When I was 22, I went to a party on a college campus. I was invited by my friend who was invited by this girl he was seeing who was invited by her best friend who knew the host. So, I was basically a random old dude.
When I got there with my buddies, I made a beeline for the kitchen with all the liquor we brought (cause we weren’t drinking Keystone Light) to make drinks for everyone. Also in the kitchen was this girl putting beer into the fridge. We smiled in greeting. I never did catch her name.
She saw the drinks being made and said, “those look good.”
“They are! I’ll make you one.”
“Oh no, thank you, I wouldn’t want to waste it.” She held up her beer.
“No, you wouldn’t be wasting it. Let me make you one!”
Her smile cracked just a little. “No thank you, I don’t need one.”
“Are you sure?”
She said, “Yeah, I’m sure. No thank you.”
I followed with, “Nah, I’ll make you one.”
Just like that her polite facade disappeared and she said, “Motherfucker, I DON’T WANT A DRINK!”
And I was like, “Woah, my bad. I hear you.”
She stormed off and I watched her walk right up to the host, point at me and say something. The host frowned, waved all her friends over, pointed at me again and (I assume) repeated it. All the women glared and I was like, “what the hell just happened?”
I went back to my friends and made light of it, something along the lines of well, I ain’t getting laid tonight. We all laughed and didn’t think anything of it. I don’t recall a single one of my friends pointing out my behavior or what the real problem was. I remember everyone moving on rather quickly, but it DID bother me. I just wasn’t sure why. I wasn’t aggrieved or angry or sad or ashamed. I was mostly puzzled.
Of course, unsurprisingly, very few women talked to me at the party and I mostly kept myself busy until it was time to go. I thought about the whole next day, trying to figure out what had happened. And when that lightbulb flashed, I wanted to punch myself. Because:
1) The top party rule is to not accept drinks you don’t make yourself
2) No one knew who the hell I was
and most importantly
3) I proved myself incapable of accepting a simple no
This has stayed with me through the years. Yeah, my intentions were pure enough, but no one knew that but me. But especially because I didn’t accept no for answer, I proved that–you know what?–maybe my intentions weren’t so pure after all.
I’m glad I learned from this. But I shouldn’t have had to learn this and that woman shouldn’t have had to teach me. I should have known by my adulthood to accept no for an answer, respect that a woman knows what she wants and that I’m not this automatic good guy cause my intentions are good.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this incident the past week. If I don’t understand what no means, if I’m unable to parse my actions in and out of context, and if I am still fully capable of disregarding women’s wants and opinions, I’m not one of the good ones. I want to be.
But I think the key moment is when I told my friends and not a single one of us talked about it or thought it through. Because really, how many more times can a woman tell us, to our faces, and have us not listen? It’s not on women to teach us or to be the voice of reason or to save us. It’s on us men who think we are good and still do this shit.
I have a lot of male friends. I am currently raising a son. I will be bringing this (and other stuff I’ve learned) up to them whenever I can. It’s (past) time to start doing more of the work.
Writing and publishing going on:
I did a reading down in DC at the Inner Loop a year or two ago. They recorded me doing some poems about Bjork and this Podcast has me on it.
My Barrelhouse column is right here and it’s about The Walking Dead.
Last year, I did some freelance with the Goethe Institut and wrote a thing about parks in Baltimore. It was right around the time all the Confederate statues were coming down.
I’m getting read to publish a book I’m SUPER excited about: How to Sit by Tyrese Coleman. It’s insanely good. You should buy it (and review it). Or request your library/school/bookstore buy it.
While my Spec Script series didn’t come out this month, it’s because I wrote a different fan fiction piece for Barrelhouse, all about “The Fall of Men (into volcanos).”
Media I like: