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When I get asked out by a creepy library patron, my default response is to say that I have a boyfriend. Even if I didn’t have a boyfriend, I would probably say that because it seems to be the only way to tell an inappropriate and usually far too old man that not only are you not interested, but you have something else going on in that area of your life already. The problem is, every time I say it, I feel frustrated with myself and think that there must be an equally good way to tell a gross old man to fuck off, without feeling anti-feminist.
In the case of the gentleman (16 years older than me, looks homeless but may not be) who presented me with a single pink rose on Valentine’s Day that he obviously bought at CVS and asked, “Would you like to go for a coffee sometime?” I wanted to say “No, I would not.” I mentally wrestled with myself before I answered him and sighed heavily before finally saying, “I have a boyfriend.”
Somehow, it seems more rude to reject them outright without having a valid (in their eyes) reason. Just saying, “No I don’t want to have coffee with you” is like me rejecting them as a person even though in actuality I can think of about a million things I would rather do than even be next to these men in the line at Dunkin Donuts. I do reject them as people because I know that we would have nothing in common, I’m not interested in the slightest, and I’m not accepting new friends at this point in my life.
Unfortunately, playing the boyfriend card on my previous library stalker didn’t deter him from spending far too much time trapping me in conversation, giving me his phone number and writing a letter to my boss about my exceptional customer service that prompted her to ask me ‘Who is this guy?” So even my go-to doesn’t even work as well as it should.
Perhaps what I need is to just stop thinking of these guys as people and just be rude to them. How do other ladies deal with unwanted advances? Is there a magic phrase, or is it case-by-case? My stunt ring may have worked at my other job, but I haven’t worn it yet at my new places, and really am sick of having to take that tactic.
At job #1, I spend most of my time with a man who I wouldn’t quite describe as elderly, but who did once bring up colonoscopy without a hint of chagrin or TMIness. Anyway, we get along famously, he brings me things, and we have a very healthy working relationship that mostly consists of me asking questions, and him lecturing in a “retired professor” manner. It’s kind of like my dream of going to college for free, except I’m majoring in old books, Rhode Island history, and economics.
Today though, the tables turned. We were wrapping up our working day a little early as he had business to attend to at his “gentleman’s club”. This is not the kind of gentleman’s club with the dancing semi-nude ladies, but rather, the gentleman’s club of yore, when men get together, sip scotch, and talk about leisure activities. I finished entering the information for our last book of the day, and he said, “So, you haven’t found a local boyfriend yet, huh?”
This was unexpected, but I rolled with it by replying, “There aren’t many normal boys in library school.”
He nodded and grinned knowingly, “and you’re not really into that club scene, are you?”
“No. I am not.”
There was a pause, that may or may not have been awkward, but I couldn’t really gauge it, because I was so baffled as to how we went from discussing the state of the economy, Adam Smith etc., to my love life. I inserted, “besides, even if I had been looking and found someone, he would just be another person for me to ignore as, you know, I’m quite busy these days.”
“Well, see you Monday.” he grabbed his bag and exited the room.
This is the kind of situation that I’ve read about for years. This is the kind of situation I’m actually writing a screenplay about, but have never had happen to me, presumably because I haven’t really been noticeably single in quite a while. I guess I should feel grateful (?), because having experienced it firsthand I can better use it in my writing (?) Mostly I’m indignant because I just used the phrase “my writing”, which I’ve avoided– always, and hate– completely. It’s right up there with “my depression” or “my beliefs about how food should be grown/harvested” as things maybe it’s healthy to own, but sound so completely pretentious… blech. So, what, my expiration date is looming and it’s showing on my face? Or is he just being grandfatherly/from a different generation, and wants to see me settled down already!
I’m terrified that he and the wife have been discussing me at home. I’m terrified that he’s going to produce some myopic nephew with whom I just have to have coffee. I just don’t get how we came to this place when less than an hour earlier, we had been talking about a summer internship opportunity I am excited about. We frequently talk about my future, and my career, my previous schooling, my opinions on literature, and my cat– maybe I’m just talking about my cat too much, is what it all boils down to. Still, this turn of events is alarming. I hope it stops here.