I could see how it would go, just by how it started. Immediately direct. Within the first few messages he asked if I wanted to video chat, with some playful banter about helping him with his “tan lines”.
It was cute at first. He was a cute guy, and seemed well put together. Smart, witty, responsible, Coast Guard. I wondered if the detachment of facebook made him more bold, more direct, or just more honest. Either way, I’m grateful for it. I didn’t have to spend hours on dates to learn his intentions.
Each morning, right on time. “Good morning.”
By the third day, I dreaded it. We’d had some fun banter, which I played into, giving the benefit of the doubt, getting some connection in return. But always, quickly looping back to something crude, some comment or suggestion.
I knew boys, I’d hung out with them all my life, so it didn’t offend me, but started to annoy. I grew weary of the dullness of the same conversation over and over. The same thread of jokes. I anticipated batting off advances in each conversation.
I was ready to shut it down, but thought I’d give it a chance to be something friendlier, in case he had some depth, in case he was just too immature to be real. I slipped in some vulnerability, here and there. I hinted at my boundaries. He paused for a second, then plowed right through them.
Today I was groggy.
“Good morning! Video chat?”
Not in the mood to dance around my limits, I was totally blunt.
“Watching a dude peacock around does nothing for me. I’m more of the get to know you, loyal friend, kind of girl. Let me know if you need that. And I’ll let you know if I want to look at a super hot guy.”
So he said. “Bye!” And blocked me.
Which was fine. Totally fine. A relief in fact, a bullet dodged, a burning pot taken off a flaming burner. Make room for a new dish.
But what was not fine, was how I felt. Shocked, slightly jarred by the sudden sharp rebuff. I replayed the last few messages in my head, wondering if I had been kind enough in an honest way. Wondering if I had communicated well. I somehow made this interaction my fault.
Any conflict is a sting, any rejection a hit. Even if it comes from a near stranger who is pushing your boundaries. Even as the letters C-R-E-E-P slowly stretched across my mind, I wondered what I had done to elicit such a slap.
Could I have been cooler? Could I have relaxed my boundaries even more?
I knew that thought process was bullshit, which was my saving grace. I watched with curiosity rather than conviction as my doubts scrolled. I related this microcosmic rejection to the greater, more substantial ones.
Those ones I really loved, who didn’t respond. I wondered what I could have done better. But then, like now, all I could do was know myself and be honest with what felt right.
So, despite the slap, standing my ground made me strong. Yeah, a creep spat in my face a little, but only because I refused to move out of his way. I could have dodged it, but not without sacrificing my values.
I tried to be a little vulnerable, not because I’m foolish, but because I believe in it, whole heartedly. I believe in it enough to do it even when I am gripped with fear, even when I have no idea how another will respond, even when dealing with someone who obviously does not have the skills. (I guess they don’t teach that in the Coast Guard.) I believe in it because I trust myself enough to know I will come out the other side OK.
I do it to share it. For those rare moments when someone else will open and learn and heal from it. Fortunately, in the face of such bold honesty, most creeps will just slink (or slam) out the door. So I’ll let them go, I’ll let them take the last word. I’ll let them be mad at me. People can be mad at me, if that helps them feel better. I don’t need to fix it. Just as long as I don’t let their door hit me on their way out.