I know already that this is a story that will get readers amped up. Proceed with caution.
I am not entirely sure what etiquette this would fall under, but you could say this falls under “how and when to approach strangers”. This occurred yesterday afternoon, and I’m still confused about the whole thing.
I normally play D&D on Saturday, however I wasn’t particularly in the mood for it this time but I also felt I should stay out of the flat for a good while so as not to distract my boyfriend while he was working on his dissertation. I thought of a few things I would do to occupy me for at least three hours but preferably more, then headed to Sainsbury’s to grab a drink and biscuits before heading to the park to read for a while. I find an empty bench and begin to read.
Within a minute a man sits down at the other end of the bench. Nothing suspicious so far, then another gentleman approaches and asks the first man for the time. Still fine, but after that interaction in the corner of my eye I thought I could see the first man watching me. I thought I was being ridiculous and I know I tend to be a bit on the paranoid side, I still cannot be certain on this point but I do feel it is more than probable considering the rest of what happens.
For reference, I am Australian and in my early twenties, while he is from Pakistan and perhaps a few years older than I, and this takes place in London. Also, while his English was fairly good, he did have a bit of an accent and, even though I am young, I have hearing difficulties and I do have a bit of trouble with speech sometimes. Although I’m not a very social person to begin with, those issues do make me feel less inclined to talk to people. Especially in instances where there will be communication problems and I’ll have to try and explain why I have hearing issues, it’s unbelievable how many people simply refuse to believe that a young person can be hard of hearing. But that’s a story for another time, I’m terrible with tangents. Point is, I am somewhat socially awkward so I wasn’t sure how to handle this scenario. Onto the story.
After maybe five minutes this man starts to talk to me, initially it all seems normal as he asks fairly ordinary questions such as my name, where I am from, what Australia is like, why I moved here and so forth.
Stop right here. It’s none of any stranger’s business to know your name or the reasons why you moved. One should have an internal “line in the sand” that absolutely no stranger may step over (particularly male strangers that appear to be hitting on you) and when that step is taken, you put on your “chilly coat” and remove yourself from their presence.
Throughout the entire conversation I have to keep saying things to the effect of, “Sorry, but could you repeat that?”. He then tells me that I have beautiful eyes and I thank him for the compliment, then he says it again, says they are quite deep and so forth. I awkwardly thank him again as I really do not know how to respond to praise, but then he makes what I think was an awkward joke about “give me your eyes!”. I respond with an awkward line of, “Uhhh sorry but I don’t think they detach”, and leave it there. (At this point I wasn’t creeped out, as it came across as a joke and because I’ve said similar to my boyfriend, but I do think it’s something best not said to a stranger who has not idea what you are like.)
You inadvertently engaged in returning his flirting. Any answer at all to such flirting is seen by many men as an invitation to keep the conversation going further.
Then he started to ask personal questions. He had already asked me about why I moved here and, trying to be polite. (I had no idea how to politely say I didn’t really want to talk about things.)
Once that internal line in the sand has been crossed, simply stand up from your bench and walk away. You owe him no explanations, no courtesy good byes or one iota more of your attention.
I answered that I moved here because my boyfriend lives here. There had been more questions along these lines, and then he states that he hopes I do not marry him. Then he starts the topic on sex. Again I ask if he can repeat that, as although I actually heard him I wasn’t sure if that was right. He wants to know if I’ve done it, states his disbelief when I state, no, I haven’t and I’m waiting until marriage. He wants to know more detail about sex, repeats at various times “please help me” and continues to pressure me into talking about it. I continue to say that I am not comfortable with talking about sex with anyone, he continues with the please help him line for a bit and then relents and asks me about romance instead. He wants to know what romance is and if I can tell him about it. I state that I don’t really know, that I’m not sure how to describe it etc. He then starts to say, “But you’re a girl, you should know about these things!”. He continues his line of questions and comments, and I’m wondering if when he says ‘romance’ if he is actually disguising it to mean sex.
I got stuck in a similar situation at age 14. One of my more naive daughters got similarly stuck at the same age…she simply had no clue that the conversation was heading in the direction it was and the deeper she got into it, the more she realized she had no idea how to get out of it. I think older men know that the younger the female, the less likely she is to know how to respond so they push the limits.
He then asks if I will allow him to “teach me about romance”. I’m not sure what on earth he means, so I kind of stupidly blurt out what do you mean teach me, teach me how etc. He just says give him five minutes to teach me and keeps at that, then asks if he can sit next to me. (He was still at the end of the bench during all this.) I say no, I’d rather he didn’t. After a bit of my saying “no”, he asks why I keep saying that and seems to be getting bothered by it and tells me that I should stop doing that. He continues to asks if he can teach me and if he can move, while in my head I am freaking out about what to do. Do I continue trying to be polite and hope this guy gets the message, do I ignore him and read or do I get up and go? For a long while I latched onto the ridiculous option of staying there and hope he leaves, as my mind just went blank as to how to handle it. Near the end of his ‘let me teach you’ bit I did start to tell him that I’d rather just read, but after a few tries it finally sank in that it just wasn’t going to happen. Again he asked if he could sit next to me, and finally I said I’m sorry but I have to go and got up and walked away. He said something as I got up to the effect of “Okay I won’t move”.
I was going to head to the nearby Westfield’s, but then decided I’d cancel my plans and head straight home. I felt bad about that but at least my boyfriend understood. As I was a minute or so away from that bench I looked back and noticed the guy was already up and walking away, so I guess his entire purpose of being there was to bother me?
I’m still not sure what on earth was going on. Was there cultural differences, was he just a creep or was he really oblivious to how his behaviour came off?
All in all, I wish I were a stronger person. Or at the very least that my brain would kick in faster. 0905-10
Too many people believe that being well mannered equates to being a complete and total pushover. Nope, it’s quite acceptable to give a frigid, arctic cold shoulder to boorish, creepy, vulgar, greedy people. Looks of disdain, terse good byes are quite acceptable, too. A good, hard slap to the face of a creepy guy won’t land you in Ehell either.