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love out loud: the lady doth protest unwanted advances in bars

As of yesterday, I have been “off the shelf” for 16 months. While I’ve never previously been in a relationship for this long, I have often found in the past that my skills (or whatever) with the opposite sex rather diminish while I am with-partner and I’ve been left feeling rather rusty when I’ve re-entered the dating game in the past.

Being that I live in a feminist bubble, and usually acquiesce to fatigue and fall asleep by midnight even on weekends, I’m rarely subjected to the kind of bullshit women (and men maybe?) often put up with when out on the town/prowl. But fortunately for me (and this column), I had a rather bold reminder a couple of nights ago.

I was at a gig and re-assumed my position near the stage beside my friend Alice Planetoid after a quick trip to the bar, when a guy who Julio would later describe as “Fred Durst in a blue shirt” grabbed my hand and pulled me over to him. I smiled and tried to figure out who he was, figuring that any man brazen enough to make such a move must be doing it as a joke. I realised as I shook him off some moments later that this was a rather standard effort to initiate some sort of interaction in such an environment. By the time this was apparent to me, he’d shimmied off to dance around himself, and was spared a very pointed eyebrow-raise at his behaviour.

See, I know this isn’t that bad. It wasn’t intended with malice, and social norms dictate that I should be flattered by such attention (especially if I have a boyfriend, because being partnered up means I need validation from other men to know that I’ve “still got it”) rather than annoyed. What I resent, however, is the assumption that tends to pervade such actions, being that if I have stepped outside of my house, I must be open to advances from men. And granted, there have been times when I’ve wanted such attention, but have usually made some indication to a prospective dude-in-bar. Whether it be a smile or eye contact or a casual ‘hi’, I have generally put out some signal that I would be open to further communication.

That’s not to say that people need to get permission to approach me, but rather that I’ve often found the “uninvited” attempts to get my attention rather abrasive and uncomfortable.

A few months back, I was at a dive with my friend Elizabeth Taylor when a couple of guys sat down with us and tried to strike up a conversation. We hadn’t seen them at all that evening, had no idea who they were, and felt generally awkward about the pair simply sitting down at our table and interrupting our conversation. I politely explained that ET and I are close friends and don’t get to see each other too often, and really just wanted a catch up, and rather than apologising and excusing themselves (which I would have thought was the respectful thing to do), they instead stayed put and told us to just continue talking as if they weren’t there. After a few minutes of this, one of them asked if we wanted them to fuck off. I said that I wouldn’t put it like that, but that we would prefer to be left alone, to which he responded that I should’ve just said, ‘fuck off’.

Is this really the guide as to whether someone is interested? Does the mere absence of a ‘fuck off’ still invite attention, no matter what other signals and cues you’re sending? Is being an arsehole really the way to ward off potential suitors?

What do you do?

(Image credit: 1.)

3 thoughts on “love out loud: the lady doth protest unwanted advances in bars

  1. I know what you mean – I think this can be really complex. I am now married so I don’t think too much about this kind of thing until I am confronted with it.

    When I was engaged I was at a bar with some girlfriends and had a guy offer to buy me a drink. I thanked him and said that I didn’t feel like a drink, to which he then offered a dance. At that (late) stage I realised he was trying to initiate something and I just told him I was engaged. He was really offended and made it out that I was being presumptuous about his intentions.

    What do you do in this situation? Do you risk “leading someone on” only to disappoint them later? Or do you then risk thinking everyone is super attracted to you, when maybe they just wanted to be friendly?

  2. Great article. I’m a guy in a committed relationship, and I can say that fellow guys have had the audacity to believe that any girl out is ‘fair game’.

    To be devil’s advocate a little, I think it is hard, particularly in a place that is loud and crowded, to be attuned to ‘attention’ and ‘further conversation’ signals. It has in the past somewhat confused me as to what to do in such a situation (maybe stay away from bars and such).

    Do guys need to be better prepared for such signals? Do girls need to make more prominent signals? I don’t know. But for a guy who has been shy in the past to talk to any girl in a club and guess what signals she may be presenting (the fuck off is pretty easy to see) is a dilemma.

    Perhaps guys need to be better at advances?

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