I've been thinking a lot about my controversial advice to the nineteen year old reader whose first impulse, when approached for friendship by a stranger a few older than she when she was on a family outing, was to ask her father. She was embarrassed that she had done this--and perhaps that her father had given his opinion not only to her but to the stranger--and wondered what else she might have done.
I said she had done the right thing, and she could do it again in future. But this is not because I am a huge fan of the patriarchy. I do not think adult women should have to consult their fathers every time an adult man asks them on a date. It is because I think women should trust our gut instincts and not second-guess our snap decisions about men.
My usual example is the elevator. You are about to get on an almost-empty elevator. You see a man who instantly makes you feel uncomfortable. He looks at you. You look at him. And then either you get on or you let the elevator doors slide shut. I recommend you let the elevator doors slide shut. Who cares what he thinks? You should care what you think, and so should he, if he wants women not to avoid getting on an elevator with him. ("Wow! Maybe my four-hours-a-night internet porn habit is starting to show on my face!")
I've also been thinking a lot about the Cleveland kidnap victims. A lot. Maybe too much. It creeps me out that Gina DeJesus was the best friend of Ariel Castro's daughter Arlene. Did it ever occur to Gina that Arlene's dad was kind of creepy? And, when he offered her a ride, did she dismiss her feelings that he was kind of creepy by thinking, "Well, you know, he's Arlene's dad, and I don't want to be disrespectful"?
And I think this because once upon a time when I was a kid in Toronto, a bearded stranger in car stopped beside me and offered me a lift. Now, I had been brought up always to be polite to grown-ups, but also never EVER to get into a car with a stranger. So naturally I said, "No, thank you."
The next day at school, one of the boys in my class told me with disgust that his dad had mocked me at their dinner table. He had offered me a lift, and I had looked at him as if he were "some kind of pervert." In short, this boy tried to make me feel deeply ashamed, and no doubt he succeeded for, behold, I still remember this incident thirty years later. (Oh nooos! I had hurt the feelings of a Grown-Up I ought to have RESPECTED!)
But for all I know his dad was a pervert. Even if I had recognized him, even if I had remembered he was my classmate's father, that would have been absolutely no reason to trust him.
Sadly, we don't need external voices like my classmate's to make us feel dumb about snap decisions we make about our safety. Many of us have an internal voice that says, over and against our gut, "Oh, such-and-such, don't be so silly" or "Oh, such-and-such, how can you be so uncharitable?" I don't know where this voice comes from. It could be the result of an unfortunate psychic accident that occurred when we were four or five and our mothers lost their tempers. "Oh, such-and-such, don't be so SILLY," they said, having no idea this would stick in our heads on a repeating loop for years.
At any rate, this voice needs to be replaced and overcome by a trust in your gut, especially before you become the victim of your own wishful thinking.
As an adult woman, I went on a date with a guy who confused me. I had met him years before when I was a lot more confident about my importance in the world, and barely gave guys like him the time of day. However, I was going through a bad patch of "Why am I Single?" and "Wow, my male religious friends are so much more supported and confident in their futures than I am!" So I went on this date, and the guy behaved in a really weird way. He kept losing his train of thought, and telling me it was because of me. He said I was queenly and that I frightened him. It was kind of flattering but also kind of weird.
It was also kind of Game. The point of Game is to unsettle a woman so that she feels like she will go crazy if she doesn't figure out what is going on and therefore looks to the Gamer for the answer. And that sure worked on me. I sat by the phone for days (at least, I hope it was days), wondering how I had simultaneously attracted and frightened this guy. And why, since he said I had really knocked him for a loop, had he not called me? So, I am sorry to say, I called him.
And so began a particularly nasty relationship featuring a lot of screaming from him and a lot of frightened apology from me. My goodness, I would sit under the phone in the kitchen with tears streaming down my face while an impassioned voice shrieked dramatic and alliterative insults in my ear. What a contrast his screams were to his little gifts, his avowals of love, the candle-lit dinners, etc., etc.
At the time, I had not heard of Game, and indeed I did not find out about it until some time later, when I recognized some of the lines and techniques and the name of one of its local experts, once referenced by Mr Screamer in one of his abusive post-relationship pseudonymous communiques. But Game works on me, which is sad, but I am indeed one of those women who scrambles to make sense of the absurd. As I told my spiritual director, I am attracted to men who behave in crazy ways, and we came up with a deal that from then on that I was going to avoid men who act in crazy ways.
I'm not sure I lived up to that since, you know, I ended up with B.A. But, actually, I never got a "Well, THAT was weird" feeling from B.A. When B.A. proposed after ten days, it felt happy and hilarious (I giggled all the way through), but never crazy or weird. And since them B.A.'s impulsiveness has mostly manifests itself in unexpected funny remarks and puns. An inherently relaxed individual, having made a huge effort to get what he wants, he lapses back into cheerful plodding along. My gut always knew that B.A. was good.