece. This man clearly doesn’t understand “No” and I’m starting to really really feel uncomfortable. About 100 yards later and he does this whole picture thing again, and AGAIN, I can’t process what’s happening until it’s over. He attempts it all a third time but I’ve finally caught on and say, “No. No more pictures. I don’t want to have my picture with you.”
I’m not usually this forward but this is clearly the only language this man speaks, and even with being so upfront he was clearly not understanding me.
It’s at this point in our little jaunt that I decide it’s time to drop the “we clearly aren’t on the same page” bomb of truth that will usually allow any man to understand that this isn’t going to go anywhere while allowing us both to save face.
Me: So what are you looking for? What are you hoping to get out of this? Do you want to get married? Have kids? Stay in the NYC?
Man: “I want to get married eventually. Yes I want kids, and I want to live in NYC or Israel.”
Me: “Oh. I will not spend my life in the NYC area and I don’t want kids. I think maybe we want different things for our future.
Again, our anti-hero doesn’t take to subtlety well and immediately begins a 10 minute explanation of how I DO actually wants kids and he clearly knows that and is going to tell me all about the kids I want. Well if all the unwanted touching when I said “don’t touch me” and the inappropriate questions about my birth control methods wasn’t enough, I’m definitely done now.
He sees a bench and asks if I’d like to sit and chat longer (we’ve walked almost two miles at this point and are a mile away from our final destination).
Man: “Would you like to sit on the bench?”
Me: No. I’m done. Let’s keep walking. I’m hungry and I’m ready to be done.
This may seem too forward and insensitive but keep in mind that this man has now not accepted “no” on any thing I’ve said and has repeatedly touched me when I’ve asked him not to. We are on a road through the middle of a park/woods. There are lots of other people around and it’s daylight, but the only way out is forward.
We continue our walk for lack of a better option, and finally near the end. He pulls out some mints.
Man: “Would you like a mint?”
Me: No thank you (thought: there is NO way you are getting close enough to kiss me)
Man: “Are you sure? They are small.”
Me: I said no thank you.
It had been brought up earlier in our phone conversations that I had at one point taken anti-anxiety medication for general anxiety disorder. I am very open with my struggle with anxiety. It’s a large part of my personality, explains several…quirks…and in general, I’m all about removing the stigma surrounding mental health. He had mentioned that he worked in a pharmacy at a Duane Reade in Midtown.
Man: “So what anti-anxiety medicine do you take?”
Me: Excuse me?
Man: “What medicine do you take? I’ve heard of them all.”
Me: I understand that, and while I’m open to talking about my anxiety and the challenges I can face with it, my medical choices are none of your business.
Finally, by the grace of lord knows what, we reach the bus stop. I say that I’ll sit with him until the bus comes. You must be thinking, “Are you INSANE? You’re going to STAY in this guys company after all that?” Hear me out. I don’t want him to see where I’m walking. My street is half a block from the bus stop. It’s a dead end street. There are only so many houses there. I don’t want him to have that kind of information on me.
I sit on a bench behind the bus stop. He sits…with his right leg LITERALLY ON TOP OF MY LEFT LEG.
Me: Please get off me. I don’t want to be touched right now. You’re too close.
Man: “I’m too close?”
Me: Yes. Please move. (I move as he doesn’t make the move to).
Man: Immediately touches my arm several times even as I move away. “What’s this? A scare from vaccines?”
Me: (moving away). No. Chicken pocks.
Man: touches my arm again. “I’ve heard of chicken pocks.”
Me: (moving away again). Yes. Most children get them.
Man: “Where are you going to get food?”
Me: I will probably walk down Myrtle Ave.
Man: “Can I come with you?”
Me: No. I want to be alone.
Me: (thought: I literally told you 5 minutes ago that I am the type of person that needs my alone time to recharge. And you’re creeping me out but I don’t want to say that.) I need to be alone. I’ve met my social quota for the day. It’s time to be alone.
Gratefully, the bus finally appears. He goes to hug me again and asks if I’ll finally add him on Facebook now that we’ve gone out. “No. I don’t do social media” I reply. Again, this man doesn’t need that kind of information on me. He doesn’t need to know my last name. He doesn’t need to know about my friends or my life. He gets on the bus and informs me he’ll call me when he gets home. Oh joy.
One of my girlfriends calls me as soon as his bus has departed and I’m across the street (in the opposite direction of my house). (To be fair, she called because she thought I was dying. I had sent her an “OMG HELP ME” text and then didn’t have a chance to follow through on what I meant as “Man” was staring at my phone. I’m glad I have good friends who love and care about me and I’m glad she forgave my making her panic for an hour).
She and I debrief the “date”.
Friend: “HE DID WHAT?????”
Me: I know! What do I do? He said he’s going to call when he gets home. Can I ghost on him? Is that something you can do when you’re 31?
Friend: “Girl, I really think you need to answer and TELL HIM ABOUT HIS LIFE.”
Me: Ugh. I know! But ugh!
Friend: “I know. But just rip it off like a bandaid. You have to. Just tell him, ‘Thank you for the walk today, but I don’t see this going anywhere and I’m not interested in a second date.’ It’ll be ok.
I go home, crack open a pint of Ben & Jerry’s (two of the most reliable and caring men in the whole world), and wait.
Man: “Hi. I got home ok.”
Me: I’m glad you made it safely. Listen, I’m sure you’re a very nice guy, but I think we just want very different things. I’m not interested in a second date, but I wish you all the best.
Man: “What do you mean? What did I do wrong?”
Me: That’s irrelevant. I’m really just not interested, but thank you. (thought: I want to see this conversation through without having to hang up on him. I don’t know this guy. I don’t want him to show up on my bus and harass me, or call me constantly and harass me).
Man: “But what did I do wrong? Tell me so I can change. What can I do to prove to you that I’m a nice guy?”
BECAUSE SAYING NO IS NEVER ENOUGH FOR MEN IN THIS WORLD (see rape culture)
Me: (thought: you REALLY want to play this game? Ok dude, you asked for it…deep sigh) You asked about my birth control choices within the first 3 minutes of our walk, you repeatedly touched me when I asked you not to, you asked MULTIPLE strangers to take our picture while you were grabbing me – we aren’t DATING, we were on a DATE – you mansplained to me how I “do in face want kids” and you questioned my personal medical choices.
Man: “So if I hadn’t done those things you’d still want to go out with me?”
Man: “So I should have waited until later to take pictures?”
Me: YOU DON’T KNOW ME. YOU GRABBED ME MULTIPLE TIMES FOR PICTURES WHEN I ASKED YOU NOT TO TOUCH ME.
Man: So I was too controlling in the first 3 minutes?
Me: (literally shouting and over annunciating) YOU.ASKED.ABOUT.MY.BIRTH.CONTROL.CHOICES.IN.THE.FIRST.THREE.MINUTES.OF.OUR.WALK. Listen. It is not my job and I’m not going to sit on the phone for an hour and explain to you what you did wrong. I’m not interested in a second date. I wish you all the best, please don’t contact me again.
At which point I hung up the phone and immediately blocked his number.
After everything, I called my girlfriend back and debriefed again and she put me on speaker phone with her roommate. While the conversation consisted mostly of “we are glad you are okay”s and “what the hell what he thinking”, and while I can laugh about it now (because let’s be honest, it was so absurd I’m almost convinced it will be the start of my stand up career), upon further review, there is something much deeper going on here.
Regardless of this man’s social inadequacies, what continues to strike me about our entire exchange, is that repeatedly, “No” wasn’t enough. Not when I asked him not to touch me; not when I asked him not to ask me personal questions; not when I told him I would not like to see him again. The fact that I really believed that I needed to sit with him until he left on the bus so he wouldn’t see my street (a fact that made my mom feel comfortable and thankful that I did the “smart thing”) – the fact that having to spend MORE time with a man who was making me uncomfortable was the “smart thing” to do and the fact that I had (I use this lightly, I realize I could have hung up the phone and blocked this guy, but in truth I was afraid he’d find ways to find me or keep getting in touch) to sit on the phone with this guy and explain why I didn’t want to see him again, while he tried to justify his behavior or say he wouldn’t do it again…all of those things are very disheartening. And this was just one date. I was lucky enough to plan a date in public, to be surrounding by other people, and to have a good head on my shoulders and enough therapy to know that I don’t owe this man anything and I can say NO loudly and forcefully. But I also shouldn’t have to. No should mean No should mean No should mean No should mean No. I look forward to the day it finally does.