January 6, 2011

Out of Tune, Sir

So I’ve been reading.  A lot.  Since I’m not in classes, I’ve been using my usual “for-class reading” time to instead get a jump on that looming exam.  This entry, however, is not about reading.  It’s not about literature.  Heck, it’s not even about theatre.

I don’t tend to think of myself as a feminist and at times I even consider myself an anti-feminist.  However, in the past year or so, I’ve realized that I actually have fairly strong convictions about gender relations.  I don’t like to categorize these convictions which is why I’ve spent so long avoiding the “feminist” label, and I don’t generally like to talk about them either because I do have such a hard time categorizing them.

However.  Something happened to me last night that has set me on a downward spiral of righteous estrogen rage and I feel like I need to share it.

A couple buddies and I are what you may call karaoke connoisseurs.  Several times a week, we head out to follow a local karaoke DJ (who we’ve since made friends with) about her rounds.  Throughout this process, we’ve met her other regulars as well as bartenders, managers, waiters, and just random people.  We tend to bring the thunder with our karaoke; all of us are theatre people of one variety of another so karaoke is a really our excuse to perform.  We rehearse.  We plan.  We dance.  It turns into a quasi-impromptu show on a semi-regular basis and tends to draw a large crowd of onlookers anywhere we go.  This, in turn, means that the venues love us.  We increase their customer base and we keep things fun for everyone (oh and we’re polite and good tippers). 

Last night we were out in a classier area of New Jersey at what we jokingly refer to as “the local dive bar”.  It’s actually a fairly upscale pub/restaurant with an art gallery in the back.  I don’t know why they decided to incorporate karaoke into all of this, I guess they figured that on Wednesdays their clientele wasn’t exactly going to suffer…. Even from some of the horror-stories-with-a-mic that we’ve seen.

So we were sitting at the bar, drinking, singing, and having an over-all good night out, when an (obviously) very drunk guy sidles up next to me.  He had all the capacity for subtlety of a brick wall.  When I noticed that he was edging closer, I edged away.  This continued comically until I realized I had nowhere else to edge, and turned my back to him.  Apparently this wasn’t enough of a signal as he tapped me on the shoulder and asked if he could buy me a drink.  Now let me get one thing straight.  I’m not opposed to someone buying me a drink the same way I’m not opposed to someone opening doors for me or holding my chair out so that I can be seated.  I like old-fashioned things and I like gentlemen.  However, if someone respectfully offers to buy me a drink, and I respectfully decline, in my opinion that should be the end of things.  I’m not Caesar with the crown, I have nothing to prove by saying “no” multiple times before giving in, a word to the wise: in cases like these “no” really means “no”.

Here is where the rage began.  After saying “no” very kindly and thanking him for the offer before trying to turn back to my friends, he caught me by the arm and said “why not?”  Okay, he was drunk, apparently kindness wasn’t what he was looking for.  At this point I felt utterly justified in using a bit more force to make my point.  I said, as bluntly as I could without being mean, “Because I don’t want you to buy me a drink.” before turning to my crowd.

At this point, one of the guys in my crew came over to valiantly rescue me from the situation.  He put his arm around me and starting emitting “she’s mine” signals like they were going out of style.  This particular friend is a long-time buddy of mine so the signals happened to be mostly fabricated (his girl friend was also sitting right there at the time and fully endorsed his assistance in my plight).  After about ten minutes of this, aforementioned creep grabbed his coat and made a pit-stop at the men’s room (where, incidentally, due to the acoustics of the restaurant you can hear everything anyone says at my end of the bar as though those people were standing right next to you so I’m certain he heard the resulting conversation that I had with the bartender, my friends and the other regulars who, also due to funny acoustics, had had a front-row seat for the entire exchange even over the Japanese guy fulfilling racial stereotypes loudly next to us and were thoroughly amused by the entire situation) before leaving the bar.

So here’s what bugs me.  Why is it that my word isn’t good enough for Mister Crown Royal?  Why is it that I have to justify my kindly-stated denial of his offer in such a way as to please him before he will leave me alone?  Why isn’t my honest opinion enough to get the jerk away from me, but instead I need a man to step in to validate my refusal?  The age of the little house-wife is long past, women have the vote and can perform any job a man can perform, why is my clear language not strong enough for mister testosterone? 

I think what bothers me about it is the unstated implication that A) I, as a woman, don’t know what’s good for me and thereby my word can’t be trusted and B) my worth in the situation is less than that of a man because it takes a man’s presence to shake the other man.  We don’t live in the jungle.  I’m not anyone’s territory.  I shouldn’t have to be treated like a member of some dominant male’s pack to keep another rogue from stalking around and trying to perform drunken mating dances in my face.  Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful to my friend for interceding on my behalf (and would ask any male friend to do the same in that situation), but the fact that he (or anyone else) has to really grinds my gears.  I, as a single woman, should not have to worry about going out and getting a drink with friends without being harassed by men who won’t leave me alone simply because there is not another man there to claim me.

What is it about our society that encourages this pushy kind of behavior?  If I had been a man and he a woman, would it have taken another woman to bail me out or would he just have accepted that I was being straightforward, honest, and really did not want his company?  Do we teach the men of our world to act this way because women lie, or because they don’t really know what they want?  How chauvinistic have we, as a society become?  And what are we teaching our children about gender roles when they can watch this sort of thing play out on TV in any given sit-com?  Are confident, strong women doomed to be the butt of the joke because clearly they can’t say no and clearly they just aren’t aware of their own feelings enough to understand why they can’t say no?  And what makes a guy cocky enough to think he’s something special anyway?  It’s the same machismo mentality that makes men think gay guys are going to root them out of any room somehow and hit on them to make them uncomfortable…. No, you are not God’s gift to man (or woman).  Get over yourself.

In any event, I’m seriously considering writing a pamphlet about this to hand to the next drunken loser who attempts to shove his unwanted advances in my empty beverage glass.  Take this, read it, understand it, and then maybe we’ll have something to talk about. 

…But only if you’re cute.

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