The sign on my forehead must say if you're an old, creepy man, you ought to hit on me.
As I've mentioned before, my "uncomfortable place" (my defense when I feel insecure or threatened) is to be extremely polite. Unfortunately, old men just see that as a shiny neon arrow that shouts, "Hey, old man, you oughtta hit on me." I hate to break it to you, old man, but politeness doesn't necessarily equate interest. While I'm perfectly content to socialize behind a veil of politeness, the minute you start hitting on me, it ruins the night. I'm forced to be rude or leave in order to get away from your clumsy advances. Thanks a lot for ruining my night, creepy old man old enough to be childhood friends with my dad.
Let me provide some empirical evidence:
EXAMPLE 1: A 51 yo has been on and off pursuing me since he was 49. He tends to call, email, send flowers or cards whenever he's not dating more age appropriate 40-somethings. To the outrage of my then boyfriend, he even had the nerve to send me flowers on my 30th birthday. While I enjoy his company and think he's a smart, funny and charming individual, I'm not romantically attracted to him. Every time he crosses the line between us "catching up" and him hitting on me, I'm forced to flee the scene.
EXAMPLE 2: Shortly after I had been laid off, I went on a date with a 49 yo modelizer, aka The Silver Fox, who mistakenly thought I was arm candy material. (I swear I didn't know his age until our second date. He looked 40 and acted 12.) After our first date, I had already known that I wasn't into him, but I was observing my three date policy. (I'll go on three dates with someone even if I don't think I'm into him because first impressions aren't always correct. The only time the three date rule doesn't apply is if my date is egregiously offensive.) On our third date, The Silver Fox promised to take me shopping the next day if I'd go home with him. I declined and went home. The next morning, The Silver Fox sent me an email with a subject heading that read, "lets consummate our friendship tonight intimacy is very important to me," [sic] and attached a picture of two half-naked chicks. Now THAT was egregiously offensive. I had planned on waiting a few days to end things with him, but the email prompted me to pick up the phone and end things right away. (Remember him, under another "He said what?" entry?)
EXAMPLE 3: In my first week in HK, two ancient Californian expats hit on HS and me while we were catching up over drinks in LKF. They were so oblivious to our obvious disinterest, we were forced to leave the bar in order to get away from them. I had the misfortune to be the one talking to the sprayer, not the sayer. He ineptly hit on me by talking too close and spitting in my face with every "th" in the English language. All I could think about was how I desperately wanted to disinfect my face. Who knows where his body fluids have been.
EXAMPLE 4: In my third week in HK, I struck up a conversation with Brit expat M while waiting for J. I didn't get the dirty old man vibe from him and was reassured when he later confided to blond, blue-eyed J that he found Asian women unattractive. Knowing that Asia abounds with Caucasian men with Asian fetishes, I was relieved. He seemed normal and non-creepy enough for J to feel comfortable inviting him to spend NYE with her friends. It started off well enough - we met up with J's friends, and M's 17 yo son later joined us as well. We had fun until 3am when M drunkenly told me how ___(insert flattering adjective here)___ I was. He wanted me to spend the night at his place. In an effort to discourage further conversation on the topic, I told him such talk made me uncomfortable. I asked him what he expected me to say and that I didn't know what to say to his advances. When he continued to pressure me to go home with him, I left. By 3:20am, I was in the subway station, getting on a train back to my parents'. M and I could have been friendly acquaintances for the duration of my time in HK, but noooo, M had to go and ruin the evening by hitting on me when I in no way indicated I wanted the attention. M texted and emailed the next and following day asking if I'd have dinner with him before I left, and I politely declined.
I have three theories so far on why this happens to me, and I expect B to weigh in on this as well:
According to R, I "flirt" with everyone. When R and I were in Bonaire, I asked her to observe my interaction with people. I wanted to know when I gave off the "flirting vibe" because I've often found myself in situations where someone is telling me he's really into me, and I have no idea why he would think I might possibly reciprocate such behavior. After watching me interact with strangers and fellow windsurfers for two weeks, R told me that I didn't give off a "flirting vibe," but that I "flirted" with everyone I spoke to, man, woman, young and old alike. Whenever I'm speaking to someone, I am so genuinely interested in what they have to tell me about themselves at the moment that people who don't know me well aren't aware that I'm almost immediately disinterested in the conversation (and them) once I've left the conversation. After hearing R's observations, I couldn't help but wonder if I have a form of social ADD.
F thinks it's because I speak to strangers. According to F, I'll talk to anyone. And, not just talk in the way most people talk to each other, but with the same single minded focus I have when eating at a new restaurant or burger joint. She thinks my problems would be very simply resolved if I just ignore people when they speak to me. (F and I haven't been in a situation where we've been able to see each other regularly since high school, and she can't recall if I was this social back then. I was a shy, insecure kid as well as a late bloomer, so I think my whole talk to strangers thing didn't happen until my mid-20s.) I asked F how she ignores people when they talk to her, and she said she just waves a dismissive hand at them. F is adorable, so she can get away with that. If I were to go around waving people away when they approach me, I'd just be the stereotypical bitchy asian chick who acts like she's better than everyone else. You know who I'm talking about -- she hangs out at your neighborhood bar, pub, lounge, coffee shop, club, etc. Look for me the next time you're out and about. I'm the girl who's trying to have a good time by repelling people with a flick of her wrist. It reminds me of that episode of Seinfeld where Elaine pretends to be deaf so she doesn't have to speak to her gregarious town car driver, and then she gets caught in her lie when she overhears him tell his dispatcher that he'll pick Tom Cruise up later that night.
Personally, I think the problem isn't me, it's them. Creepy old dudes are vain egomaniacs who think everyone is into them. When someone with female body parts who isn't painful to look at interacts with them, they think it's because she's sexually attracted to them. In reality, the interaction has zero sexual tension or undertones. I could and would easily have the same conversation with creepy old dude's grandma. If I rocked a wee wee, I could say the exact same thing and creep-o would take me at face value. As a female, creep-o imagines every word I utter to be secret code for, "I want to get in your pants." The result? I get the dirty old man treatment. Or, perhaps it isn't them. It's me. I'm gender blind the way Stephen Colbert is color blind. Creepy old man, on the other hand, more than makes up for my gender blindness.