On Creepers Creepin’
Several times this week, I’ve had separate conversations with different friends about an odd thing: when you feel subtlety creeped out by someone. There is no overt gesture – no physical boundary crossed. And thus, in a way, there’s no evidence to point to. Nothing to hold up as a tangible example. I remember reading a lot about the crossing of physical boundaries during a lot of con discussions. One in particular, written by Maria, is an excellent example of the state of Creeperdom. Because, really, one should not need to be told to refrain from kissing, licking, grabbing, etc., the authors. I mean, where is your mother? Who taught you manners? If you paid for that class, darling, you should demand a refund. Because you are full of FAIL. But I digress.
Once, I knew this guy. He’d routinely make inappropriate sexual comments/advances. At first, I laughed it off. But after the third unwanted comment about my ass, I remember politely calling him out. And his response was not, “I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.” No, it was, “Oh, I didn’t mean it that way.” Or, “You’re being too sensitive. I’m just teasing you.” As if, basically, “Oops, you’re misunderstanding the situation,” is a) valid and b) not a displacement of blame. (Note to humanity: never do this. If you do, you lose the right to speak. GO SIT IN THE CORNER.) He would also explain, somewhat patronizingly, that he was just a flirt – that he didn’t mean anything by it. It was just his personality. That might sound good, but it’s still not okay. If someone has made you uncomfortable, especially repeatedly, that is not okay. We establish physical separations/distances/dance spaces for a reason. But it’s often much harder to establish verbal ones.
This brings me to a related issue that is also difficult to pin down: fostering false intimacy. This has happened to me. It’s happened to a good friend of mine quite recently. It’s when you meet someone, and he/she seems nice, generally normal, and not inclined to keep a dirt pit in his/her basement. Maybe pet names of a romantic nature start rapidly sneaking into conversation. Maybe there are references to sexual things, which make you quirk an eyebrow. And maybe there are instances that are an attempt to situate you and this other, previously normal person as some kind of team. “Us” and “we” are thrown around a lot. You haven’t known this person long enough for there to be a we. At this point, you might start to feel a little silly, because what are you going to say? “[So and so] is just too friendly!” As I said, it’s often difficult to pin down a reason; it’s too much of a feeling. And feelings don’t always tuck neatly into words. (It’s true. As a writer, that’s hard to admit.)
At some point, that person will attempt to escalate the communication. If you are busy or don’t have time to hang out, the other person starts behaving like a clipped scene from Fatal Attraction. This person gets annoyed if you’re not at his/her beck and call. Somehow, your unavailability has shattered expectations that you didn’t even know were a thing.
Guilt trips will be trotted out slyly. Things like, “I wish you weren’t seeing your girlfriend this weekend, otherwise we could go to the bar.” It’s not so much the verbiage as it is the tone, remember. “Why haven’t you answered my text? Is work too busy.” That has happened to a gaggle of people I know, myself included. I know that technology has made it so we’re available 24/7 to everyone we’ve ever met (even those we’ve spent decades trying to avoid – thanks, Facebook!). There are days where I miss being able to slip away, untethered to technology, but that’s neither here nor there. The why in that aforementioned question is meant to be a bit of pressure, implying that you should’ve answered immediately. The slyer implication is that you should prioritize this other person above other things. This is not polite. Again: this is you somehow failing to meet an expectation that you weren’t aware of. And that’s, honestly, unrealistic.
Personally speaking, I feel that any behavior/verbiage that makes you uncomfortable is not okay. It doesn’t matter that it could seem harmless. If it’s making you feel creeped out, it’s not cool. Often, it’s impossible to put your finger on, exactly, why it’s not right. It’s a vague feeling that creeps up your spine, without hard evidence. But this isn’t a courtroom. You’re the judge and jury here, darlings.
Just say NO to creepers. Full stop. No soft NOs. Polite benefits no one. Better yet, Creepers? STOP BEING CREEPY. So endeth the lesson, loves.
For further reading on not excusing creepers as being socially awkward, read this.