DANNY: A couple of days ago, I walked out of Cummins Station and headed toward my car, which was parked directly across from the lovely Showtime showbar, in the one lone strip of parking left in this city that doesn’t require you to feed a meter. As I sat in the car, waiting for my air-conditioning to cool down and talking to my mother on my cell phone, a burgundy four-door Lumina-like car pulled up beside me, and a very professional-looking, late-30s-ish man leaned over and made the motion for me to roll down my window. My first thought was that he wanted to know if he could have my fabulously prime parking space. Well, it turned out that he wanted to park something in my spacebut it wasn’t his car.
He said, “I think I’d like to get to know you.” These words, spoken one-on-one over dinner, might sway my attentionbut when they’re yelled out between car windows on 10th Avenue South, it just kills some of the romance. All I could muster was, “How’s that?” as the realization hit that he was propositioning me. He said, “I’d like to get to know you real good right now if you’d give me a chance.” Now, I know I’m a hot young chippie in a red car sitting right outside a seedy strip joint, but does this man have no shame? Was his need to get off so insurmountable that it seemed logical to solicit a random woman in broad daylight?
It takes a lot to offend me. I am as crude and rude and as down and dirty of a shit-talker as they come, but this just blew my mind. Much as I wanted to give him a good old-fashioned cussing out, though, I had a few things working against me. One, for all I knew, he had a double-barrel shotgun in the front seat, and two, knowing how much my mother worries about me, I just didn’t have the heart to subject her to an all-out screaming match with a would-be john.
Like all women, I find myself constantly subjected to the construction-worker catcalls, the tractor-trailer honks on the interstate, and undressing stares in public places. And I take it in stride, because I have not been opposed to staring at and/or commenting on a boy or two in my day. None of that makes me feel uncomfortable. But this guy was serious, and that was disconcerting.
At a previous job, I used to watch this one prostitute walk down Eighth Avenue at 8 every morning and get picked up by men in station wagonsprobably just back from dropping their kids off at school. On one hand, I can appreciate the lack of playing the game. Here it is: I want sex. I want you to have it with me. Then I want to leave and never see you again. I might even give you a twenty for your troubles. But it’s so base and animaland for those of us who somehow get mistaken for being working girls, it’s downright insulting. But we can’t exactly give guys like that a piece of our minds, because we don’t know what they might do.
So what I want to know is what made this man think it was OK to ask me for a quickie? Don’t I have a right to be parked on the street like anyone else? Do guys not have any idea how this kind of stuff makes us feel? And how are we supposed to respond? It’s a week later, I’m still furious about itand still kind of freaked out. I keep thinking about the fact that I float around Nashville 99 percent of the time leaving my car doors unlocked and my purse sitting on the front seat. Five o’clock on a sunny afternoon could just as well have been 3 in the morning after Johny Jackson’s Soul Satisfactiona few hours later, and I could have been in some serious trouble. All because of a jackass with a hard-on and the balls to think I’d care to do something about it.
BEN: Let’s say you’ve never been out of the country, but somehow you find yourself in France, and you don’t speak French. You need food, naturally, and the only way you can get it is by communicating in the native tongue. So you fumble with the language but find that it’s very difficult to talk to these people. They react to your unpolished attempts at conversation with scorn and refuse to help you. Well, welcome to being a man.
Of course, that’s a bit of an outlandish analogy. And don’t think I’m trying to defend men’s actions. No matter how difficult it may be for someone to relate to the opposite sex, you should never treat them like anything less than human beings. Which obviously means that you don’t toss lewd suggestions out to strangers on a city street. It’s not just rude, it’s insultingand certainly not arousing. But I want to try and give you a sense of this man’s perspective and how he more than likely lost sight of common human decency.
Good communication skills are not something everybody is born with, nor are good looks and charm. There are many men on this planet, lots of whom don’t own a single one of these attributes. The problem for them is that not dealing with females isn’t exactly an option. Whereas women can sometimes seem like sexual camels, content to go weeks or months till they’ve found an adequate suitor, men need it right now. Not next month, not in a week, not tomorrownow. This demanding libido, combined with a general lack of understanding of the other gender, can result in a Molotov cocktail when it comes to poor decision-making. Therefore, when the call of nature becomes too much, you gals can become the targets of some embarrassingly inept come-ons.
This lack of understanding is the key to such social blunders. No matter how much we are united by our common humanity, men and women will always be utter mysteries to one another. If nothing else, this column is evidence of that. Most men just kind of roll with the punches and learn to adapt to the chasm of perception between the sexes. For some men, though, navigating the gender divide truly is like being a xenophobe stuck in France: Not only are they frightened by the disparity between themselves and the opposite sex, but they respond by reacting angrily, or aggressively, or stupidly. It’s because of this that some men end up either harassing innocent women or offering to pay them for their troubles.
In the end, though, there’s no excuse for this behavior. My advice to the men out there who think they might have been guilty of such actions is to run something by a buddy before they actually go out and do it. Sometimes saying out loud something like, “I’d like to get to know you real good right now if you’d give me a chance,” can make you realize just how stupid that is.
As for women’s safety, well, that’s always been an issue. Certainly, women have to be careful, more than men can ever realize. The irony is that most guys are harmless buffoons who, in their way, are more scared of you than you are of them. The best option is to ignore them. If you really want them to know how you feel, looking right through them will level them better than anything you could say.
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