Today, I experienced a situation that caused me to feel like a hypocritical, shallow imbecile. Partially.
I shall now set the scene for you. *Clears throat.* AHEM.
There I was, draped on a barstool, my legs resting on the adjacent chair (let’s be honest, I’m not lunching with anybody. No, really, I am eating alone.) in the university’s cafeteria. I snatched the Ziploc bag from my backpack and began self-consciously scarfing down my Mayo-less turkey sandwich on Sara Lee’s 45-Calories-And-Delightful Bread. (Cuz screw you, patriarchal fat-shamers, for making “getting fat” one of my biggest fears in life.) Mid-bite, I was approached by a fellow student-perhaps my age, maybe even a few months younger, but the opposite gender.
This fellow had on an untucked flannel shirt and jeans that were a size or two too big. He had on glasses-the kind that morph into sunglasses when you walk outside, and hadn’t quite yet changed back to glasses-glasses, giving the lenses a bluish tint. His skin was as clear as sand, and he had a “baby face.”
“Excuse me,” he said as he approached my lonely lunch table of one, and I jerked my head away from my sandwich, half a chunk of lettuce hanging out of my mouth. I sheepishly covered it and forced the giant leaf of lettuce down my throat.
“Ooops, sorry, bad timing on my part.” the lad said, apologetically, as if it were his fault that I have yet to figure out how to consume edible substances in a socially acceptable manner.
After I’d finally swallowed a mouthful of dry sandwich (more a chore to eat than anything else), I shot him one of my winning smiles, baring my slightly-yellowed-by-excessive-green tea-drinking teeth.
“This is going to sound weird,” the boy continued, “and you can say no, but, um, uh, can I have your number? You can say no.”
My social skills are a bit impaired, and I could feel all the blood in my petite body rush straight to my cheekbone-lacking face.
I let out one of those nervous half laughs and hesitated just a beat.
“I actually have a boyfriend…” my mouth said before my brain could give it the O.K. A flash of disappointment came over his spectacle-covered eyes, his thin lips curving into a gentle frown.
“Oh, okay, I understand,” he managed, “I hope you have a great day. Enjoy your sandwich!” and with that, he took a step back from my table, down the hallway of rejection.
Again, my tongue reacted seconds faster than my brain ever could, and I turned and blurted, “thank you, though! I am so flattered!”
My brain’s only thought was, “I hate myself.”
I remained there, a solitary slump of a girl in a Victoria’s Secret hoodie with a half-eaten sandwich in hand, letting guilt take over my mood, and in awe of my own hypocrisy. I couldn’t believe that I had done just exactly what I’ve been demanding our society stop doing-qualifying a person’s value based on his/her external appearance. I had become, in that instant at least, the epitome of what I have been working so hard, (via this website and my own personal behavior) to advocate against. I had lied to this boy about my relationship status simply because the way he presented himself did not appeal to me.
But then, good old feisty, feminist M crashed this guilt party.
Wait a second, boys and men are allowed to have preferences on the type of person they find attractive. On Tinder, it is not uncommon for men to post in their “description” section indications of physical preference. (i.e. “Blondes only. “Cup sizes C and Up.” “Real Men Like Brunettes.” “No Whales Allowed.*”) I highly doubt that these online heart-throbs ever have episodes of guilt for their own displays of shallow behavior. So why should I? I like what I like, and I know what I don’t like.
Granted, I should not have lied to this boy with the cliche “I have a boyfriend” line. Why do I owe him any excuse at all? I don’t demand a reason why “real men prefer brunettes” on Tinder. I don’t owe this boy an explanation for not reciprocating his feelings of attraction for me. But honestly, what were my options for gently rejecting this boy?
I have found a couple of societal pressures that I theorize could be the cause of the “I Have a Boyfriend” Phenomenon.
“Assuming makes an ass out of “u” and “me,” the saying goes. I assumed, (probably rightfully) that this boy inquired for my cell phone number in order to initiate some kind of romantic relationship with me. Because rare is a boy and girl who share a strictly “No, Really, We Are JUST FRIENDS” relationship. Which is rather discouraging, seeing as I’ve always wanted and older brother figure in my life. But then we get into the whole “friend zone debate” which is an entirely separate argument on its own. Point being, had I given this kid my number, we could have possibly become dear friends, although the odds are slim as rice paper.
As I mentioned earlier, for some reason, (girls especially) feel like we have to apologize for everything. It’s a scientific fact-they made a Youtube video about it. And we all know Youtube is the all-knowing, 100 percent reliable, online video database on this world wide web. In this particular situation, I was apologetic for not being physically attracted to this boy as I assume he was to me. What is there to be sorry for, though? Why is it so hard to simply say, “no, thank you, I’m not interested.” I can think of a couple of reasons. First of all, some people seem to think that no means yes, so they persist until they finally get what they want. (In his case, a seven-digit number granting access to instant communication with me) which would make each time I had to reject his inquiry harder than the last. Second of all, I was trying to be considerate of his feelings. Rejection is hard. Nobody wants to be told “no,” which is why I linked an excuse on to my rejection to soften the edges a little.
In conclusion, I stand by my decision to withhold my phone number from this boy. I did not want to give it to him, it’s as simple as that. However, I do regret the method in which I avoided giving it to him, and am working on alternative strategies for the “boyfriend excuse.” If y’all think of anything, please don’t hesitate to let me know.
*I got this horribly offensive quote off of a T-Shirt from my dearest ex-suitor, “Derek,” which is one reason amongst a dozen others as to why I am okay with his terminating our relationship. What an ass, amirite? (See Prevaricator for that whole story.)