From the comfort of our smartphones, we can swipe away men with the flick of a fingertip. If only reality were the same. Sure, receiving a compliment may be a nice confidence booster, but when I’m sweating after spin class and a guy takes a good, hard look at my swass, all I can think is, Buddy, I will destroy you.
Back when I was freshly 21, when bars still had a glow about them, it was exciting to get hit on by a middle-aged man. It was just part of the experience. The sticky countertops, the girl vomiting in the corner: it was all so thrilling. Thirsty Thursdays at my small-town New Hampshire college bar meant looking 100, face painted up like a drag queen—in essence, tactics to get free drinks. I remember trying to grab the bartender’s attention, my stubby arm reaching out, when suddenly, a drink appeared. I felt invigorated for a moment, thinking, Wow, I just got a free drink! That moment quickly faded, interrupted by warm breath and the stench of Funyons and Old Spice. I realized then that I should have stayed home and watched Netflix in my zebra onesie.
I now know that there is a rule of thumb: there is no such thing as a “free drink.” If someone buys me a drink and I can see the roofie fizzing at the bottom of the glass, I politely decline. I’d rather buy my own twelve-dollar Jack and Coke than be cornered by a drink-buying guy recounting his passion for avocados.
While some guys can take a hint, others hold you hostage at the bar for hours. During my college years, the easiest way to fend away men was to start talking about all the cats I owned. Nothing scares off men more than crazy cat ladies. I would make it a point to not just say that I have a cat; mentioning multiple cats was much more effective. I liked to give the cats weird attributes, like “Annabel loves watching her soaps during the day” or “Lenard is a devout Catholic.” This tactic worked 80% of the time—unless he loved cats too. But in those cases, he was often not straight.
If you own a cat sweatshirt like the one above, wear it out, and most men will scatter.
The dance floor is one area where guys think they can rub up against your body without your consent. I remember being excited to experience my first rave and then leaving with a new appreciation for personal space.
At a club, no one asks permission to dance (this isn’t middle school). If I’m dancing, and all of a sudden I feel unwanted thrusts coming toward me at lightning speed, I try not to panic. A knee jutting out at a 90-degree angle is my go-to, but another great tactic is to start dancing really badly (I prefer the Stanky Leg or Macarena). Frankly, dancing like a white girl will have men fleeing from you in seconds; as a white girl with no rhythm, I can tell you for a fact that this works.
At Coachella last year, I chanced upon a guy literally dressed up like a baby, wearing nothing but a diaper and a bib and shaking a gallon of milk into the sky. I made the mistake of staring too long at his potbelly; the Tommy Pickles look-alike took this as a sign that he should start grinding on me. I then did what any sensible girl would do: I put my hands up and casually did the YMCA dance. When the grinding suddenly stopped and the man-baby had run away, I was applauded by nearby Coachella girls wearing flower crowns.
Besides the creepers you find at the occasional festival, I’ve run into the more modern problem of bumping into men who think they know me digitally. After work a couple of weeks ago, I was getting a stiff cocktail. The bar was empty besides a few regulars and one creep who couldn’t stop staring at me from across the bar. He proceeded to mosey on over to me and, instead of introducing himself, opened with “We’re Facebook friends; that’s how I know you.”
There was no way to avoid awkwardness in this situation. So I led with the old “I got catfished” routine and acted surprised to learn that someone had stolen my profile picture. When he began to describe in detail my recent trip to Boston, I prepared to run while my skin was still attached to my body.
Much of the time, giving out a fake number is an easy way out. My sister likes to give guys my number, which she thinks is hilarious. (Meanwhile, every few weeks I have to tell Greg the investment banker that he has the wrong number and to stop texting me pictures of his Jacuzzi.) Not that I can blame her for this mostly harmless prank—if I’m feeling crazy and have had too many Fireball shots, I think giving out the digits of someone I strongly dislike is a great way to pass the time. This could be the coworker who ate the last jelly donut or the ex-boyfriend who broke my heart in ninth grade.
Once, when Fireball had hindered my sight, I accidently gave out my Nana’s number (instead of the number for Nathan, the asshole who hit my car and left his number on my windshield). To my embarrassment, my Nana gets calls from unknown men to this day.
Fending off men has always been a stressful experience for me. I’d like to imagine that Chris Hemsworth is going to walk up to me at a bar and ask, “What’s your sign?” in his sexy Aussie accent. But usually, the guy approaching me is older and heavyset, and showing off pictures of his kids while speaking with a lisp. Creepers exist, and dealing with them never gets easier, even as I learn new ways to escape them. If all else fails, my advice to women is to casually mention how Mr. Creeper’s face resembles your cat’s face. Ninety percent of the time, that’s enough of a hint.