“I love your confidence,” he said, “One of the features I like best about you.” Thus I began a text relationship with a guy my friends and I met at a bar. He didn’t seem like the pushy type when he introduced himself with a boyish grin and confident charm. In fact, he seemed like the opposite of the guys my friends and I were used to encountering at the dive: he was playful, respectful, humble.
We made a fivesome, myself and my two friends and his friend. There were no “Hey, how you doin’s?” or “Can I buy you a drink, girl?” or pickup lines of any variety. We talked and laughed and even pulled a light prank on someone we knew from high school. The guy, let’s call him Simon, suggested we hang out again when he got back from Boston on vacation, in three months. He seemed like a pal, so I gave him my number and the number of my friend so that he could call either of us. It seemed totally casual, completely platonic.
At four-thirty in the morning, when I was tucked into bed awaiting sleep, he texted me with the statement above. He loved my confidence, and he had added me on Facebook. He openly “stalked” my profile pictures and told me which three he liked best. “Delete the others,” he quipped. It was past 4:45 a.m. when he told me he was leaving for Boston in two days and asked me what I was doing “later today.” I told him I was working, that I didn’t think I was available afterward. I was surprised that he was so insistent so fast, but he seemed like a nice guy so I gave him a “maybe” and said goodnight.
The next day, the bluster began. While I was at work (I am a part-time waitress), he pestered me via text about what time I would finish. He asked me to tell him how much “better he is” than other guys. He described himself as “very persistent” but only with “those worthy.” He told me to be prepared “for me to keep trying to hang out until you wear out and say yes.” By this time I was turned off and planned to cancel our tentative plans, regardless of closing time. He just seemed so arrogant.
He wrote me, “Although I do think I’d be the best waiter in town. You’d probably get laid off if I applied at your restaurant”. Arrogant, and strangely attached to me.
“We would make such a cute couple,” he wrote. And I knew he had to be joking. It’s just…it seemed like he meant it. It was like he was using humor to mask his sincerity. I felt like I was being interviewed for something, and it got more personal as the days progressed. Personal perhaps isn’t the right word. Prying would be more appropriate.
Unexpectedly, during one particularly inane text exchange, he sent me this message: “I knew you’d be dating material the night we met.” Interested in what his definition of “dating material” was, I inquired how he knew such a thing. He replied, “There are certain qualities to be watchful of, such as kindness, attractiveness, intelligence, humor.” For example, he told me, “Sluts cannot be kind. Kindness implies they don’t sleep around. And they’re not smart. If they were smart they wouldn’t be sleeping around.” My enraged reply did nothing to stem his flow of antagonism against perceived “sluts.” I changed the subject but he quickly informed me he was able to guess how many men I had slept with. Simon was convinced my number was less than five and was satisfied that I was not, as he put it, “a whore.”
Simon then proudly told me his number of sexual partners. “Keep in mind,” he wrote, “that I am a 23-year old gorgeous male.” I told him he would think his number were high if it were a woman’s and he agreed. “That’s because there’s a double standard,” he wrote and I wanted to yell, “You’re guilty of it!” But I didn’t.
I gathered from his messages that he was comfortable sleeping around but not comfortable with women doing the same, since it apparently rendered them incapable of kindness, intelligence, even humor. He wanted a girlfriend but, and I quote verbatim, “no one is worthy.” Since he wanted a girlfriend, his solution was to connect with a girl he’s met once at a bar, form an opinion of her even though he doesn’t know her and she also happens to live four hours away.
He still hadn’t asked me anything about myself other than my sexual preferences and history: no books I liked to read, no movies I enjoyed, no hobbies. Any information he did learn about my interests and/or personality was gleaned from competitive statements, e.g. “Do you think you’re a better writer than I am?” and “Do you think your vocabulary is better than mine?”
Keep in mind that this was all still through text. I hardly remembered what he looked like until he began sending me [shirtless] Snap Chats and videos of him walking around his new apartment. Accompanied with the videos were statements like “When you move in here…” Once, I asked him what kind of music he liked. He then asked me whether I smoked. What information was he fishing for here? What responses would have pleased him?
Despite the annoyance I felt about his medieval views on sex and women’s sexuality, it wasn’t until he shared his opinions about marriage and family life that I grew most angry. Excerpted from a text conversation:
SIMON: “I want to spoil my wife
I don’t want my wife to work
I want her to stay with the kids
I want the kids to have the mom in their toddler years”
ME: “What about their dad?
And what your wife wants?”
SIMON: “The dad works
And listens to the wife”
Simon says. The dad works. The wife. I felt as if I were ten years old again, assigning roles when my cousins and I played house. What was most startling was not the fact that he was planning a hypothetical future with a woman he barely knew but that he felt comfortable assigning these roles to our future selves as if there were no other options. There is The Wife, and then there is The Husband. Each person fills the role, and life progresses as planned.
Apparently this man had chosen me for the role of Wife, for inexplicable reasons. I told him that being a stay-at-home mom and housewife was “literally my worst nightmare” and we moved on from this topic of conversation.
I don’t talk to this man anymore. He called me one night and we shared a stilted, empty conversation. I didn’t contact him for days afterward; I got the feeling he was waiting for me to initiate conversation and I definitely did not. A week later he messaged me with, “So what happened here?” I ran over the possible excuses one tends to use to be shot of someone, some of which were true. I had just gotten out of a painful, stressful relationship and I did need time for myself. But the truth was I was disgusted with his sexism and it surprised me that someone seemingly so kind and interesting could be so closed-minded in this era.
Instead of relaying this to a man who would undoubtedly misunderstand and perhaps grow angry, I responded with, “I don’t know; it’s kind of hard to get to know someone when you don’t see them. I don’t see where this could go.” And with those words, blessed by two of my girlfriends as “polite” and “honest,” I was also culpable of perpetuating a patriarchal system. I had let him believe his philosophy and behavior were acceptable. Because of my fear of offending and my belief that nothing would change his mind, I changed nothing.
Is this the modern dating world—sans real communication and ultimately just a huge interview for the perfect spouse? Are we just laundry lists of characteristics? Or, worse yet, are women still perceived as little more than blueprints for men’s future housewives?
I recently told my friend the details of our brief three-week encounter and she was dumbfounded. “He did not seem anything like that when we met him! He seemed so cool, so funny!” Yes, I told her, he did seem cool and funny. It frightened me how the undertones of his conversation were so subtly sexist; it made me wonder how many other men there are like Simon in the world, interviewing women for their future housewives.
(photo via Wikimedia Commons)