How/when to talk to a woman wearing headphones

Oh Internet, I see we’re having this discussion again. I’m not gonna drive traffic to it, but I am gonna remind every dude who is like ‘HOW WILL ANYONE EVER MEET ANYONE IF I CAN’T WAYLAY BUSY WOMEN WHO ARE WEARING VISIBLE ‘LEAVE ME ALONE’ SYMBOLS TO TELL THEM MY THOUGHTS, THO’ and ‘I’M JUST TRYING TO BE FRIENDLY!’ that you could just greet a nearby dude, maybe one who is not wearing headphones, instead. Friendliness! Peace on earth! Meeting new people! #Dudesgreetingdudes!

Edited to Add: I Have Decided To Marry My Catcaller And This Is Our Wedding Registry (McSweeney’s)


309 thoughts on “How/when to talk to a woman wearing headphones

    1. Will, I banned your clueless ass from commenting here a month ago, but it’s pretty perfect that you’d show up again on this post.

      Let’s try this again:

      Goodbye, Will. Your comments will not show up here, post them as you might. Perhaps somewhere else on the internet there is a place for you. This blog is forevermore a rocky soil on which your “insights” shall find no purchase.

  1. I think that someone so clueless as to be upset that people wearing headphones don’t wish to speak to, meet, or interact with HIM needs in depth counseling that is far beyond the pervue (sp?) of any facile rule or comment. They need life coaching, because their perception is such they don’t read subtle cues, just blunt statements. They need to be receptive to what they are told, practice reading body language hints, verbal hints, etc. That’s a LOT of work, and they have to find somebody willing to work with them, and be willing to put in the time and effort on themselves.

    Somebody bitching that ‘nobody wants to talk to him’ isn’t introspective enough to be receptive to that… IMO!

    1. I actually don’t think that most guys who do this are actually incapable of reading subtle cues or body language. I think they, for the most part, simply don’t care to, because to them, their desire (to talk to the woman) is far more important than her desire (to listen to her music/podcasts, to be left alone).

      I’m sure some tiny percentage of guys really do do this because they can’t read social cues/don’t understand social norms, but if that’s the case, then I’d expect them to also be trying to strike up a friendly conversation with the belligerent guy yelling at the back of the bus, or the six-year-old playing Pokemon Go. If they’re only ‘unable’ of reading social cues of women, then I highly suspect that it’s got a lot more to do with ‘unwilling.’

      1. This this this!

        Somehow “clueless” guys are only clueless when women are involved. Not men, not couples or families, just women. They have clues all right, they just don’t want to pick up the Clue Phone when it comes to women.

        1. Yep. It’s why these “clueless” guys somehow manage not to perform the same entitled and harassing behaviour with their bosses.

        2. I can see it now. Dude yanks off woman’s headphones or mimes and pesters her to do so, then tells her he just wants to compliment her. But wait! Dude chose the wrong woman because THIS woman promptly starts talking loudly about why he didn’t feel the need to ask the gentleman 2 rows up to take off HIS headphones or why he couldn’t ask the business-suited guy to take HIS headphones off, or why he couldn’t ask the obviously elementary school kid to take his or her headphones off, or ask the tired-looking older woman going home after a long hellacious day at work, etc. AND this marvelous woman would be getting louder and louder and starting to inch into his personal space to make him uber uncomfortable and to attract everyone’s attention in a mile radius. If clueless dude starts sputtering a litany of insults, then this woman would then ask at foghorn levels “Then why did you pester me to take my headphones off if you didn’t want to talk to me?”

          Please Awkward Army. Let me dream

      2. Actually, I think you’re on to something here and it gives me an idea for my own blog post about what causes this type of obtuse behavior. First, though, I don’t think there is a “don’t care to” in there. I think there is a narcissistic lack of awareness of the needs of others than a decision not to contemplate the needs of others. A more of, I’m the narcissistic gift to the world, so she’ll want to talk to me! Second, I think there is a class of angry narcissistic everyday sadists (similar to the motivations of most Internet trolls) that sees a woman who is obviously trying to shut out the world and reacts angrily to the perceived personal rejection. He doesn’t want to talk to her so much as to demonstrate her man-hating castrating ways to her and the rest of the world. And, knowing that there is no winning here, he is just going to piss her off as much as possible. And third, there is probably a larger percentage of people who cannot read the social cues necessary to realize that someone is not interested in talking to them because they are autistic — once called Asperger’s.

        However this social phenomenon works, we both agree that the behavior is deliberate and that it’s goal is to aggravate. I see it as being far more sinister, deliberate, and aggressive, though.

        1. I’m actually somewhat uninterested in why guys who can control this behavior don’t do so–whether it’s thoughtlessness, social modeling, self-centeredness, narcissism (in the clinical sense), sadism, sociopathy, putting a bitch in her place, what. It happens frequently enough that I have to assume that there are a lot of reasons, simply because a wide swath of men do it. I mean, from the POV of stopping it, it makes sense to tackle social modeling (surely we can stop romanticizing this behavior in media? surely?), but beyond that, the motives of the dude insisting on talking to me when I don’t want to be talked to, and then calling me a bitch/slut/whore/whatever when I politely refuse, aren’t of that much interest to me. I’ve spent enough time with those guys taking up my brain space. I don’t care why they do it; I want them to not.

          I made the initial point mostly to distinguish between inability and not-inability, because I think it’s important to recognize that most of the time, the “I can’t” is really “I won’t.” We as people are often inclined to feel sorry for people who genuinely can’t do a thing, even if that thing is “stop bothering women,” whereas “I won’t stop bothering women”–whatever the reason–is less excusable.

          1. I’m a sadist. I’m also not an entitled asshole and only hurt people who enthusiastically consent, where that consent is fully informed and they can revoke that consent at any point, verbally or non-verbally (i always agree a verbal and non-verbal safe word). I also do martial arts to a high level and I can control myself there.

            Imho “cant” is almost always “won’t because the consquences do not affect me in a way that I care about and I still get what I want so I don’t care” as well as playing into the patriarchal bullshit that men cannot help but think with their junk which is as insulting to men as it is to women.

        2. Dude, I *am* Asperger’s, and even I know you don’t bother people who are *very clearly* doing Something Else. Really. If nothing else, some Aspies are even more sensitive about interrupting/disturbing people, because we *loathe* having it done to us.

          1. Welp Mrs. Morley, the more you know about the causes of the behavior, the more easily stop the behavior. At least, that’s been my experience working in mental health. I would reply directly to you, but the blog doesn’t support that level of nesting.

            msnovtue, I am autistic, too, but was not diagnosed until I was 48. I think there are a lot of people who are out there who are not diagnosed and have not enjoyed the benefits of being diagnosed. I did sort out a lot of social rules before diagnosis, but also learned to ignore things that I didn’t understand or just not engage. I’m certainly not advocating disturbing or interrupting people, I am trying to understand behavior and hopefully arrive at some solutions.


      3. YUP. If people followed the simple guideline of IF YOU WOULD NOT DO IT TO A MAN, DO NOT DO IT TO A WOMAN, about 70% of the casual sexism/microaggressions we deal with would be eliminated. She said hopefully.

        1. Howdy goddessoftransitory!

          The problem is the thought process of the aggressor. You can ask people, and they will agree, yes, you shouldn’t do to a woman what you would do to a man, much like you’ll get people to agree that you shouldn’t hate blacks simply because a person is black. We all know that sexism and racism is wrong and will be able to answer the questions when asked. But, in the situation, people often do things that they claim they wouldn’t do without realizing it. Part of my effort is to try to sort out the issues in raising consciousness so that people can make good decisions. Okay, there is a class of people who know they are sexist and will willingly and knowingly aggress against women or as I stated, feel offended because they have been shut out by a woman who is shutting out the world. It would be a narcissistic injury setting off a narcissistic anger or rage. I think that the better you understand that, the more effective reactions you can have to micro aggressions.


    2. These dudes aren’t clueless. They are playing Schrödinger’s Social Incognizant. I ignored the signals you were putting off into the world. Did it work, and now you’re talking to me? Huzzah, let us celebrate my shrewd directness! But wait! It seems it didn’t work, after all, and my come-on offended you. Why, ma’am, I am but a hapless male who doesn’t read social cues!

      If they have no problem reading social cues from other dudes, then I will happily call B.S. on their game.

      1. Yes. If someone is genuinely bad at reading social clues, I will expect them to also be bad at reading social clues when it is to their disadvantage (when talking to their boss, say, or dealing with the police or the IRS, or, as you say, when talking to other men in general). If they magically develop body language reading when their job/audit/whatever is on the line, then the problem isn’t inability.

        1. The other thing is, if you’re bad at reading social cues, here are words that say: Women sometimes wear headphones in public as a defense shield against noise & interruptions from strangers. If you see a woman wearing headphones, reading a book, and/or otherwise shutting out the world around her, and it’s not an emergency, leave her alone.

          “But I’m just bad at reading body language & social cues!”
          “Cool, we just told you what this one signifies, though, so refer to the cheat sheet if you get confused again!”

          1. Hah! Yes, very true. And this isn’t a subtle one, like the exact tilt of someone’s head or how to tell if a smile is real or fake. This is pretty blatant! Headphones = leave the person alone unless they’re about to accidentally step in front of a bus or are actually on fire. It’s not a hard rule to remember.

            The funny thing is that IME a lot of the people who are like “but you can’t expect me to read social cues! I am A Guy and also I am Helpless and Ignorant when it comes to your subtle signs!” are also the same ones who will memorize long lists of weird “tells,” like “if the woman bites her lower lip more than twice in five minutes, she totally wants to sleep with you.” If you can remember that, you can for sure remember “headphones = leave her alone.”

          2. Also, as a woman who has interpersonal issues (yay, NLD) and as someone who knows women who cannot read social cues, I have to point out that being approached by someone–especially a random man I do not know, while I’m listening to music or reading or minding my own business–is fraught. These guys who say “I can’t read social cues” or people who say “Maybe he’s on the spectrum” erase women who cannot read social cues and/or who are non-NT. Enough of that already.

          3. I am a male who is quite bad at reading subtle signs. So I try extra hard to notice any potential “I dont want to talk to you”-signals lest I accidentially harass someone. And yes, “Wearing headphones probably means that they don’t want to talk.” is like the first rule I’ve put on my cheat sheet for that 🙂
            [no cookie required]

          4. I hate the “bad at reading body language & social cues!” argument. Dude, can you look at a cat and tell it doesn’t want you to pet it and might bite? THEN YOU CAN READ BODY LANGUAGE AND SOCIAL CUES.

          5. And the nice thing about this particular social cue is that it is very easy to read even if you struggle to understand body language or facial expressions. It is a simple, objective binary question – is this person wearing headphones? Okay, don’t bother them, then. I may have difficulty interpreting peoples’ facial expressions, but I am certainly capable of observing whether or not they are wearing headphones.

          6. ” Dude, can you look at a cat and tell it doesn’t want you to pet it and might bite? THEN YOU CAN READ BODY LANGUAGE AND SOCIAL CUES.”

            clovenpine, that’s more true than you may know. 🙂 I learnt body language from dogs, myself. The harder part is *remembering* it, or having enough focus to use that knowledge, but I think I’m pretty good with humans now unless I’m having a bad day (or a random attack of mutism, or they’re using deadpan humour), and I’m getting better at avoiding cat-attacks (I didn’t grow up with them, so it took me way too long to fully believe that cats don’t want their bellies rubbed).

            What I fear are situations/people that expect instant and perfect change. If I’m told to stop doing the thing, I’ll generally try to stop doing the thing, but a minute later I’ll be as surprised as anyone else that I’m doing the thing again. I’m still learning how to work around that in a way that won’t kill me (being in a constant state of panic is not sustainable).

          7. I wonder.

            If a dude does the “I want to talk to you” dance, I wonder how it would work to…interact with the ‘socially awkward’ excuse. Like, take one earbud out. Establish that you’re not in fact about to step in front of a bus or actually on fire. Then look enlightened. “Oh, is this one of those social-cues issues? OK, then for future notice, someone who has headphones on doesn’t want to talk. They’re busy. Have a nice day!” and put the earbud back in.

            I suspect it wouldn’t work as well as I’d like to think it would.

          8. Carrie: I’ve done things like that unintentionally, and while I don’t know if my advice helped them improve, it does usually derail them. 🙂

        2. Your comment further down ran out of nesting, but OH MY GOD the “lists of weird ‘tells'” guys! I’m thinking in particular of a comment I read (can’t remember if it was on CA or another site, read it months ago) where a girl in high school or college was sitting with her friend, who was cleaning gunk from under her nails with her teeth. Some dude that had been across the way watching told them told her that he knew the friend was totally into him because she’d been giving him ‘sexy looks’ (or whatev) while “biting her fingers at me (him)” (when in reality the nail biter had failed to even notice that he existed.) Like really, dude, WTF? Why do you think it’s all about you?
          No wonder men accuse women of “leading them on” or “playing head games”! If they fool themselves into thinking that a woman’s every blink, twitch, facial expression, motion, or movement is either an overt come on or a secret sign of sexual longing then rejection in the wake of these “obvious” signals would come as a surprise. But exactly like you say, these same dudes that are SURE that you rubbing that speck out your eye is a definite sign you want them, have NO IDEA what it means when a woman visibly cuts herself off from the world with headphones (book, knitting, etc)

    3. I worked in Chile for two years, then traveled from Chile to the US by land and then worked in Miami for a few years, where I took the train to work. I am a totally ordinary-looking woman – nothing special about me at all – but to some men, I was catnip. I was not used at all to having men approach me – it was not my experience in Texas – and was shocked when men would sit next to me in an otherwise empty theater.

      I finally learned to say, very directly, “Do not sit here. I do not want to talk to you.”

      And they still would not believe me. One guy asked, very solicitously, if I might be feeling ill. I glared at him and said, “No. I just do not want to talk to you.”

      I had to go through the same crap on the train to work in Miami – men who thought that even though the coach was otherwise completely empty, they should sit right next to me and I should be grateful for it.

  2. Oh, creepy dudes. Occasionally I get shouted at while crossing the street (“Hey beautiful,” was the most recent). I work in a college town, so I cross the street to go to my car every day.

    I’ve been trying to practice something to shout back. I’ve settled on “Hey, creepy”, hopefully said as nonchalantly as the creepy guys say things when they shout. I’m not sure if I’ll actually do it, or if it’s a good idea. This is a very safe area, and this would be happening during daylight hours, with many other cars around. I’m just tired of feeling powerless when creepy dudes shout at me.

    1. I have this problem a lot while walking around my neighborhood (trucks honking). It sucks, and it sometimes scares the crap out of me. My friends think it would be funny to carry an air horn and honk back. I like the idea. lol

    2. I’m not so polite. On the rare occasion that I forget my giant, “yes, I’m intentionally ignoring you” headphones, my general response to such things is a blunt “go f**k yourself”.

      Of course, I live in New York City, so such profanities are also part of our normal dialect 🙂

      1. I used to do this, too, but of course there’s the risk involved of being “rude” – I had two guys in a truck honk and yell at me on a walk, I flipped them off and yelled “fuck off”, they followed me and kept honking and getting progressively scarier and meaner for about ten minutes until I was able to lose them by cutting through a park.

        So, honestly, I think straight up ignoring is the best way to go, they usually scream at you about three times before they give up because you aren’t paying attention to them. But of course ymmv

        1. This happened to me the other day while walking my kid to school. I’m relieved my kid didn’t notice since even though I’m determined to raise him as a feminist, I dont want to explain to him why some guy we didn’t know thought Mum needed her appearance validated when we are late for school and I’m going to miss my train. I do not know why some men think I care what he thinks of me.

          1. Seriously, it ain’t about you. It’s about their power to intrude and disrupt. It is actually very similar to the motivation of the rapist and probably is on that spectrum — the woman who commented on the guys following her and getting progressively more threatening. The more I think about this, the more I come back to the idea of everyday sadism as being the motivation. If you’re interested in the concept and don’t mind some snarcky, sarcasticky, and profaney commentary along with it, you might read my blog post, “Trolls from the Dark Side” (

          2. @CalicoJack I can’t reply specifically to you for whatever reason? But yeah, we know that harassment is on the spectrum of rapists, we know it isn’t technically about us (but it kinda still is in a way?), we know what basic rape culture is because we live it every day.

            I don’t think you meant to be condescending in your reply but I certainly felt it came off that way. Also, I’m not a woman, and while I’m sure many people just automatically assume that I would be based on this experience I share with women, I still don’t appreciate being gendered without first asking. I’m honestly not trying to start something with you it’s just a thing that I feel everyone who frequents this forum can work on.

          3. @CalicoJack Telling women how to interpret their experiences is just tacky. It’s not news that street harassment comes from the same kind of entitlement (if not the same degree) as rape either.

        2. Yes, having to weigh the risks of responding is both scary and infuriating. I hate there is a complicated flowchart in my brain for “Do I respond to the shitmitten(s) catcalling me?” that has to factor in all the various ways that my response or non-response might put my safety at risk. How many are there? Are there other bystanders around? Do the bystanders mostly appear to be drunk? What is the likelihood that they will follow me? If they follow me, can I go to a safe public space, or would I have to try to elude them to keep them from following me home and finding out where I live? And so on and so on. I had a good talk with my partner (a cisgender straight man, who sometimes doesn’t realize the extent of these problems until I and other women in his life talk about them) recently in which I explained that for every story that my friends love about me telling off a perpetrator of street harassment, I have ten more stories about times when I did the mental calculus and determined that it might be safer to say nothing and just let it happen until I was out of earshot.

          1. I hate having to make the split second decision about which response, including non-response, will be the least likely to make them escalate.

        3. Howdy Pyn!

          I’m sorry to have come off as condescending or hurtful. My entire reason for commenting here was to try to understand the phenomenon better and, hopefully, arrive at some type of solution, recommendations, or responses.

          The problem with replying directly to someone is that the blog has set a limit on the nesting of comments. We hit our limit.

          I would suggest that you could have clicked on the link to my blog and added a comment there or used my comment, page, though.

          Part of my point I was trying to make was that no matter what the response of the target, the pay off for the aggressor has already been there. I get your point about it being about the specific target and women in general because it directly involves them, but it’s not because for the aggressor the pay off is being able to aggress and any target will do. So, it’s not necessarily personal from the point-of-view of the aggressor but is from the point-of-view of the target.

          I also get that there is frustration and anger and fear as a result of being the target of aggression and that a lot of what’s written here is a necessary expression of that. I don’t mean to hamper that.


      1. Last time a random dude on the street told me to smile I told him my dog just died.

        It was a lie. I regret nothing.

        1. High five! Once while deep in thought, I got “smile! It can’t be that bad!” So I said “that’s not what the oncologist said.”
          my only regret is that I didn’t get to see the look on his face. I like to think he had a really bad rest of his day.

          1. I had a guy say, “Aw, c’mon, smile! It can’t be THAT bad!”

            At that time I’d flown down from Alaska to Seattle on a few hours’ notice because my 19-year-old daughter was in the Intensive Care Unit, paralyzed and on a ventilator. They couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her. (Turned out to be Guillain-Barre syndrome.) For the next couple of weeks I (barely) slept in a chair by the bed, barely ate, barely did anything except pray that she could get up from the bed and I could take her place.

            The guy in question was a bagger at a supermarket where I’d gone quickly to get some food for the room. I could hardly function, I hurt all the time and here was this nimrod telling me it couldn’t be “that bad.”

            I told him what was going on in my life and said, “Yes, it CAN be that bad. It IS that bad. Remember that the next time you decide to tell some woman to smile.”

            It is not women’s job to decorate the friggin’ world.

        2. Lady feels, of course, are governed by how much male attention is being received; the sads come from some weird organ deep in a woman’s uterus*-brain when she gets confused about whether or not she’s pretty. Also it has something to do with her period. Luckily, women are easily rebooted to a happy and aesthetically pleasing state by a clear command from a man.

          Some guys seem to honestly believe this, and are baffled when it’s pointed out to them that “Cheer up, honey!” isn’t actually a helpful expression of sympathy.

          *I know not all women have uteruses, but I doubt the kind of guy who thinks it’s okay to tell women to “smile!” knows that.

        3. A bus driver on my route to work routinely tells passengers to smile or demands to know where their smile is. Apparently my death glare frightened him because he stopped doing it to me right before I was able to give him my response to “where’s your smile” (“At the bottom of my motherfucking coffee cup. Which is at work.”)

        4. The corner store I frequent has a picnic table in front that is always chockablock with the same old dudes (possibly less scary to me because they are old?). The last time one of them told me to smile, I told him my dad had just died – which wasn’t a lie so I’m sure my face was extra emphatic – and now they all jump up to hold the door for me and wish me a nice day whenever I go to that store. So I’ve totally used the same line on smile-enforcers ever since. Works beautifully.

      2. I saw a picture once of a woman with an absolutely dead face and eyes full of loathing using her middle fingers to push up the corners of her mouth to make a smile. I have no idea who she is and I’ve never seen the picture again, but that woman is my hero.

      3. I saw a picture once of a woman with an absolutely dead face and eyes full of loathing using her middle fingers to push up the corners of her mouth to make a smile. I have no idea who she is and I’ve never seen the picture again, but that woman is my hero.

        1. Is it my heroes Abbi and Ilana from Broad City?

          (If it is not, they also do the thing!)

      4. Once when I was cycling somewhere and waiting at traffic lights someone shouted “Why don’t you give us a smile?”, or something similar, and I was so surprised because I was really deep in thought about something else I just shouted back “Why do you think its okay to yell at strangers on the street?”

        1. That’s pretty glorious, but I actually visited the blog it referred to – the Modern Man – and hooooooly shit. I don’t think that guy has ever even spoken to a woman before.

    3. I’m normally pretty unassuming in public, and I usually respond with the “eyes down, move on, ignore ignore ignore” strategy. My one really memorable diversion from this tactic was because the guy made the mistake of harassing me on one of the worst days of my life. My husband and I were just coming out of the drug store where we’d picked up a prescription to help complete the process of my miscarrying our long-awaited and very, very much wanted pregnancy. My husband gets a call just then from our real estate agent (because we were ALSO in the process of buying our first house–it was a very confusing week for me), so he stepped aside to take the call and I waited there for a few minutes. So random Creeper comes up and asks if he can ask me a question, and I tell him ok, and he instead he makes a super gross, lewd sexual comment to me. And because every single bit of my emotional resources were tied up in grief just then, I did NOT make a polite response, or keep my head down and walk away. Instead, I completely lost my shit. I started screaming at this guy “FUCK OFF!!! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!!! GO AWAY!!! GO AWAY!!! GO AWAY!!!” He did go away. I have not managed to duplicate this response, because it is pretty far outside my usual demeanor, but sometimes I really wish I could summon that rage on command.

      1. I am so sorry that happened, and good for you for screaming that Creeper away!

        I have an operatic scream – so operatic that a spider that startled me resulting in a neighbor calling the cops because she thought someone was getting murdered (seriously). I am seriously considering just unleashing it on the next person who harasses me.

        1. This is kind of weird, but I’m honestly a little jealous of that. I am a woman with a loud, rich speaking voice but my scream is a pathetic weedy little thing. I wish I could summon a horror-movie-esque scream.

      2. A couple of years ago, I had to deal with a situation at work (a sexist one, in fact) that had me in tears. I went out to take a walk and a dude (not a creeper, a guy getting organization sign ups) tried to stop me. I hurried past with a “Not right now” and he called after me “You could at least SMILE!”

        I turned around in full on rage-tears and yelled back “DID YOU MISS THAT I AM CRYING? DON’T! TELL! ME! TO! SMILE!” and cry-ran away, while he yelled “oh my god, I’m sorry!” after me. Needless to say, the walk didn’t calm me down.

        1. My sister and I were at college together when our grandmother died. I called her out of class to tell her she needed to come back to the dorm so we could drive to our hometown. She and grandma were close, so she was really struggling to hold it together. Some idiot passed her and said, “Oh, come on, it can’t be that bad! Cheer up!”

          Sis shouted back, “Excuse me, my grandmother just died, you dumbass. IT IS THAT BAD.”

          The guy turned really pale and scurried away.

          1. Oh man. That reminds me of way back when at my first job out of high school I lost one of my close friends to a lung disease. Spent the whole night crying and when I went to work the next day, looking like crap some dude came up to the register and was like, ‘whoa, man, too much partying last night?’

            Not the ‘smile’ variant but still annoying. I wish that I had spat in his face ‘MY FRIEND DIED LAST NIGHT’ but eh. My boss sent me home for the rest of the day.

        2. My stock response to “Smile! It can’t be that bad!” (which I get so frequently, it’s actually become boring) is between clenched teeth, “You. Don’t. Know. That.” Sometimes I get a flippant double down, usually I get an immediate disconnect, sometimes I rattle them.

          One dude actually tripped backing away. I will hold that close and use it to warm the cockles of my blackened and shriveled heart forever.

          1. That is a thing of beauty. Thank you for sharing it for the sake of my own shriveled heart,

          2. Commiserating: “it can’t be that bad” is the main exhibit in the presumptuous asshole hall of fame. My resting bitch face seems to attract it. If you want to switch things up, refer to an oncologist in your response.

          3. My singular superstition is to not invoke fictional hardships (and as I do not have an oncologist of my own, it would be) lest the universe take it as a request and fulfill it. But I imagine it’s super effective.

          4. @ Sometimeswhy, out of nesting: I hear you. That’s why I say “the” – I’m sure some oncologist somewhere has bad news. 😉
            I hate this presumption with such a passion I want to burn them, and I’m not allowed to do so literally, so…

          5. I will sometimes respond to the “it can’t be that bad” or “just get over it” type of platitude by agreeing with them, and thanking them for telling me — in the most over-the-top way I can muster. All “oh my god, I never realized, thank you!! my life is changed forever!!!” (While still not smiling, of course.) Basically mock the shit out of the platitude. I find it tends to freak them out.

          6. Sometimeswhy: There’s got to be something that’s really sad, but doesn’t apply to you. If you don’t have a dog, your dog died. If both of your grandmothers are deceased, you can’t make it any worse by saying they’re dead. If you have a Darth Relative, you can claim they died and not worry too much about it. Willfully unemployed because you want to and get to be a stay-at-home mom? Lost your job!

            I’m not someone who’s really ever a jerk to homeless people and beggars, but I do have my limits. Once a guy followed me for a full block asking for money, and once I got to the next street and had to stop for traffic, I just turned around, starting sobbing, and said “I just got laid off and lost my job and I’m so in debt and I don’t know what to do.” It was an expected layoff, I was going back to school and intentionally took a summer-only job. The debt was 100% true as well. The light turned, and I walked off crying, and he stayed where he was.

          7. I can’t do lying (it causes massive cognitive dissonance that makes me uncomfortable for hours but usually I just can’t do it to begin with) but fortunately “you have no idea what’s just happened to me” is always true with these people.

          8. I once responded with “how would you know?” but it wasn’t a success; the man in question became aggressive and demanded to know “is it that bad? is working here really that bad?” (At the moment he’d approached me, I’d been adjusting the bandage covering a nasty infected wound on my leg behind my desk.)

        3. I once discombobulated a guy hugely by saying something (truthfully) along the lines of ‘well no I’m not going to smile because actually I just found out that I need more cancer treatment’.

          There aren’t many upsides to cancer but as a giant fuck off sign that my issues were more important than [whatever] it was quite satisfying

          1. Back when I was with my very abusive boyfriend, I freaked out an older guy who told me to “smile, I was too young to look so sad.” I had just had a fight with said boyfriend, and I had so much energy going into denial of what was happening that I blurted out “I just had a fight with my boyfriend.” The guy’s whole demeanor changed and he said “He didn’t hit you, did he?” I said no (because my bf had probably just twisted my wrists and flung me against a wall, which to younger-me didn’t really constitute “hitting”) and fled.

            That’s pretty much the only occasion EVER, though, where I might actually agree — even if it was years later — with the guy. I *was* too young to look as sad as I must have looked.

          2. Sophylou, however sad you looked, you were not too young to look it. That guy displayed a surprising amount of ignorance and privilege to think that youth protects against hardships. Heck, I had a darn near idyllic childhood, but I’m glad someone didn’t tell me “you’re too young to be that sad” when my kindergarten classmate was murdered by her mother.

            Why people like that think condescension will get them farther than sympathy is beyond me.

          3. So a while ago, I spent several hundred dollars on a TMJ specialist, and it turned out that my whole jaw was too tight and I needed to find a way of relaxing those muscles. Since then I’ve noticed that lots of smiling is indeed a migraine trigger. I’m almost disappointed that nobody’s told me to smile since then so I can tell them all about how smiling is actually bad for my health and I need to smile *less*. 😛

          4. Out of nesting, but @sophylou, you have just explained to me why I don’t say “hit” and instead say “put his hands on.” I knew I said it for a reason, but until now, I didn’t know what it was. Thank you.

      3. I am so sorry for your loss and so embiggened by the picture of you raging at a creeper that I can hardly stand myself.

    4. I like “Hey, creepy!” 🙂
      My usual answer to dudes creeping on me is flipping them the bird without breaking my stride, if I’m in a hurry, or raising my eyebrows and giving them a flat, unimpressed stare till they squirm or look away. They usually don’t follow up on that… maybe because it’s a non-verbal answer, and you can’t easily argue with that?
      When it’s other kinds of busybodies bothering me when I’m minding my own business (especial mention goes to the racist middle-aged woman who got angry with me for not crossing the street at the same time that she did), I default to an emphatic “¿Y a usted qué le importa?” (a mix of “mind your own business” and “what’s it to you?”. The polite “you” does not convey deference to the listener in this case. At all) and ignore the subsequent pearl-clutching.

      1. Yepp, non-anwers can be very effective – unfortunately depending on if they see your face long enough to notice the raised eyebrow.

    5. I can pull some pretty creepy faces, especially when startled. I have the snarl of a slightly trouble hyena. If it’s dark or isolated, I just look down and away, but in the middle of the city it’s very much time for Lion King hyena face.

      The best ever was one time when I bought a cupcake from a food truck in the middle of summer, and it was melting, so this guy yells “You’re just too sexy!” and I turn around in the middle of just jamming a cupcake into my face, hands and jaw covered in frosting, making soft “snork” sounds because I was trying to finish it as fast as possible. I am literally proud of this story. I shared it on Tumblr. My husband says if I’m ever a stand-up comedian, I need to recreate it like I did for him.

      But alone, at 5:30 in the morning at my bus stop, or 11:30 at night, I couldn’t (and I’m sure shouldn’t) do these things. The 5:30 in the morning one, I refused to take the bus for days.

      1. I would like to take hyena face lessons. I’m afraid I’m ordinary rabid dog and I think mentally unstable hyena would be much more fun.

        1. Actually, looking back, I don’t think Ed the Hyena ever gets mad. But Whoopi Goldberg Hyena is too focused-looking. Needs to be more unpredictable.

          But here’s how to get Raptor’s hyena street look: throw up while really mad and then make that face again later.

          Eyes: pure anger
          Mouth: 40% snarl, 60% about to puke
          Posture: trying not to throw up

          -least attractive face you can make
          -conveys level of disgust correctly

    6. Actual interaction I had:

      Dude: “You’re beautiful” as he makes as if to get into the elevator with me.
      Me: “You’re creepy” as I wonder what I should do. Run out of the elevator as it’s closing?
      Dude: “You’re weird!” as he abruptly banks left and goes into a nearby office.

      I hope that he was planning to go into the office all along, and wasn’t scouting for someone to take advantage of.

      Moral of the story: I am entirely on-board with creepy as a way to make dudes go away.

  3. Added that website to my browser’s blocking add-on. I don’t want to open it, not even by chance… that dude is scary.

  4. Isn’t it interesting that the dudes who are most offended by women wearing headphones are also those who go after headphone-wearers/book-readers/clearly-don’t-want-to-socialize-rs almost exclusively? Like, there’s a whole bus filled with people who look chatty and talkative, why are you trying to talk to me with my book and my headphones in?

    I’m reminded of a (terrible) episode of How I Met Your Mother when two single male characters were trying to determine if a girl reading a book at a bar was approachable. They decided that even though she was READING A BOOK, in a social scene literally filled with women who were socializing, that it was okay to approach/bother her (and of course she responded nicely, as women are conditioned to do). The show then goes on to state that a woman only has her “shields up” if she looks un-showered and slovenly… I mean, as a lady, if you’re clean and well-dressed then you obviously want to talk to randos. OBVIOUSLY.

    I often wear headphones when I’m waiting for the bus even if I’m not listening to music… just so I can clearly show “hey, I’m not here to talk to you”. I’d like to improve on this by having a button I could push that would sound the TNG klaxons when approached by strangers, followed by Captain Picard saying “Shields Up!” and a wooshing sound. Bonuses if it also produces an actual energy shield.

    1. I have this special talent of being both approachable/non-threatening looking (I have whatever the *opposite* of resting bitchface is) and also looking like I’m a local. I get approached by multiple people on any walk around NYC. doesn’t matter if I’ve got my giant headphones on. In fact, half the reason I wear giant headphones is to cut down on the interruptions. and for me, it’s not just guys – it’s random tourists asking me for directions, who just start talking to me without even waiting for me to remove my headphones!

      It’s extremely aggravating, because there will be, like, six people standing at a corner waiting for a light to change, and I’m darting in the other direction trying to get to the subway, or LITERALLY running down the stairs to catch a train before the doors close, and people will literally step in my way to stop me.

      The thing is though, despite *looking* friendly, I was raised by parents from the Bronx. So when you tick me off, the Bronx comes out. And I derive great enjoyment from the sight of people who thought they were getting a sweet, blonde, blue-eyed helper and instead get “learn how to read a [expletive] sign/map”, “don’t [expletive] touch me”, or “why don’t you bother someone who isn’t running for the [expletive] train?”

      (on the flip side though, if I’m not in a rush, I will spend oodles of time helping you get where you’re going. two weeks ago I was going to JFK to leave for vacation and I encountered some very obviously discombobulated out-of-towners trying to figure out the subway-to-airtrain system. I basically babysat them all the way from the upper west side of Manhattan to the airport. for an hour and a half. We had a lovely time).

      1. I also have the opposite of resting bitchface, and it drives me bonkers. I don’t mind so much if it’s someone who asks me a quick question (directions, ‘do you happen to know when happy hour ends?’, ‘can you point me toward the hippo enclosure?’) and then leaves me alone, but it’s somewhere between ‘funny’ and ‘aggravating’ that even when it’s as neutral as asking for directions, people will walk past half a dozen unoccupied people to ask me. (And of course it also means that I get plenty of people who are not politely asking a simple question and then leaving me alone.)

        I suspect that I also reap some benefits from ‘looking friendly’ or ‘looking nice,’ so it’s not all bad. But… yeah.

        1. Right there with you. My husband calls, “Please approach me and tell me every thought you’ve ever had” face.

          1. I used to have that. The number of total strangers who have told me the terrible things they were going through… I mean what the HELL am I meant to do with that? Get a therapist, people. Fortunately either I’ve grown into my resting bitch face or my body language has got more hostile (wonder why that is) so it doesn’t happen so much now.

          2. You must know my mom. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a store line with her that some random person hasn’t just started telling her stuff. I swear she knows about the marriages, bank accounts, and internal organs of half the city.

          3. I call it my “little old lady” face. It doesn’t matter what line I’m standing in, in front of me there is an elderly woman who wants to turn around, stand too close to me, and tell me all about her medical problems. Works on others, too, of course, but it’s harder to be rude to someone who looks like my grandmother.

          4. YES. This face. I have this face. Last time I bought lipstick I ended up hearing about some woman’s soon-to-be-ex-husband’s sex addiction. My headphones are as much to keep people from polluting my brain space as they are to keep dudes away.

          5. I have that one. My face apparently says ‘please tell me all about it! I care!’. And I do care, but not full time and for total strangers.

            My husband actually has an even worse case of this than I do. Friends have reported seeing people walk the entire length of a crowded train carriage just to tell him about their problems, or, on one memorable occasion, how they are actually the King of Spain and coached the Brazilian football team to victory…

          6. I thought it was just me. “Come talk to me!” face and my proclivity to walk around just smiling for no reason mean I get talked at a lot. Blargh.

          7. I’m introverted and was raised by a parent who tone-policed and monitored my facial expressions for signs of mutiny 24/7, so apparently I now have a permanent Mona Lisa half-smile that once served to placate an abusive parent and bullying peers, but now my up-curly mouth makes me look approachable and pleasant even when I am literally thinking about how much I’d like to be able set some terrible person on fire with my mind and my entire face from the nostrils up is set in one big scowl.

            I am, actually, pleasant and helpful when stopped by people who aren’t hitting on me or trying to sell me things or waste my time with some religious screed, as long as I am not in a hurry, because I work in a tourist-y town, and happy tourists means more money for my hometown, which fixes the potholes and shit, so I’m down with waving to the happy tourists and being sweet to them…but heaven help you if you hit one of my hot buttons (unsolicited personal appearance comment or criticism of apparent mood I am in, attempt to steal attention or time or money from me to benefit yourself, attempt to rudely assume that my religious beliefs are your business and also inferior to your own beliefs), because THEN I will not be nice.

        2. This happens to me too. I don’t mind giving directions and I’m very used to turning down folks who want money so it doesn’t bug me that much, but I do find it highly amusing when I pull out my earphones and say, “sorry what was that?” and people look shocked that I didn’t hear them the first time. I’m not a city information worker folks~
          I also should probably demand payment from our regional transit system for all the people I’ve helped with the train schedule and ticket machine. I’ve also taken landmark couple photos of many people at places like the Sydney opera house and the Eiffel tower, to the point that I have a set phrase I always use to let people know when I’m gonna take the photo, and after a week in Germany I picked up enough German to help confirm for this lady that she was on the right train platform to go to the airport. I’m just that person who looks like she knows this city I guess.

        3. I too am friendly and sweet-looking (random strangers will hand me bags, pets, and/or children to hold), and get asked for directions a lot even in places where I too am a visitor. But my favourite instance of this was the time I was stopped outside my building in Vancouver by a party of people who asked me anxiously, “Brid? Briiiiiiiiiid?”and I was like “What?”

          The spokeswoman for the group said “Parlez-vous francais?” “Un peu,” I said dubiously. “Une boulangerie?” she asked, “Ici? Pres d’ici?” “Oh, ouai,” I said “Allez tout droit à Davie, tournez à droite, il y a deux boulangeries, ici, la”, gesturing. “Aussi un Starbucks, un café.” “Ah,” they all said, lighting up. Then one of them, with great concern, “La boulangerie, c’est bonne? Francaise?” I made a face, rocked my hand back and forth and said “Enhhhhh.” They all laughed, and off they went to eat substandard North American pastries. 🙂

          I’ve never been so happy to look approachable, because that was *delightful*.

          1. Oh, that is delightful!

            Part of why I don’t mind the ‘giving directions, general assistance, etc.’ part of Resting Nice Face is that there was a time some years ago when I was visiting Japan at the end of a three-month international work trip. (The Japan part was just ‘while we’re in this part of the world it’s a good opportunity,’ not part of the work trip.) Since the trip had been exhausting physically and emotionally, my partner and I were at the end of our ropes, and we got let off the bus with two HUGE, HEAVY suitcases apiece (plus heavy bags with our work laptops in them slung across our shoulders) to drag, and very little idea of how to get to our hotel–we knew it was only about three blocks away, but not in what direction, and our map-reading skills in Japanese are not exactly great–and without a cell phone plan that would work in that country. We were standing there, utterly lost, me near tears from stress and exhaustion, him trying to decide if it was worth probably $300 or whatever in roaming fees to call the hotel for help, a very nice man on a bicycle stopped by and asked us if we needed help. And then not only did he provide us with accurate directions, he took one of the bags (I mean, after asking, he didn’t just grab it) and walked us there, in the opposite direction he’d been going; asked us about our plans; told us about how his son had been an exchange student in Utah (“beautiful country! what a desert!”); gave us some (solicited) advice about the best places to eat in the area; dropped us off across the street from the hotel (I think, in retrospect, so that we would clearly know that he didn’t expect a tip or to be invited in or anything else); shook our hands; and told us to have a lovely vacation.

            It took us from hating everything in general and travel in particular, to glowing with goodwill, and I figure any time I can give advice to lost travelers, I am merely paying forward his generosity to us.

          2. *waves* Hello, fellow Vancouverite! I seem to recall there are some pretty good bakeries in Davie Village, though…

            Personally, I think I emit a pheremone of some kind. I know it’s scent-based and not how I look, because while I do rock a certain teacher/librarian vibe in my work clothes, I’ve been asked for directions while dressed in combat boots, ripped fishnets and a patched camouflage jacket.

          3. *waves* Another Vancouver-ite-ian here! Has there been a Vancouver meet-up before? I’d looooooove to meet some Awkward locals 🙂

          4. Hi NorahMancer and sayevet! Unfortunately I moved to Colorado a couple of years ago and am no longer in the city 😦

            And yes, there are some pretty good bakeries, but nothing I’d have described as a “good, French” bakery. 🙂 Although if you haven’t gotten a piece of cake at Transylvanian Traditions you are missing out.

      2. I feel you there! When I was at uni I worked at an info kiosk and for some reason when I wasn’t at work people just loooved asking directions particularly when I was running late. To the point where I’d physically check to see if I’d left my uniform on.

      3. Oh I have that face too. That combined with my tendency to smile and laugh whenever I’m uncomfortable means everyone thinks I’m having a grand time. uggh

        1. I do this too! I’ve always coped with being uncomfortable/distressed by grinning or giggling. This makes Difficult Relationship Chats very hard for my boyfriend, who takes it as “Angel is not taking this seriously”.

    2. The show then goes on to state that a woman only has her “shields up” if she looks un-showered and slovenly… I mean, as a lady, if you’re clean and well-dressed then you obviously want to talk to randos. OBVIOUSLY.

      I never thought I’d see a compelling argument for rolling around in a pigsty before going to the bar, but here it is!

      1. No joke.

        Although, in my experience, going to the local pub in, like, a cuffed-up flannel shirt and jeans and work boots gets a LOT more dude-attention than skirts and make-up.

        This would have been an interesting if I was interested. However: married, monogamous, and even when I was interested in picking up dudes and taking them home, I’d pick them up at the local bookstore.

        1. I have been hit on at the supermarket while grubby and sweaty and legitimately *dirty*. A guy stopped me *once we were out in the parking lot* with an opener about my glasses, which I was tired enough after a day of field work (hiking and catching lizards and plucking the ticks off of them and dragging for ticks) to misinterpret as a legitimate inquiry into where one might purchase my admittedly rather fabulous frames. I was in hiking pants and shirt and had my pants tucked into my damned socked and my hair was a combo of hat hair and a falling-out French braid. And yet it was one of the most persistent attempts to pick me up in public that I have ever experienced.

          1. OOOHH, Breadpudding, was that the study about fence lizards’ curing deer ticks of Lyme disease? (Or any of its followups?) I am impressed.

            I’m long past the age of being pickup bait, apparently, and glad of it. But I do remember attempts when I was at bus stops in my nurse’s whites, both before and after shifts. No way did I look fresh and perky and eager at midnight after eight hours and plenty of gore and nasty fluids and worse and general frustration — and if they got close enough to smell, well. Trust me, that ain’t Magic Pheromones of Luv you’re getting from my ‘pits and shoes.

            What IS it with these guys?

          2. @rontoad out of nesting, but follow-up (as yet unpublished) study – my PI’s PI was one of the authors of the original study and a lot of the follow-up work. Our lab does a lot of tick microbiome work, looking at the effects of life stage, infection status, and host on the bacterial makeup of the microbiome and how that might affect vector competency. My thesis is actually on a tick-borne parasite, though, but we all do field work (and at the time I was just a volunteer and not a grad student).

    3. HIMYM had so many issues that in hindsight, I’m not even sure why I kept watching after the first season. Every third episode (at least) featured some trope that drove me up the wall.

      1. SECONDED. It’s a highly-problematic show full of BS tropes and cliches, and all kinds of anti-feminist crap… and yet I still watch it for fun, and have made it to the end of the series multiple times. I can’t explain it. Now I tend to watch it in smaller increments.

        Of course, I’ve watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer about 20 bajillion more times than HIMYM, which has its own set of problems. No series is immune, I think, even those with the best intentions. It’s a scale from “slightly problematic representations” to “BURN IT WITH FIRE”. 😉

        1. Yeah. With Buffy I gave it lots of slack because the cast was a bunch of kids in a deeply fucked up situation without access to adult support. Less than half of Xander’s preschool class made it to graduation. Like expecting table manners from a feral child,they did not have the tools to cope in a healthy manner. When you live in a world where “When in doubt, take it’s head” is an ACTUAL SURVIVAL MECHANISM… I don’t really expect the kids to sit down and use their words when they’re upset.

          Xander: emotionally abusive and alcoholic parents. Willow: Parents that were so often away on trips that she pretty much raised herself. Buffy: Divorced parents, custodial parent kicking her out of the house when faced with her kid’s reality then going ‘It’s All About Me’ when said daughter takes her at her word and leaves.

          Plus I think Giles was the only adult in the know who didn’t die.

          1. OH MY GOD I JUST REALIZED VAMPIRES ARE NOT ADULTS IN THE BUFFYVERSE. Thank you much, the 3-D glasses you just handed me are really going to help my rewatching experience.

          2. Well, there was Wesley. Buuuuuut it was Wesley, so not exactly a steadfast pillar of Adultness. (BTVS Wesley, that is, Angel Wesley turned pretty awesome after a few seasons).

      2. HIMYM would have been so improved if we weren’t supposed to feel any of those characters were sympathetic, but clearly the show thinks Ted is just the best and we must all agree.

        1. Ted often seems uncomfortable in the wake of inappropriate behaviour, but the behaviour is often justified by the results rather than exposed as inappropriate

    4. “Isn’t it interesting that the dudes who are most offended by women wearing headphones are also those who go after headphone-wearers/book-readers/clearly-don’t-want-to-socialize-rs almost exclusively?”

      Yep. That’s because the women wearing head phones are sending a clear signal that they are not available for said men to talk to. Since said men believe that they are always entitled to the time and attention of any woman they want, they zero in on the women who are failing to live up to that standard. Street harassment is about power, not connection.

      1. Huh! My ex used to do this to me while we were in a relationship. If we sat down to spend time together, he’d expect me to do all the work in carrying a conversation, but if I was busy with something he’d interrupt me every five minutes with important things he just HAD to tell me (about the TV shows he watched, which I did not care about). And I think your comment just illuminated WHY he did that.

        1. Toddlers do this to their caregivers because the threat of separation scares them. Good job, your ex, on being on the same developmental level as a toddler.

    5. Now you’re tempting me into thinking of it as a tech challenge! If your phone lets you use mp3s to set custom alarm tones, maybe? Though it’d take a lot of clicks to get to where it demos the tone.

      Alas, I have no tech suggestions about the energy shield. Best I’ve done is a 25-year-old classically-styled motorcycle jacket adorned with 1″ band buttons. Gets admiring comments from some cashiers but seems to intimidate random chatty dudes.

  5. There was an obnoxious user called “Will I Am” on a different site I used to frequent, I wonder if it’s just that people who call themselves that morph into assholes or what.

  6. Yessss.

    I’ve had the discussion where I was like, “Would you approach another man like that? No? Then you’re not just ‘being friendly.'”

    Sometimes the response is, “Well, but it’s not that I want to hit on the woman, it’s just… women are more approachable than men.” Basically, that it’s scary to approach a strange man (although most guys wouldn’t go so far as to say ‘scary’).

    To which I want to scream, if you, another guy, find strange guys scary, then how do you think it feels to me to be approached by a strange dude? You are saying outright that you know that men can be intimidating or frightening if you don’t know them/their intentions, but that you’re going to use my socialization toward “niceness” and “approachability” against me and potentially scare me because that’s easier than being scared yourself.

    Which doesn’t make you ‘friendly.’ It makes you a jerk!

    1. (I mean, I also think it’s disingenuous–many of them, even if they don’t expressly want to ‘hit on’ the woman, at least are looking to flirt–but even if you take them completely at face value that they’re just ‘being friendly,’ it’s a pretty asshole move.)

      1. Yep. Being friendly wouldn’t involve ignoring their clear signals that they don’t want to be talked to right now. Being friendly would mean finding someone who *isn’t* putting that out into the world.

        1. I’m reminded of one time, when I was much younger, that I was at a weekend house party with a large group of people. I’d been up late socializing the night before and, the next morning, just wanted a cup of coffee and a book and not to talk to anyone, but the house party logistics meant that I couldn’t just hole up in my room (other people were sleeping in there and I didn’t want to tramp back and forth across their sleeping bagged bodies). So I found a private corner in a room that wasn’t occupied and curled up.

          A guy came in to talk to me, someone who was not an outright creeper but a big of a Missing Stair in the social group, and someone who I was not at all close to. He plopped down and kept trying to make conversation. I was ‘nice’ at first (“How did you sleep?” / “Oh, fine.” [goes back to book]), but finally I said, “I’m tired, I have a headache, and I just want to read quietly, okay?”

          “I’m just trying to be friendly!” he said, as affronted as a maiden aunt in an Oscar Wilde play.

          And because I was fed up, I said, “Unfortunately, I don’t want to be friends with someone who doesn’t understand wanting coffee and a book and peace once in a while.”

          (I wish I could say that that shut him down forever, but of course it didn’t–swift comebacks rarely work as well IRL as they do in movies or in my head. And the only reason I felt safe being so blunt was that I knew I was in generally a safe place; I would not have felt comfortable saying that to a stranger on a train, or even a stranger in a coffee shop, lest their affront turn to something more dangerous. But it felt really good at the time.)

          1. I was at a video game con a few years ago waiting in line for a panel. I was *exhausted* and so, so happy to be sitting there quietly…just working on some cross stitch, not bothering nobody, and fighting the urge to curl up for a nap. If course some random dude starts asking me about my cross stitch project and ignoring the fact that I was giving one word answers. Normally cons are the one place I enjoy talking to strangers, but I just wasn’t feeling up to it. So finally I very politely tell him as much. He proceeds to stand in front of me and loudly insist that I *had* to talk to him because he asked about my project instead of skipping right to the flirting. In his mind he did it ‘right’ and had earned my time and attention. Con security had to get involved. It’s so bizarre how entitled these guys feel!

          2. Granted, I am socially inept enough that I would probably have asked about your cross stitch project, too (because cross stitch is awesome) but since I am socially inept I also don’t like carrying whole conversations by my own. (And would flee in panic if someone actually told me to my face that was being a nuisance, instead of finding stupid reasons why they should talk to me.)

      2. Every guy who has whined to me about this goes from “What do you think these men are hitting on you” (and scoffing at me) to “You women complain you never meet nice guys to date and then you won’t talk to guys like me.”

        “Oh, so you ARE hitting on them.”

        “Uh, no just–um–”

        At this point I roll my eyes, tell him to have a nice hot cup of shut the fuck up, and walk away.

        1. Oh gosh, yes. The ego-protective weirdness of “I should totally be able to hit on women whenever I want but how dare you think I’m hitting on you, you vain egoist.” Also known as, “It’s just a compliment, you daft bitch, why do you have to read so much into a compliment, it’s not like I’m asking you out, but also, you’re awful for not going out with me, what’s wrong with me, why won’t you go out with a nice guy like me???”

          It’s like going into a bank and announcing, “How dare you not be willing to give me a loan and also how dare you think I need money!” Uh, it’s one or the other, right?

    2. More approachable?

      Clearly they have never crossed paths with me. I am about as approachable as a porcupine suffering from an ingrown quill.

      I think this whole thing is just dripping with male entitlement and arrogance. I’m entitled to your time, your attention, your affection, your body, your money, your this, your that. It makes me sick, frankly.

    3. And funny how they don’t feel compelled to be “friendly” to grannies, little kids, or women who don’t meet their criteria for attractiveness.

      1. And yet this gray-haired, Mom-pantsed lady — no longer street-whistle bait (thank Dog!) — gets unwanted conversations from creepy older men in museums when I’m zoned out in the midst of sketching. Typical icebreaker? Mansplaining the painting I am drawing by telling me exhibit text that’s on the wall next to it. It’s especially fun when they mispronounce something. Like the artist’s name.

        Fucking get a fucking clue.

        1. I had a dude shove his arm in front of me whilst I was contemplating cheese at the store the other day, pick up a packet of cheese, and bellow “HAVE YOU TRIED THIS ONE” at me. Without making eye contact, I said, with perfect lack of expression. “I have.”

          He threw the cheese back and stomped off muttering.

  7. Hell, it’s not even just guys. I am continually interrupted at work when I have my headphones on(I swapped from earbuds to make sure it was easy to see)–a very clear signal that I’m in the middle of working on something that doesn’t need to be interrupted. My work has multiple detail-oriented steps, and every time I’m interrupted, I have to go back through every one to make sure I’ve not accidentally picked back up in the wrong place.

    It’d be one thing if it were a work-related interruption, but it’s never that–it’s always to chat about their weekend or let me know they’re going to lunch (they don’t report to me! I don’t need that info, and it could be conveyed with a wave of the hand). It doesn’t matter how many times I tell them I’m in the middle of something, certain people just never get it. And having to tell them when their interrupting, well, I’ve already been interrupted, so it’s almost pointless since it never sticks. Drives me bonkers.

    I like the idea of yelling back “Hey Creepy” at the catcallers, though. Wish I’d thought of that back in my college days.

    1. I fucking HAAAAAAATE my open office floorplan because a few people are disrespecters of the headphones. (And I use Big, Obvious Headphones, not earbuds, precisely to convey the “go away unless I am literally on fire” message. They’re also noise-cancelling, which is a necessity in an open office.)

      I’m trying to concentrate on Latest Overdue Project and these people walk up to me, hover in my peripheral vision, and then get annoyed when I take off the headphones and say “WHAT.” Note the lack of question mark. “I just have a quick question…” “If it’s quick, you can email it faster than you can walk across the building to my desk, and then neither one of us has to interrupt what I’m doing. Is this answer needed so immediately that it can’t wait until the next time I tab over to my email?”

      …OK, that’s what I want to say. What I usually say is, “Give me a sec,” wrap up my current thought, and then let them interrupt me. It’s an imperfect system. But I just got assigned a big project with several intermediate deliverables, and I’m about to get a lot more protective of my time and space.

      This is very much beside the point of the letter, except to reinforce that HEADPHONES MEAN GO AWAY KTHXBYE.

      1. My desk used to be right in front of my manager’s office. I was not his admin, we just had growing pains and there wasn’t enough space for all the writers to sit together in our main open room. Of course, I was constantly interrupted by “Do you know where X is?” I ended up putting up a sign that said “No” in huge, bold letters. If someone approached me, I just pointed to the sign and kept working.

        1. I used to sit with my senior manager opposite me, my manager diagonally adjacent to me and my deputy manager next to me. They’d always just turn and start chatting to me about the project I was doing, which they KNEW was full of really complicated figures and counting shit and working out stuff. Every time they did, I had to start whatever I was doing again. Also, the manager spent all her time when the senior manager wasn’t in making loud and ridiculous personal phone calls so I kind of hated her voice anyways.

  8. Oh lord – one time I was jogging along a fairly dimly lit path as night was falling wearing headphones, and two Mormons on top of bikes skidded past me and then slammed to a stop so that they were blocking me and I nearly fell over trying to stop before I collided with them. I yanked out my earbuds and one started in on the “Hey, we’d like to talk to you about – ”

    Dear readers, I LOST MY SHIT. I UNLOADED on them. If I had carried Mace I probably would have left them with a faceful of pepper spray. I have no idea what they were thinking, zooming up behind someone jogging alone and then scaring the shit out of them. Idiots.

    1. A similar thing happened to me — walking home from the gym, in the misery that is a rainy winter night, after 10pm on a not-very-well-lit path around the back of our housing estate. Wearing my headphones, like always. Turned the corner and saw two dudes in raincoats, so I made sure to stay well on “my side” of the path. Then they approached ANYWAY, clearly trying to talk to me, and I freaked out until I saw the tiniest glimpse of a badge and realised. I was too hyped on the fear hormones to be coherent at that point, but I did manage to snap “Are you fucking serious?!” at them.

      I suppose their training doesn’t include information on how not to approach people, but it would be nice if it did.

      1. anunfortunateevent and OldMollyOxford, those experiences sound really alarming. I’m glad that in both instances, the dudes trying to talk to you were not actually trying to threaten your physical safety, but WOW, does their behavior sound tone-deaf.

        I get that folks engaged in missionary activities are often trained to try to get the attention and time of people who do not necessarily want to give it them either, but yeah, some moderate amount of training in “And here are some situations where the people with whom you are trying to speak might feel unsafe” seems like it would be sort of basic…

      2. Man, what is it with missionaries and not reading when they’re scaring people? I got followed home from the grocery store, carrying heavy things, on foot for more than a mile by a pair once. At no point did they notice my shrinking posture, the fact that I kept sidestepping every time they got closer, or the verbal notices that I was fine walking alone (aka please go away now.) They ended up knocking me off the sidewalk and into the street, making me skin my hands and spill my groceries, because they wanted to walk like an inch from me, wouldn’t stop trying to get my bags away from me because they “looked heavy”, and it was freaking me out–so I stepped one step too far sideways and fell over the curb. Even after that–they KEPT FOLLOWING ME AND ASKING TO HELP WITH THE BAGS. Dudes, I just lost skin trying to get away from you–take the hint. It was one of the most genuinely frightening experiences I’ve ever had on the street, even though in hindsight I really do think they were just overeager to convert me and unaware of how to read people.

        (it didn’t help that they had a really creepy affect–they looked, moved, and sounded both strange and too much alike, and it gave me a weird “robots wearing human skin” vibe.)

        1. I had a mormon missionary once start trying to walk next to me on a deserted residential street at midnight in the winter. I think he actually clued in faster than some though. Maybe it was my sudden look of intense relief when he asked me if I believed in Jesus? Before that he was just a man deliberately trying to walk beside a woman alone in the middle of the night…

  9. OMG that first photo (2nd? not the headline photo) where Dude is leaning forward, partly enclosing her with one arm, and she’s leaning as far AWAY from him as she can… this is not an image of a positive outcome. She does not think he’s a “cool dude she can let her guard down around.”

        1. I’m a fan of the comments on Ask A Manager, too, because the commentariat over there enforces civility and does not brook foolishness very well. Alison does good work.

        2. Samantha Field does a good job of monitoring comments too. (Her stuff might be too Christian for a lot of people here, but I love the fact that comments are SAFE to read!)

          1. Hey, another SF reader! If you like her stuff, you might also enjoy Libby Anne at Love, Joy. Feminism. She blogs about a lot of the same topics, and Samantha guest-writes for her sometimes.

    1. Thanks for the link. I can’t bring myself to look at the whole thing or give its original site any more traffic. Reading through the steps that Someecards excerpted, I realized that a dude tried to pull this on me when I was walking from one building to another on the college campus where I work. At the time (FWIW: daytime, well-lit area, lots of other pedestrians), I thought he was so pathetically inept and transparent that it was kind of hilarious. He tried to get my attention by standing at the top of the steps of the building he’d just exited and stretching, with his arms up and spread, like he was trying to show off his body, and then took a sharp turn to directly intersect my path, so that I’d have to stop or risk colliding. He did at least leave me alone when I told him I had to get to a meeting. But oh, that POSE at the top of the stairs….it was like watching a really terrible actor trying to feign nonchalance. It was just…sad.

      Seriously, gents who are tempted to follow this stupid, toxic, disrespectful advice, please be aware that one of the post likely and positive outcomes they can hope to expect is that the woman will not yell at you, publicly humiliate you, or hit you with an umbrella/purse/bookbag/stick to get you out of her personal space, but that she will brush you off in one way or another and walk away thinking of you, “Oh, you poor, pathetic, self-deluding nincompoop.”

  10. Urgh, I had my lil baby coworker pull some shit like this the other day. I was sitting taking a break and I was trying to more subtly signal that I didn’t want to talk right then by giving one-word responses and not looking up from my phone, so she plonks down next to me and literally starts waving her hand in front of my face and being like, “HELLO I AM TALKING TO YOU HERE.” Now multiple that by ten thousand when it’s a stranger who wants to get their dick wet. So fucking obnoxious.

    1. I feel that! I had a coworker in college who would SNAP AT PEOPLE to get their attention. He also insisted on calling me a nickname rather than my actual name. I hope he grew out of being such an entitled jerk, but I am not optimistic.

        1. Is he calling you a nickname instead of your real name? May I borrow (steal) from MST3K: The movie and suggest you call him “Shrinkydink.” You know, that toy with those plastic things you used to be able to cut out and bake in the oven and they shrank–at least that will be your excuse if called on the carpet for it. That and, “but I thought we were on a nickname basis since he always calls me by a nickname.”

          That, or completely ignore him whenever he uses the nickname and if he pushes it, always, always, ALWAYS tell him it’s sad he can’t remember your name, but it’s “Drew.”

    2. I was in Istanbul with some women friends. (I am also a woman). We were walking through the Grand Bazaar, very carefully not making eye contact with vendors. We walked past one man, ignoring his calls to us, and he ran up to us, grabbed my shoulder, and said, “I AM TALKING TO YOU!”

      Because a woman is not allowed to ignore a man. Ever.

    3. A world of ugh. At a previous job some of my coworkers never seemed to grasp that headphones mean *I Can’t Hear You* and it was super frustrating to have to ask them to start at the beginning over and over because if I have my headphones on, *I Can’t Hear You*. Not today, not tomorrow, not any time. If the headphones are on, *I Can’t Hear You*.

      Phew, okay, I feel better now.

  11. I damn near punched a guy at the gym last year for yanking my earbuds. I was running at my top speed on the treadmill. Granted it wasn’t super-fast, but for me, moving at that speed takes concentration and focus one thing – not flying off the back of the treadmill. So I’m running, blasting my go-to running music and I feel “the tug.” I cannot express in human words how much I HATE the physical sensation of having ear buds tugged out of my ears. I realize there’s someone leaning very close to me from the treadmill next door. I shrieked and flung my fist toward them, because they were in my space and I DON’T LIKE THAT. My legs tangled together and I yanked the emergency stop cord, just before my face collided with the control panel. I stood up and turned on the Tugger and yelled, “What in the living FUCK!?”

    Some guy was standing there with my damn earbud still in his hand, and says, “Um, are you watching that TV? I’m about to run my ten miles.” Pointing to a TV that so far out of my line of sight, I would have to crane my neck all the way to the left to watch it. I was pretty fucking obvious I wasn’t watching that one.

    You know that part of Popeye, where Bluto sees everything in red? Yep. My response was nothing but a series of growls and barely formed curse words. He got all butthurt and sighed, “I was JUST ASKING.”

    “Ask in a way that doesn’t involve touching me or startling me. And trust me when I say, DO NOT pull a woman’s earbuds out of her ears. WE HATE THAT.”

    “I was just trying to be polite!”

    “Be polite by not touching me!” I walked off. That guy actively avoided me when he saw me at the gym. So… mission accomplished.

    1. Ugh! That can damage your headphones, yanking them out like that while you’re moving, the connection between earbud and wire is pretty vulnerable. Honestly, I really wish people would think ‘hmmm maybe I don’t actually have to ask this question because the answer is obvious’ (though your guy took it to a new level of entitlement! :|) When I’m on a train and sitting on one seat of a set of 4 around a table, not blocking any of the seats, not with my bags on any of the seats, and with my headphones on, you DON’T need to ask ‘can I sit here?’ Does this table look like it is occupied by 3 other people who all went to the toilet at once or something? I can sort of understand if it’s the seat right next to me but the one opposite?

      1. Me tripping over my own feet and bashing my face on the control panel of the treadmill would also damage my face considerably. 🙂

        I don’t think there was any reason to ask me a question at all, really. There were lots of treadmills open and “available” TVs in the line-up over the treadmills. He could have taken any of them. There was this weird “casual bragging” thing to his tone of voice that made me think he just wanted me to know he was about to run ten miles. Congratu-fucking-lations, dude. Now, run in the opposite direction.

    2. *shoulders around ears*

      Why oh WHY would you think that invading someone’s physical space and pulling a device out of their ear would be “polite”?! I’m so horrified and flabbergasted.

      1. Because changing the channel on a tv I wasn’t even watching would be ruder? Honestly, I was at a loss.

        My trainer heard me yelling at the guy and said, “I knew he had messed up when you said ‘fuck.’ You only say ‘fuck’ when I make you do burpees.” He also said the guy was a “numbers player,” meaning he hit on everything that moved, playing on the laws of probability that EVENTUALLY someone would say yes. No one had so far.

        1. Because letting someone know you’re there before making physical contact – which you shouldn’t make in the first place – is sooooo rude.
          Holy crap on a pogo stick, that guy is an ass.

          If the gym had their act together, they’d give him an official warning to never ever ever do anything ever again to startle someone on a treadmill, because it’s dangerous and they don’t want someone injured and if he pulls a stunt like that again, he’s banned, no refunds.

          1. The generally accepted etiquette is that approach the treadmill from the front and wave at the runner, then once they remove the earbuds by THEMSELVES, you ask if they’re watching a certain TV. And no, this gym doesn’t have it together in terms of banning obnoxious members, which is why I recently switched gyms.

          2. Yes! I’ve been to gyms with shared TVs, and it’s polite to check and make sure nobody is watching what’s on before you change it… but what you do is you come up SLOWLY on the right, until you’re in the field of vision (but gradually, so it’s not like BOOM “HI THERE”), and hold up a hand and smile (not wave it in their face, just hold it up and maybe wave), and if they don’t take their headphones off/stop, you point at the TV with a questioning look and they’ll usually just be like “whatever!” and you can change it. That’s also what you do if you find something on the floor that you think they dropped–come up slowly on the right, get in their line of vision, and wait for THEM to acknowledge YOU.

            Sometimes it can be useful to be able to get the attention of someone on a treadmill, but absolutely nothing justifies touching them/their headphones unless they are literally on fire.

    3. Yanking out someone’s headphones is on the same level as pulling their hair in terms of violent and invasive ways to get someone’s attention… fuck that fucker

  12. I made the mistake of googling the article of which you speak, and sweet baby flying spaghetti monster, it’s 10 times worse than I thought. The entitlement, the gall, the patriarchy run amok. GROSS.

    Brb, looking at cute puppy pictures forever.

      1. I laughed all the way through it. I thought it was amazing. Then a friend pointed out that it wasn’t a parody, and I retired to my chambers with a cold cloth for my forehead and a string drink.

        1. “This is hysterical! It’s like a compilation of all the most clueless awful MRA/PUA advice ever rolled into a…single…oh. Oh, dear. Oh, oh, no. Let us never speak of this again.”

  13. My best response, which unfortunately the creeper teed me up for, was when a man approached me (at night, but on a very busy street) to ask my name, etc., he’s new to town, he wants to make friends. Since I was relatively young, I tried all the basics, “Sorry, I’m running so late.”I really don’t have time to talk.” Finally, “Sorry, I have a boyfriend.” To which he finally replied in the most gaslighting possible way, “LOOK, I’m not trying to F*CK you, okay?!” And I screamed back “WELL HAVE I GOT GOOD NEWS FOR YOU” and (I like to think) strode off.

    1. Oh my god that was a brilliant final response. I nearly had to explain why I was laughing out loud at work, and I didn’t want to laugh, I wanted to cheer.

    2. This. Is. PERFECT.

      I hate that you had to deal with that dirtbag, but I’m having myself a wicked chortle at your response. Go you!

  14. Honestly, though! Sometimes, I just don’t understand it… Like, dude, do you enjoy looking like you’re talking to the air? Ugh ugh UGH!

  15. When we were in 7th Grade, my pretty friend would yell in boys’ faces “I DON’T KNOW YOU” and we’d walk away.
    I’m digging that back out.

  16. During a period where my commute home from work was A) an hour long, B) involved two separate trains, and C) often took place late at night, I perfected my pose of “sitting, reading a book, with Resting Reading Bitchface”.

    …and at least once a week, some guy always felt the urge to lean over and say (sometimes with bonus reaching-out-and-shoving-the-book-down) “Hey, you’re reading a book! I like smart women!” Or “I didn’t know little ladies like you read such great big books!” Or “Is that a *sexy* book?” complete with eyebrow waggle.

    I practiced my over-the-glasses Death Glare (it can be Super Effective!) on them. And when one guy attempted to take my book away from me, I said loudly in my best librarian voice “That is a LIBRARY BOOK, young man, and if you damage it you will be PAYING FOR IT.”

    1. I once had a guy hit on me in a coffee shop because I was writing in a notebook. Imagine! In this digital age! A woman writing in a notebook with a pen! A COLORED notebook! How fascinating and unusual! She must be Manic Pixie Cursive Girl!! Endless openings for conversation! Sadly, that was Pre-iPod.

      Manic Pixie C

      1. “She must be Manic Pixie Cursive Girl!!” made me chortle. This has happened to me, too, particularly when the notebook I carry everywhere for journaling purposes is something that looks like a journal or diary and not like a school notebook. In college (admittedly, a few years back), a guy once interrupted me in my writing to tell me that it made me look “mysterious.” Because clearly I looked like I wanted to be treated as a mystery he could solve. *massive eye-rolling*

        1. It’s one of my go-to ways to talk to cismale allies about how deep the annoyance rabbit hole goes. I occasionally “pay a light bill” with writing, and I do my best work when writing longhand in my atrocious monster scrawl (I am so, so sorry that I do that to my beautiful words. Mummy loves you and it’s your MEANING that counts and how well you play with the other words and I promise you will grow up to be in a magazine that only uses beautiful fonts if you survive forty of fifty culls.) So I tell them how, as a professional writer, I would love to work in other spaces, enjoy parks and museums and coffee shops and people-watching while I WORK. But I can’t, because men tend to see this as a freaking invitation to come speak to me. Men will physically flinch when they realize how far out of the boundaries of the acceptable it would be to interrupt a man when he is working, and how it’s just assumed that men are dong important stuff while women (hello! Half-century-old lesbian wearing a defense ring here!) is just trying to gather material for stuffing her womb.

          It’s all about respect. It hurts even the chivalrists to admit that a woman acting in perfectly respectable manner is not respected.

    2. Someone tried to hit on me in a library once and ended up sitting through a half-hour lecture on Philip Glass’s influence on contemporary techno and pop music. I could see in his eyes he was desperate to get away from me, but he interrupted my reading and he was going to pay the price.

        1. Howdy Mel!

          Thank you for your reply to my insensitive remark on another potion of this comments section. The limit on nesting replies won’t allow me to respond to your response. I really regret my wording of that response because in a way it just continues the aggression. My intent wasn’t to tell you how to understand your experience, but to help understand it. I guess there is some debate about the value of understanding a social or psychological phenomenon, but I think it is helpful and seek to understand it by observing my own experiences, those of the people around me, reading a variety of writings, and through interactions like this.


      1. Ha. This was not an attempt to hit on me, but a Jehovah’s Witness came to my door once while I was busy. But he started talking about poverty in South America, so I got on my soapbox and talked for ten minutes about my experiences as a Peace Corps volunteer in Chile and my opinions on foreign aid before he finally managed to escape. Don’t mess with me. I will lecture you.

        1. I had a professor in grad school who specialized in religious history, and he LOVED being proselytized by Jehovah’s Witnesses etc. because he seriously did want to learn *all about them.* I think he found that this scared them off, which wasn’t actually his intent, but it always struck me as a great strategy. “Come right in! I’ve been waiting for you!!”

          1. A. J. Jacobs tells a similar story in “The Year of Living Biblically.” The whole thing is hilarious, but the anecdote with the Jehovah’s Witnesses jumped out at me.

          2. Ha ha! That’s how I got them to leave me alone! The guy led with a passage I recognized, so I invited him in, offered him tea, and pulled out a Bible from my Bible shelf. He excused himself ASAP and they haven’t been back.

            (I teach Sunday school.)

        2. Apparently one time the JWs knocked on my great-grandmother’s door and were trapped for the next hour and a half while she told them about the British Israel Society. According to legend they escaped when she went to make more tea, and she was devastated.

          1. I’m pretty sure I mentioned this here before, but a JW turned up at my grandmother’s house, my grandmother (a pillar of her church) launched happily into a conversation about faith, and she (my grandmother) ended up converting the JW to going to her church. They’re Unitarians so I don’t think any actual conversation of faith took place, but this JW now goes to my grandmother’s church. My grandmother is awesome. (And so is her church, they sing sea shanties in church and have a chocolate fountain for Easter!)

          2. (Left it off the end by accident, but your great-grandmother also sounds awesome. That is a fantastic story).

        3. My mother always keeps a stack of literature from her meditation guru by the door.

          “Would you like a copy of The Watchtower?”

          “Why yes! And I have for you Paramahansa Yogananda’s ‘Metaphysical Meditations’!”

      2. Please please please tell me he tried to excuse himself at least twice and you talked right through his interruption because ❤

        1. I even wrote him a list of other composers to listen to! I am not a loud or confrontational person and I am horrible at witty comebacks, but I can be *excruciatingly* boring on a number of subjects at will.

      3. I would love some tips on how to lecture people. When I talk about an area I’m knowledgeable in, guys who are not tend to assume they know more than me and talk over me, or at best they give little approving hums like they’re my assessor and I’m hitting the right points of the presentation. It pisses me off so much.

      4. Ha! For some reason I get hit on more when I’m sick and miserable. I could doll myself up and go out and no one will bother me – but if i have a fever and have been wearing the same baggy sweatpants for three days and my hair is a knotted mess men cannot stay away from me. Once i was home in my own damned appartment and sick as a dog. The neighbor – who had never bothered with me before came over to borrow something and would not. Go. Away. Even after i told him i was super sick. So i made him watch Pride and Prejudice. Not the movie length one – the bbc one that is ten hours long. I have never seen a man so miserable. Every time he tried to say something I would hush him and tell him this was a good part. I love that memory.

        1. OMG! You are officially the model of the person I wish to become when I’m done evolving! This story is perfect in every detail, from your nickname on! I sincerely admire you ❤

  17. One time that I can recall, I bothered a strange young lady on a bus and asked to sit next to her without really paying attention to how she felt about it. In my defense, I was six. And even at that, I asked politely, rather than yanking her braid or something.

    Now, I am a grown-ass adult misanthrope who doesn’t want to talk to ANYONE on public transportation if I can avoid it. I can’t even imagine how traumatizing it is for women who have to deal routinely with people getting up in their biz and won’t take “Sorry, Audible time” for an answer. I’m appalled at how common it is.

    1. As a fellow bus-rider, I salute you. I wear headphones and carry reading material at all times, but I am still often pestered “reading something good?” (yes and I really want to get back to it) “where did you get those headphones?” (the internet) even, once, “are you reading the bible?” (what?!?!?!) I ignore as long as possible but I think this just makes them hungrier. The Bible guy touched my arm to get my attention– I didn’t take my headphones off, so I’m not entirely sure what the next thing he said was, only that IDGAF, and I said “please don’t touch me” which really offended him for some reason and he sulked for twenty minutes before moving seats to be further away from me. Which was honestly very hilarious, not to say I wasn’t relieved when he got off three stops before me.

  18. As a woman using a powerwheelchair:

    1) I get all the normal sexist harassment from men that I got pre-wheelchair (like shouting insults out the window of a moving car because I’m fat). (I’m fine with being fat. Shouted insults, not so much.)

    2) plus strangers (both male and female, but more men than women) feel that it’s ok to touch me without asking.

    I had a woman grab my wrist that was steering my powerwheelchair while I was in motion (very dangerous!) just to tell me that she liked the colour coordination in my outfit.

    I had a man who was sitting next to his wife grab my shoulder and my boob painfully from behind just to get my attention because I was wearing headphones, and then he yelled insults at me when I got upset.

    I had someone literally pat me on the head like a dog on the train.

    I have TWICE had someone (two different people) on the train grab the hemline of my dress and yank it down without asking, because they thought it was showing too much skin.

    3) Strangers come up and ask intrusive questions about my health and disability.

    4) Strangers ask if I’ve tried comfrey/tumeric/fish oil/coconut oil/whatever is the latest fad.

    5) Strangers tell me their health problems/their spouses health problems/their childrens health problems. I DON’T CARE. If I haven’t been to your house, I don’t care about your health problems!

    6) One woman came up to me and said “I have a daughter who is just like you, she had Down’s Syndrome.
    Um, lady, how is your 13 year old non-wheelchair-using daughter with Down’s Syndrome ‘just like’ a 39 year old wheelchair-using woman without Down’s syndrome?

    Unfortunately, I have learned that wearing headphones makes people more likely to physically grab me to get my attention VS no headphones so it’s “Ok, I don’t want to talk to people – do I wear headphones and significantly increase the risk that people will physically grab me to get my attention, or do I not wear headphones and get more intrusive conversation and more verbal insults and put downs?”

    1. I once had a completely random woman in the supermarket come up from BEHIND ME when I was in my wheelchair and grab my hair (gonna say this again) FROM BEHIND and say “OH, I like this colour!”. I was like…. completely speechless.

      1. I have long hair with spiral curls and I can’t tell you how many people have grabbed handfuls of it “to see if it’s soft” or just pulled the curl all the way out to see it spring back. I usually say, “Please don’t do that” or “Just so you know, that’s attached to my head.” and most people realize they’ve crossed a line and pull their hands back sheepishly. A few people though, have told me that I’m selfish to have all that hair and keep it for myself instead of donating it to Locks of Love. And the best are the ones who tell me I shouldn’t have long curly hair like that if I don’t want people to touch it.

        The entitlement is real.

        1. Oh my god the locks for love guilt. I have gotten sooo much of that. I have been told i’m an asshole by so many random people because I have long blond hair that i haven’t donated. I happen to like my hair long – and put a lot of effort into keeping it long and nice looking. You are not the boss of my hair stranger in the bathroom.

          1. There’s also the small issue of the curliness in my hair going all the way to the root, which means cutting it short makes me look like Sideshow Bob. And as much as I would like to help sick children, I draw the line at looking like a Simpson’s clown side kick.

          2. If they think donating hair is so important, why don’t they grow their OWN damn hair long and donate it? Really. I don’t think they all have short hair because they donated it and it’s not yet long enough to donate again.

          3. Miss Manners once suggested pointing out that kidneys are far more necessary for life than wigs, and that the waiting list for a donor kidney is quite long, and most people can get along just fine with only one, so…

        2. If it helps, Locks of Love are actually not the best choice to donate to: they sell most of the hair they receive, and throw a lot out, too. Plus they charge people for what wigs they do make.

          I tend to respond to the “donate your hair” demands with “I give money to charity, and I don’t feel the need to give my hair as well”… Now that I think of it, maybe “I’m an organ donor, so they can take my hair from my cold, dead body” would work, too.

        3. SAME on the Locks of Love. I have long blonde hair and everyone’s always asking when I’m going to donate it and reacting like I just stepped on their toe when I tell them I’m not. (It’s my hair! I like it!) Strangers also occasionally play with it randomly, like I’ll be standing in line at a supermarket and somebody’ll start braiding it out of nowhere. NO. STOP.

          So much solidarity!

  19. Dudes: how can I meet women if I can’t accost them in public places?

    Answer: dating websites and apps are a thing that exist and also there are bars and stuff where people are fairly likely to be looking to meet new people…try those places. Meetups and singles nights and hobby groups and come on has anyone ever gotten a date out of street harrassment?

    1. Don’t mean to imply that it’s lack of success as a tactic is the only good reason not to do it – it’s also upsetting for women and from my own experiences of being on the receiving end of it ranges from annoying, through slightly worrying, to genuinely frightening.

    2. That sounds like a complaint from someone who either doesn’t realize or thinks women don’t realize that there are places that are for meeting people — euphemistically or otherwise — and places that are not. You shouldn’t accost someone anywhere, of course, but in the former sorts of places the definition of “accost” is significantly narrowed.

    3. I made the mistake of reading the comments on a linked article, and yeah, that was basically the reaction of a bunch of dudes, including one who went with, “You just hate all men and want us to stop breathing!” Because, of course, bringing up the idea that there’s a time and a place to flirt is a feminist conspiracy to end the human race.

    4. Sadly, yes. But I was an incredibly vulnerable 15-year-old victim of emotional and physical abuse.

      Wasn’t really a date anyway. He just wanted sex.

  20. “Come on, has anyone ever gotten a date out of street harassment?”

    No. That’s because it’s not about getting a date. It’s about harassment. Trying to get a date or start a conversation or being friendly is the excuse; it’s the means. The point is the harassment. Getting a rise out of the target is part of the fun. It means the harasser has gotten confirmation that his harassment has worked. This is true on the street and on the internet. The person who asks how to get attention from women wearing earphones doesn’t want to know how to get attention from women wearing earphones. He wants to sit back and watch the tizzy that follows his trolling post.

    1. Them: “Hey. Hey. Hey. Hey, lady!”
      Me: “What? Wtf?”
      Them [hahaha ha yes dance, my female puppet, dance]

  21. Just the other day, I was waiting at the bus stop for my bus. Since there’s very few people at the stop normally, I use that time to call my parents and catch up. If there are other people, I’ll move further away to have my conversation. There was no one at the stop when I got there so I was happily chatting away, when a man came up to me and decided that despite the fact I was clearly talking to someone on the phone, he just had to comment about the fact that he’d seen me catching this bus before. I gave him my awkward “I’m acknowledging your existence because I have been forced to’ smile and went back to my conversation. Apparently not satisfied with this, he spent the entire time until the bus arrived trying to talk to me WHILE I was on the phone.
    Like what did he think was going to happen?! I was just going to drop my phone and fall into his arms?

    1. Oh My God What The Fuck Barbeque! 😦

      I’m sorry that happened to you! 😦

      and, I love your snark! 😀 :p

      “Like what did he think was going to happen?! I was just going to drop my phone and fall into his arms?” = pure gold.

  22. There are just two good reasons to talk to ANYONE who is wearing headphones:
    1. The person is a co-worker and you need to talk to him/her about a job you’re doing.
    2. You’re trying to pass this person on the multi-use pathway while riding your bike and he/she is walking down the middle of the path, oblivious to other pathway users.

      1. Well, walking in the middle of a busy pathway could cause an immediate threat, especially if they tend to do it around blind corners.

    1. 3. They dropped their wallet or important papers.

      4. Their clothes or hair is on fire.

    2. They are a friend that you are meeting at a pre-arranged time and so you know they’ll want you to let them know you arrived.

      1. You are having a medical emergency that’s rendering you incapable of calling emergency/ dealing w it alone so you need help, AND there’s no one else nearby

    1. Is… is she wearing mourning? Is that dude trying to bother her WHILE SHE IS IN FULL MOURNING? God, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

  23. Ugh, the dudes who interrupt the reading! I have noticed that fewer men tend to interrupt me when I’m reading in a public space if the book I’m reading is something with a title like “Death, Dissection, and the Destitute.”

    About two weeks after my father passed away, my mother was cleaning Dad’s belongings out of their office, and decided to take a break and treat herself to lunch at one of her favorite casual restaurants in town. There were no small tables available, so she sat at one end of a long table that was otherwise empty, and pulled out a newspaper to read. When a man came in by himself and asked if he could take one of the other free seats at the big table, she said sure, and went back to reading her newspaper and eating her lunch. So far, so good, but then the dude decided he wanted to “be friendly.” “Whatcha reading?” he tried. Even in the best of moods, my mom is not a fan of random men interrupting her reading to ask obvious questions. On this occasion, my mother was not in the best of moods, having spent the last several hours going sorting through her recently deceased husband’s office. “I am reading A NEWSPAPER, the one that’s RIGHT THERE ON THE TABLE WHERE YOU CAN SEE IT.” For some reason, that wasn’t enough to deter this dude. He’d decided he was entitled to demand conversation from this random lady, and, by gum, he was going to get it! He tried to ask her some variation on “So, what’s in the newspaper today?” At which point she was DONE with this interaction, and suggested, in a speech peppered with profanities, that he buy his own damn newspaper and read it himself, preferably IMMEDIATELY, so that she could go back to eating and reading in peace. He mumbled something about “just trying to make conversation,” and then she railed at him for a minute or two about when people are reading at lunch, it’s usually because they DO NOT WANT to make conversation.

    I’m sure if she’d qualified her reaction with “My husband died less than a month ago, and I do not want to be approached by a total stranger,” he’d have suddenly become very apologetic for his behavior, but the thing is, that shouldn’t have mattered. Encroaching on her time, space, and attention would be equally rude and presumptuous regardless of her marital status. And, to be honest, my mother’s reaction probably wouldn’t have been all that different if all of this had taken place a few months before my father died (my mother does not suffer encroaching fools, general creepers, flashers, or condescending asshats gladly). At no point during her Sugarbaker-esque telling off of this dude did she even mention that she was at an emotional low because of her recent loss. He didn’t need to know that, and, if he had, maybe he would have just written off her anger as “just a woman overcome by her emotions because of her grief” instead of “woman who is pissed off because dude is acting like an entitled shitmitten.”

      1. While I still stand by what I wrote in the last paragraph about the circumstances of being recently widowed shouldn’t matter….MAN, I would have loved to have seen the look on the dude’s face if she’d responded with “MY HUSBAND’S OBITUARY, NOW, FUCK OFF.” 🙂

  24. How to talk to a woman wearing headphones:
    1) Shove her violently, or, better, tackle her and jump on top of her.
    2) Stay on top of her until the runaway bus is passed, in case it knocks something big and heavy around.
    3) Look to see if she is injured.
    4a) (If she is not injured.)
    Offer to help her up. Offer to help gathering any scattered belongings. Say:
    “I am really sorry. I was afraid you couldn’t hear the honking and the car would hit you. Are you okay?”
    4b) (If she is injured)
    Administer first aid, call 911, or take other appropriate remedial measures.
    5) Go about your business.
    These instructions can easily be adapted, with minimal change, for a man or person of indeterminate gender wearing headphones, or for a falling piano or runaway bull.
    The instructions can also easily be modified if there is no emergency:
    1) Don’t.

  25. Twitter folks are having a field day with “Modern Man Dan Bacon Harasses Women With Headphones On.” A quick trawl through his other article titles reveals that he obviously has a hard time with certain concepts such as ex-girlfriends dumping him, women who are not into him, and women who say no to him. I am bewildered as to why such a fine, respectful gentleman remains single! It is a mystery! The world may never know! But seriously, I pity any men who seek out his advice.

  26. If there’s one thing I want to teach my son about women, it’s that being interested in a woman does not entitle him to her attention, time, emotional labor, body, or anything else that’s hers.

    My personal Derail Your Day and Enrich Mine, Female Stranger moment was a weekly thing. I used to have a contract that required me to work on a military base once per week. And the guard at the gate always, always told me to smile. I don’t know what he thought he was doing, but I thought he was the man with the gun who had the power to screw up my whole afternoon if I didn’t appease him. So I “smiled.” Eventually I realized that he was not particularly respected by his higher-ups, so I gave him the Bertface instead. He never figured out why, and it wasn’t my job to explain.

  27. I once watched a dude hit on a young woman on the train. She was clearly not having it, but lacked the agency to tell him to GTFO. I was being a bystander (bad kitty!) and wavering on saying something and then this older lady sat right next to him and started loudly asking him about his relationship with Jesus. He tried to blow her off, but she kept persisting until finally he said “I don’t want to talk to you!!”.

    She responded “You mean people on the train can’t demand attention from whoever they want??”

    Rock on, random lady. Rock on.

    1. That’s amazing!

      It reminds me of something that I had forgotten all about until now, an older woman who was a similar kind of avenging angel.

      Years ago, when I was in college, one of the cheap ‘girl’s night out’ events that my buddies and I would do was to go to a big bookstore (a Barnes & Noble or something). We browsed and bought books normally, but one of our favorite fun things was to find the romance section, which was usually in a corner or on the second floor, and plop down and read funny things to one another, whether they were goofy titles or blurbs or bits of prose, or simply the at-the-time-popular Fabio covers. We were quiet, we never did it if there were people around reading who we might bother, but it was a blast. (And, as a side note, I am now an avid reader and writer of romance, so I’m not making fun of people who like the books–it’s just that The Greek Tycoon’s Secret Baby has a certain inherent ridiculousness to it, as a title.)

      Anyway, one time while we were doing this, a guy (late 50s? early 60s?) came up to us and started to try to talk to us, at first a kind of primitive negging about the books, and then just interjecting demanding questions (“what’s your name? do you like what you’re reading there, hunh?”) into the conversation. We were too shy to tell him to shove off, so we resorted to monosyllables, and stopped talking to each other, instead reading quietly and hoping he’d go away, which he didn’t; as soon as we fell silent, he started monologuing on what women should want from men (I guess he was afraid we’d be brainwashed by handsome romance hunks?).

      After a few horribly awkward minutes, a woman came up, an older woman, very no-nonsense, and she said, “Oh, you interested in Harlequin Select? You want to talk about Harlequin Select?”

      “No,” he said, all offended.

      “You want to talk about historical romance? We can talk about historical romance. If that’s what you’d like.” She smiled, her mouth full of teeth.

      “I don’t want to talk to you! I’m talking to them!”

      “Well now, if that’s the issue–you girls, do you want to talk to him?”

      Thus prompted, and with an ally, finally we felt free to tell the truth. “No,” we chorused. His eyes bulged.

      She said, “You don’t want to talk to me, they don’t want to talk to you, so maybe we should all just back off and stop bothering each other.”

      “They were bothering me,” he said, eyes still bulging, hands in fists. “They were reading things together and being provocative! It’s not my fault! They were bothering me first! I have a right to talk to anyone I damn please!”

      “Could’ve just gone five feet away and not heard them,” she said. “They were talking quietly enough.”

      “I shouldn’t have to do that! I have a right to talk to anyone I damn please! I don’t care what they say.”

      “Girls,” she said, once more, “do you want to talk to this fellow?” We shook our heads. “Do you want him to leave you alone?” We nodded. “Okay then, sit tight, it’ll be okay,” she said, and walked away.

      He gloated over ‘his right’ to ‘talk to anyone’ who was ‘bothering him’ for all of thirty seconds, and then she returned with Security, who confirmed that we had said that we didn’t want to talk to him twice, that he had refused to leave us alone, and threw him out.

      And–since people always ask ‘why didn’t you ask directly sooner?’–he actually did become violent when they threw him out, and tried to pull a bookcase over on us when Security wouldn’t let him get any closer. But he wasn’t armed, and Security was able to hold him until the bike cops arrived.

      1. Wow. That woman is my hero, and that is one seriously creepy dude.

        As a side note, kindred spirits! When my sister and I go to bookstores, we find the worst books we can (of any genre) and read aloud the inside flaps like they’re trailers for upcoming blockbuster movies.

        1. Sooo,… would you and your sister be interested in organizing a CA meetup near St. Louis? Because this sounds amazing.

    2. Dude on the bus once made kissy noises at me while patting the vacant seat next to him. Any hope he had of that working was dashed by an ancient toothless woman who tossed me a wink then plopped down in the seat and made lovey eyes at him for the rest of the trip. Bless her. May she live another hundred years.

      1. #lifegoals 😀 That woman is fantastic and now I know what I’m going to do for fun when I’m old.

  28. Got to love how this guy calls himself a dating and relationships expert. Because of course a man who is an expert on dating has to flag down random women on the street and push himself on them…

  29. I tend to be relatively lucky and not get too much garbage in public, I assume because I am coded as female but also give off reasonable (accurate) asexual vibes. I have had random comments on my cane, sometimes, and I have had 3 separate total strangers ask me I was Amish when wearing a navy blue skirt with buttons, and then get disgruntled when I don’t behave like it’s a great idea to accost total strangers and ask religion questions based on wrong information.

    But one time I was reading a book at a bus stop and two guys said some “hey how’s it going” thing walking past me, which by the time I realized they were talking to me, they were quite past me. And then one made a comment to the other about my rudeness. And then they came back and made some comment about “you must really like reading that book”, and I said, “more than talking to strangers.”

    Thankfully they muttered some more stuff about how rude I was and how insufficient a female specimen (not their exact words but yeah) and then wandered off. And I stopped changing buses at that stop and picked one that didn’t generally have a bench or a roof or a windbreak but did generally have more people around.

  30. One of the many things men like this don’t seem to understand is how demoralizing it is to be hit on by a stranger as you’re just going about your day, particularly if you have deliberate ‘leave me alone’ signs up (headphones etc). I’m not sure how universal this experience is, but whenever it happens to me, it feels like I’m being grabbed out of my happy illusion that I’m just a regular person with autonomy, goals, feelings, etc, and being slammed back down to the reality that men viewing me see me as an object to be attained.

    One time a strange man who I’d just given directions went to shake my hand and then at the last moment kissed it, and the hand felt like a stranger on my body for days.

    This stuff makes us feel fundamemtally unsafe and terrorized. It’s ok to try and meet women, but save it for appropriate spaces (dating apps, clubs, etc), be respectful, and back off if someone isn’t responding enthusiastically, because ignoring our signals and boundaries does serious fking emotional damage.

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