Those of you who know me, know I have a knack for meeting very strange people, and a large collection of funny stories to show for it. This week however, things reached a new level for me.
Three incidents have occurred in the last four days – all unrelated – and now I just want the whole thing to stop. The first happened on Wednesday. I called up a potential work contact from my mobile phone. We had a brief discussion and then silence for two hours. After this, he started messaging me on Whatsapp.
He told me things like I have a beautiful voice, asked if I was a singer. Started incessantly messaging, largely of a personal nature. I’m a fairly open person so I normally don’t mind sharing things, but I became a bit uncomfortable. But since it was a professional conversation, I let it go on a little longer than I would have with someone I only knew socially, or perhaps through a dating network.
My discomfort only increased after he did not stop, despite me repeatedly saying that I couldn’t chat any longer and wishing him a good night. I was forced to mute him. He started on text message saying that he only had expressed how he felt and he was sorry if he’d made me uncomfortable but then turned around and suggested we go on a date, for dinner or a movie or chitchat.
This man is married with three children. He is 41 years old.
You know the worst part of it? I felt guilty. Like I had somehow brought this upon myself. Yes, I’m a strong independent woman and all that crap, but at the end of the day, I felt like somehow this was my fault. Like I deserved this type of behaviour. I am reinforcing all our worst gender stereotypes.
And I’m doing it to myself.
Then I got a random Facebook message request. I opened it, and some person without a profile had written a very bizarre message, telling me that I have “grate” confidence in my “eye” and I have beautiful eyes and that I am a dream come true. This was actually the only comic relief of the whole thing. I’m actually still laughing about it, but it reinforces the broader point I am making.
Today, at 10:15 pm, I got a random telephone call from a number I don’t know. It got disconnected and then the person called back. When I asked him who he wanted to speak to, he said “you.” When I asked him who he was, he said “aadmi hai.” (I am a man). I told him I was blocking his number and hung up the phone.
Enough is enough is enough. I can’t take this any more. It needs to stop. I don’t want to have intimate conversations with complete strangers. I don’t want to be told that I have beautiful eyes because the fact of the matter is that you think anything female has beautiful eyes. The same goes for smiles, noses, ears, hair, and anything else you want to compliment.
I know this is not all Indian men. I know this is not most Indian men perhaps or many Indian men. The point is not to generalize or make sweeping claims about a demographic group. But they are out there, amongst the general population, and I’m at my wits end, I don’t know what to do. I just want to exist peacefully, do things I love, be with people I (already) love, and be left alone. Is that so much to ask?
And it feels like I’ve met a lot of men (and some women) that have an agenda – they have decided that we have a great connection – and it really doesn’t matter what I think about it. If they keep pushing, I’ll eventually come to realize they’re my soulmate or their best friend – they just need to talk me into giving it a try.
No. I don’t want to be forced into trying something – I want the right and the freedom to make my own decision. I don’t want to be harassed on Whatsapp. I don’t want pressure, I don’t want to wait and see. I have my own method for deciding what I do and do not like, and whom I do and do not want in my life.
I once went out with a guy, and “stupidly” (yes I’m doing the self-judging thing again) saw him three days in a row. The third day he declared he loved me. I told him he didn’t really know me, but he seemed to think he knew enough. As someone who has been in love and had their heart broken, this was both insulting and suffocating. When I tried to end things, again with the incessant messaging, to the point where I was receiving strange artwork, poetic verses, videos, and had to finally threaten police action and block him.
Again I felt ashamed. And guilty somehow. I thought about all the things that I had done wrong.
I do not begrudge those who decide they no longer want my company or are not interested in me. That is their right and their prerogative to decide. And most importantly, I don’t want anyone to feel the way these people have made me feel.
This type of attention is not a compliment, it is very disconcerting, and on a psychological level feels like a violation. After Wednesday’s incident, I removed my Whatsapp profile picture and put a guard on my Facebook photo. I don’t know what the Facebook guard does, but I figured it can’t hurt.
But why do I have to do this? Because some guy out there can’t control himself? Does it count for nothing that he does not represent the majority? Does it count for nothing that it’s his problem, not mine if he is sexually repressed or frustrated? Why do I have to deal with his issues?
But the fact is I do. It is my problem. People like these make it my problem. And I’m not alone in this, there are countless others who face things like this, every day, week or month. People that decide that you are the answer to all of their frustrations and issues, and just push and push and push until you have no choice but to get angry or to react in an extreme manner.
This type of attention is not about being beautiful or being ugly – many of these men will ogle at anything female. It is not about love – there is a void within them they are trying to fill.
It is about not understanding that not every relationship between man and woman has to be sexual or romantic. It is about how dangerous sexual repression can be – it is far better to find a healthy outlet to express yourself in that way – than to push it down and pretend it does not exist and have it come out like this. In perverted covert messages to people you really don’t know but think will oblige your sick fantasies.
It’s about understanding that you have to gain the comfort and trust of the other person before barging through their personal boundaries and pushing past their natural comfort level.
Usually these incidents do not get under my skin, but this week I am fed up. I was having a lovely night to myself, enjoying my solitude, before this last incident sort of pushed me over the edge.
I realize that writing this blog will not stop it, but at least I can put it out there. I don’t like this feeling of discomfort. I don’t like this feeling that this is somehow what I deserve for being open or friendly, or having a nice photo of myself up somewhere.
I have never been one of those that waits for a knight in shining armour, I’ve never been a romantic in that sense of the word. I am okay if I don’t meet a soulmate or have children. I’m not asking for anything, just peace.
But peace is often the one thing I cannot find. No matter how hard I fight nor how many people I mute or block, there is always someone else, waiting around the corner, to take their place. And sooner or later, I do start to wonder if it’s no coincidence, or if there is something I’m putting out there or there is something I’m not seeing. Sooner or later I do start to wonder:
“what is wrong with me?”