This week marks my third anniversary at The Frisky. (Amelia, where’s my damn cake?!) I know well by now the responses posts garner from readers — both “positive” and “negative.” Admittedly in the first year or so, aggressive or cruel reactions to my blog posts would surprise — genuinely surprise — and upset me. Despite my strongly worded, “loud” opinions in blog posts, I’m actually rather quiet, shy, thoughtful, and low-key in real life. By year three, I understand just what it means to put some of myself out there — whether it’s my opinions or my personal life — and how some people will react.
So I knew what I was doing, you could say, when I wrote the post “Oops: A Guy Asked Me On A Date & Laughed With Him.” I saw that piece as an awkward dating tale — er, asking out tale? — that are The Frisky’s bread and butter. I assumed, perhaps incorrectly, other readers would chime in with similar stories of guys asking them out and them responding in awkward ways. We’ve all been there, ladies, have we not?
That assumption was a misjudgment on my part, to say the least. A lot of commenters interpreted that post as if I were mocking the dude. Which … no. Not at all. It’s definitely instructive to me that there is a gap between what I thought I was saying and what some commenters interpreted me saying. So, I want go back and explain some stuff — and of course update you on what has happened since.
In an attempt to protect my privacy on this blog, I fudged the location and the person. All readers know I live in New York City, but I am private about revealing specific details about my neighborhood. Despite revealing personal details about my sex life and my health, I am very private about quite a few other things, especially my location. One never knows who is reading on the Internet and I have no interest in being sought out and/or stalked, like other bloggers before me. To that end, I thought I would call it a coffee shop and a barista so as to obscure my location. Perhaps that was pointless to the story, as well as detrimental to the narrative. So, to clarify, it was not a coffee shop and a barista who asked me out to dinner. It was a convenience store/deli and it was the dude who makes sandwiches who asked me out.
I go into this convenience store frequently to buy milk and toilet paper. Until he asked me out to dinner, 90 percent of my conversations with the guy was chitchat about the weather and then me asking him to make me an eggplant parm on a roll. I can honestly say we don’t have any sort of friendly “rapport” beyond what any other big city dweller has with their local sandwich dude. But I think when I fudged it and said he worked at a coffee shop, people incorrectly assumed he was a Starbucks barista with whom I had chatty conversations several times a week — or even a budding friendship. (There was some mention of Starbucks in the comments, although I never mentioned Starbucks myself.) I honestly didn’t know this guy’s name — or even how fluently he spoke English — until that conversation.
Other than the locale, everything else in the post happened as I described it: the guy asked my name for the first time ever, told me his name for the first time ever, and then told me he would like to take me out to dinner sometime. Then I laughed, turned my back and walked away.
It was rude. I’m not debating that or defending that or trying to act like my mama didn’t teach me any better. (She did. Hi, Mom!) However, it was a nervous reaction. Nervous because it caught me off guard while I was out running an errand. Nervous because I am not used to being asked out to dinner by dudes so forwardly (as I explained in my initial post, I’m a longtime online dater). Nervous because I have a boyfriend whom, it suddenly occurred to me, this deli guy has never seen me with before. And nervous because this guy makes my bacon, egg & cheese sandwiches at all hours of the day and night, has seen me in sweatpants and no makeup dozens of times, and I was definitely not under the impression he had any attraction to me whatsoever. I mean, I’ve bought tampons from this guy.
So, yes, my nervous reaction to the sudden and unexpected asking-out was that I laughed, I turned around and I walked away. I felt like a jerk pretty much immediately because I know it was a sweet, bold thing for him to do. No girl expects the dude who makes her sandwiches at the deli to fancy her; of course it was very flattering. I realized that and as I was waiting in line for him to ring me up, I debated saying something like, “Hey, that’s a really sweet offer, but I am spoken for already! I guess I’ve never come in here with my boyfriend before, huh?”
Unfortunately, I kept my mouth shut. Why? Because he looked awkward, I felt awkward, and I though, at that moment, it would just make him feel more awkward. Maybe not everyone feels this way, but sometimes when something awkward happens, people just want it to go away. My initial feeling was that belaboring the point that I was not going to go out on a date with him may embarrass him further, so I assumed, perhaps incorrectly, that if he ever brought it up again, I would politely decline then.
In a testament for their concern for others’ feelings, lots of commenters did not agree with not apologizing immediately. Lots thought that it was shitty of me to assume he might ask me out again and then I would tell him “no.” I understand that. (And I will get to what has actually happened since in a moment.) However, I have been genuinely shocked — yes, shocked — by a couple of the responses. I’d bet I bruised this guy’s ego a bit, but who can really say how deeply he may have taken it to heart? A lot of commenters seemed to think this poor guy may be irreversibly crushed by my reaction/rejection. One commenter even suggested that I actually set the guy up on a double-date with me and my boyfriend. That seemed to be a serious suggestion — despite the fact I mentioned this guy only introduced himself and asked my name three seconds before asking me on a date.
All in all, the tenor of a lot of the more perplexing comments were that I surely had crushed this guy’s ego for life. And how dare I?!?! I say “perplexing” comments not because they thought I had been rude (which I admit I had), but because some seemed to suggest that I, as a woman, was deeply entrenched in responsibility for this man’s bruised ego. To put it bluntly, I think mollycoddling a virtual stranger’s imagined-as-fragile ego is beyond what was owed here. To be absolutely clear, I care about being considerate of other people’s feelings and I wanted to right my wrong — but I wanted to do so because it was the courteous thing to do as a person, not because I think I am so wonderful and amazing that I must have crushed him FOREVER. While an apology was clearly in order, the idea that I “owed” this veritable stranger a double-date seemed a bit much to me. Men have been pursuing women and have been getting turned down since the beginning of time and, as a woman, I cannot get emotionally wrapped up in being concerned about the egos of every guy who flirts with me in public. No woman can. And we don’t mean to be harsh; we mean to be practical.
To that end, lots of women can empathize with being caught off guard by a veritable stranger asking you out to dinner. In my experience, that isn’t particularly common (perhaps because online dating has replaced picking up women in person? I don’t know) and so the occurence is a surprise in and of itself. But also — and this may be a function of living in a major metropolis like New York City — there’s a certain boundary of anonymity that exists in a customer/clerk setting. It’s not like we live in a small town where everyone knows each other outside of work; I’m not necessarily proud of this, but I don’t even know my own neighbors, let alone the deli guy who makes my sandwiches a few times a week.
But all that explanation is somewhat besides the point. He deserved an apology. So yesterday I went back and apologized.
I walked in, we made eye contact, and he asked if I wanted my usual eggplant parm. I said yes and then waited for the other customers to pay and leave so we had privacy. When it came time to ring up my sandwich, he came over to the cash register and did it himself, asking me about the weather as per usual. I told him, “Oh yeah, it sucks, it’s cold,” and then quickly changed the subject to the reason why I came:
“Hey, I’m really sorry about yesterday. That was totally rude of me.”
“What?” he asked.
“Yesterday, when you asked me to dinner. I laughed and that was kinda rude.”
“Oh, it’s OK.”
“No, it’s not. It wasn’t nice. You just caught me off guard. I have a boyfriend and you’ve never seen me come in with him, so I guess I started laughing because I was flattered and embarrassed.”
“Oh, it’s good. So, you’re coming from work?”
I took that as a cue that I should drop it. I don’t know if I can read men better or worse than anyone else, but it seems like when they change the subject during an uncomfortable conversation, they do so for a reason. (That reason being, “I don’t want to talk about this anymore!”) Did he appreciate the apology? I couldn’t tell, but I’ll assume yes. So, I said yes I was coming from work, paid for my sandwich, and then left. That was it. It was rather anticlimactic. But I am glad that ultimately I did the right/nice thing.
It was heartening to read the number of comments that were concerned about this guy’s feelings. Yet I do wish in general some commenters — to be clear, some, not all — would realize the inherent hypocrisy of chastising me for not being as nice as I could have been by calling me a bitch, a raging bitch, an a**hole, or suggesting that I “deserved” to be broken up with my by ex-boyfriend. As someone who writes on the Internet, I expect and am used to comments that disagree with me, my opinions, my behavior, etc. Even after three years at The Frisky, though, I’ve yet to understand that hypocrisy. I’m also not sure why my ex-boyfriend of over nearly one year being brought up in this discussion, either. (Hence my decision to keep my relationship with my new boyfriend private and off The Frisky.)
So, anyway. It’s done. It’s over. I don’t feel proud about the whole thing, but honestly? He seems fine. I apologized, he seemed cool with it, and that was that. I have learned a valuable lesson from all this, which is that when I get caught off guard by someone — especially a stranger who is, essentially, paying me a compliment — I need to take a deep breath and respond with good character and maturity.
In that spirit: Let’s all take a deep breath, chill out and have a happy Thanksgiving, okay?
Contact the author of this post at Jessica@TheFrisky.com. Follow me on Twitter at @JessicaWakmean.