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Don’t Call Me Cupcake

June 18, 2009


…entitled to speak to me that way!

It’s that season again–spring clothing season. The time of year when we shuck sweaters and coats and step into the sunshine and flash a bit of skin. I am quite modest about just how much I shuck and just how much I flash, but this does not deter certain fellows. Oh, no, they are not shy at all. They step right up and hike up my t-shirt sleeve, all the better to check out my tattoos.

“Oh, it’s just me, I’m just looking,” a stranger told me the other day, as he slipped a finger beneath my sleeve and gave it a yank.

The guy in the subway took a more coy approach. “You’re pretty,” he dribbled, giving me the once-over and running a hand through his hair in what I assume he thought was a hot gesture. “Oh for god’s sake, give it a rest,” was out of my mouth before I realised what I was saying. I’m not usually that blunt, ordinarily would have muttered something weak and stupid like “thanks”, becoming complicit in the man’s inappropriate come-on.

It seems patience is running thin this spring, and not just my own. Yesterday, I received this email from my sister:

“…today, after YEARS of quietly fuming while creepy guys say inappropriate things and then feeling really slimy and pissed off afterward–today, I finally yelled at a complete stranger in public, and IT WAS AWESOME!”

Apparently, some dude came up to her at a streetcar stop and suggested they hook up, assuring my sister he knew how to make a babe like her feel real good. At first, she rolled her eyes, then crossed her arms and turned away. Still, he persisted, until at last she blurted, “Where the fuck are your manners?! No wonder you don’t have a girlfriend! Why on earth would you think women want to be spoken to this way? I can’t fucking believe you!”

This is not to say that all come-ons are disgusting, all appearance-related remarks are unwelcome, and shouting down strangers is universally appropriate. When a driver nearly does me in while I cycle a congested street, it feels great to flip the bird in response. But, do I really need to? Really? Or, could I just let it go? It’s a complex process, balancing the details in my palms and weighing a situation. Shouting at everyone who does me wrong–not ok. Shouting at someone who scopes out my tits, expresses enthusiastic approval, and persistently offers free and abundant sex? Probably ok. Shouting at someone who nearly kills me with a vehicle then blames me for sharing the road? Maybe ok, maybe not.

Things slide quickly from catharsis to behaving in an uncivil fashion. I high-fived my sister for sticking up for herself, because it took years of harassment before she reached “fuck you!” I know what she means when she describes feeling sleezy after politely declining unwelcome flirtations. I once told a boyfriend about a sidewalk encounter–some guy approached me to chit-chat about my ass and when I told him, gently, to scram, he wouldn’t. Instead of sympathizing, my boyfriend suggested that I’d encouraged the guy–body language, coy smile, failure to assert my disapproval or displeasure.

I’d lugged around my frustration all day, and instead of shouting at a rude stranger, I called my boyfriend an ass (which he was). And, therein lies the complicity. I failed to communicate with the harasser, and after first turning him into an anecdote, I used him to pick a fight with my partner. This stranger became a part of my life, meanwhile, the guy probably never gave me another thought once he turned and walked away.

Quietly accepting gifts from an unwelcome suitor spurs on his affections. Likewise, resorting to good manners in the face of poor ones can imply that calling me “cupcake” is ok. Sometimes, you need to stoop to the other person’s level, because that’s the only plane upon which the person can relate.

Of course, there are also boneheads who will never get a clue–I’m sure my sister was one of several lucky ladies that man admired on Tuesday. We can only cross fingers and hope he went home without finding any takers.

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. Carrie permalink
    June 19, 2009 1:04 pm

    This is such a difficult thing because whomever thinks that the cupcake way is an ok way to relate to a woman is on a completely different plane from me. Even better are the guys that make the "comere kitty" sound when I walk by.

    I once asked one of these (teenage) guys if that ever worked and he said yes. I think he was lying.

  2. Carrie permalink
    June 19, 2009 1:05 pm

    Now I am all mad!!!

  3. Amanda permalink
    June 19, 2009 1:18 pm

    Exactly. I mean, a person who thinks it's ok to pull up a woman's shirt, or to call someone "kittycat" or shout out a car window, etc…I dunno…where do you even begin?

    It's like how you can't assume an insane person who is causing a scene shouting in the street isn't going to punch you in the face. The person is clearly not governed by rules and guidelines the rest of us take as a given–"oh, he won't punch me because people will see!"

  4. Amanda permalink
    June 23, 2009 9:58 am

    Oh, Miss Carrie, don't be all mad! take a page from my sister's book and go shout at someone in public, heehee

  5. Julie permalink
    June 23, 2009 2:06 pm

    Last week, I stood up too early for my stop on the streetcar, noticed a dude from the back also stood up. I felt weird.

    When the paused traffic made my standing seem unnecessary, I sat. So did the dude from the back. I knew at that moment, I knew.

    When I got off at the next stop, so did he. I stalled with my umbrella to ensure that he passed me on the sidewalk, hoping I was just being paranoid. Thought about ducking into a corner store to ensure I was not being followed, but it was raining and I wanted to get home (just 2 blocks away) so decided to just walk a few paces behind.

    At the end of the block he stopped, turned and asked me in which direction Dufferin was. I silently pointed ahead in the direction we were already going. Then he laughed and said, "Can I talk with you?"

    I said "No, thank you."

    “Can you tell me your name?”

    “No. Thank you.”

    This was repeated a couple more times, until I picked up the pace to make it very clear I was NOT walking & talking with him. When I got to my door on Dundas he passed by me and said “good-bye”. I locked up all windows tight that night.

    Why did I choose to say “No, thank you” instead of “Fuck off”?

  6. Amanda permalink
    June 23, 2009 2:36 pm

    Sooo many stories like that, where afterward, we stand there berating ourselves for using good manners instead of appropriate harshness.

    The other day, some dude hit on me as I unlocked my bike, pretending we knew each other from somewhere, but doing a poor enough job at the charade that we *both* knew he was fooling no one. And yet, I remained polite and told him to have a nice day. Blah!

    Glad you got home safe and sound, and happy you are moving house!

  7. looka permalink
    June 23, 2009 3:57 pm

    Curses!

    Gesus, I'm not a good example for a gentleman, but fuck, it's assholes like that, that get me all riled up.

    It never occured to me to even think that talk like that would lead to a situation both parties could enjoy.

    No kindness or patience in one of these effin' junkheads.

    I'm really sorry to hear about all that happening guys!

  8. april permalink
    June 23, 2009 6:06 pm

    Are you kidding?!?! He pulled up y'r sleeves? A stranger on public transit? That's so NUTS!! Y'r tattoos are crazy sexy, but if he didn't know you, this was above & beyond. WAY above & beyond!!! I hope you gave him a damn good slapping!

    I can't offer much more advice. Men can suck; plus ca change…

    Puff

  9. Amanda permalink
    June 23, 2009 8:03 pm

    Stranger. Pulling up shirt. Totally true. More than once, actually.

    There is a bike shop near my house, and the proprietor has posted tiny cards on the handlebars of the bikes out front that read "Touchers–No Touching!"

    I love those signs so much…perhaps I need to clip one to the front of my shirt.

  10. looka permalink
    June 24, 2009 2:55 am

    Another thing that strikes me about how freakin' dumb and insensitive some, er, many, erm, male born people are. Like I said, I'm not the shining light of maledom, but: Idiots please!

    When was it made a rule that what is somehow attractive to you is "FREE TO TOUCH" for whoever?
    Those signs you mentioned should be a requirement of thinking, dangling infront of the visual nerves of said, er, total freakin' shitdumb male born idiots.

  11. Amanda permalink
    June 24, 2009 6:58 am

    Simon–so true…but, in fairness, there are truckloads of dumb and rude ladies out there too…

    : )

  12. looka permalink
    June 24, 2009 8:11 am

    Oh yes, there are… and I have some stories of those too.

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