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Some More Thoughts On Aziz Ansari, Women’s Pain, and Shitty Hetero Sex

Note: This post is very heteronormative because the situation that inspired this post was, by all accounts, fairly heteronormative. I believe commentary and analysis should be specific to the individuals and conditions in a given set of circumstances. I in no way intend for my thoughts here to minimize or erase the experiences of LGBTQ+ survivors or male survivors of sexual violence, which require separate and nuanced analyses that go beyond the scope of this post (and let’s be honest, the expertise of this cishet writer).

Hi there. Just your everyday heteronormative millennial feminist chiming into this whole Aziz Ansari mess, because shitty sexual encounters with cishet men is something I happen to be somewhat knowledgeable about.

I just want to put it out there, first and foremost, that I believe and have empathy for “Grace,” the photographer who recounted her reportedly awful interaction with Aziz to Babe, a media website “for girls who don’t give a fuck” (okay, I have to admit I kinda love that tagline). I believe Grace’s assertion that she was harmed by what occurred and I don’t fault her for handling the situation the way that she did according to the report. Aziz has acknowledged the existence of the encounter in a public statement, calling the encounter “by all indications…completely consensual,” which honestly pissed me off, but more on that later.

Secondly, I want to say that I’ve been a huge fan of Aziz. I watched all his comedy specials on Netflix (I appreciated the chronological trajectory of how less douchey his jokes became with each special that came out); read his book on millennial dating culture, Modern Romance (interesting confirmation of what I’ve experienced but frankly, my dating blog posts are way more entertaining); and I’ve watched both seasons of Master Of None (aside from the fixation on falling in love with white women, I enjoyed the show). So reading the original report from Babe made me feel disturbed and disappointed in someone whose work I had enjoyed, which cannot be consumed in the same way again, especially considering how Aziz’s work has centered on cultivating an image of him as a sensitive, self-aware male feminist with the social and emotional intelligence to understand gendered social and dating norms. In fact, because he has made a career out of this kind of comedy is what makes this recent controversy such a betrayal to me as a fan.

Thirdly, there are people who argue that the reporting was too shitty for us to get a clear sense of what happened, thereby 1) forcing everyone outside of the encounter to speak from their own personal traumas and baggage and 2) ruining the opportunity for us to have a real conversation about misogyny and sexual misconduct. I agree that the reporting could have been better but 1) we can’t pretend that Grace’s pain and discomfort isn’t apparent in this story, 2) regardless of the quality of the reporting, everyone will always be speaking from their own life experiences and worldview on the things they read–it’s difficult to speak from a place of objectivity (whatever the hell that is, tbh) when it comes time to address something as murky and controversial as sexual assault, and 3) although not in the best circumstances, the opportunity to have the conversation is already here and the conversation is definitely rapid-fire happening, so let’s not pretend like the opportunity has been “missed” and instead let’s keep talking and unpacking this.

Based on a couple of inflammatory think pieces and a number of comments I’ve read online, the thing that most people seem worked up about is Grace reportedly describing her experience with Aziz as assault. People have dismissed it as simply bad consensual sex. Many have criticized Grace for her seeming inability to explicitly say no and leave right away once she knew she felt uncomfortable, pointing out that Aziz cannot read minds. Some have also argued that categorizing the experience as assault undermines what the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements are about: survivors of “actual” assault and rape. And some have gone on further to defend Aziz and bemoan the current state of feminism that is alienating “good” men and “destroying” their careers. (LOL)

I vehemently disagree with the above opinions, and regardless of their original intent, I think they sound an awful lot like victim-blaming rhetoric.

Would I personally qualify Grace’s encounter as sexual assault? Trick question. It’s not up to me, it’s up to the person who was harmed to define their own experience. And if Grace defines that encounter as assault, then I respect her right to do so. Which brings me to why I was pissed at reading Aziz’s public statement: you can’t call an experience consensual if the other person involved disagrees with you.

He should have stated, “I assumed it was consensual” or “I inferred it was consensual” or even “I thought it was consensual,” but by stating point-blank that the encounter was “completely consensual,” he invalidates his partner’s experience. Like, can we be on the same page with this? Consent requires the consensus of all parties involved. And if two people are coming away from a sexual encounter with very different perceptions of what happened, then something is very wrong and needs to be addressed.

What I feel needs to be addressed at large is not so much the clueless and damaging actions of Aziz specifically, but rather the clueless and damaging actions of Aziz as a Stand-In For Any Cisgender Heterosexual Male Down To Fuck. Because Grace’s encounter with Aziz is unfortunately not a rare occurrence, which some of the above critics have acknowledged. Why is that bad? Because whether or not we believe Grace’s experience can legally or officially qualify as sexual assault is besides the point. The point is that Grace came away from her encounter feeling harmed, and if that is what a lot of women are identifying with when they read her account of how things went down, then shit is really fucked.

I am one of those women who read her story and cringed at the ways in which it reminded me of my own bad sexual experiences (not too many, but enough and hopefully not many more). Experiences in which the guy jackhammered his dick in me and called it a night without a single thought to my wellbeing or pleasure. Experiences in which I felt less like a human being and more like a vaguely sentient vagina. Experiences that were dehumanizing, objectifying, degrading, or just downright disrespectful.

But hey! That’s all okay, right? Because I consented to them.

But why would I consent to dehumanizing, objectifying, degrading, and just downright disrespectful sex?

Good question! I didn’t. And that’s what makes things complicated.

To clarify, I view my shitty sexual experiences with cishet men as technically consensual and I would not call any of them assault, rape, or coercion. At the same time, there’s been a huge disconnect between expectations and reality in these cases. I don’t go into a sexual encounter with the expectation that both my dignity and my cervix are going to take a severe hit. I go into a sexual encounter with the expectation that the person I am attracted to will treat me like another human being instead of a lifeless semen dumpster. And when it turns out that I’m going to roleplay the lifeless semen dumpster, it doesn’t matter how consensual I later tell myself it was, it doesn’t erase the discomfort, pain, and trauma I felt during and after these experiences. Actually, I would even go so far as to say that a couple of these incidents were a little bit rapey.

Rapey, but not rape. A fine distinction, right?

You might be confused at this point. You might be thinking, Okay, so you’re saying Grace’s story reminded you of bad consensual sex you’ve had, so aren’t you making the case for also classifying Grace’s experience as bad consensual sex?

Nope, as I’ve stated above, I am a firm believer that the person directly impacted should define their own experiences on their terms. What I’m trying to get at is, having sexual relations with a cisgender heterosexual dude can be traumatic as fuck regardless of whether you define your experience as consensual or not, and the fact that I can share this pain with another woman who identifies her sexual experience differently goes to show that the root causes of our shared pain are the same.

The root causes here would be toxic masculinity, misogyny, and heteronormativity, by the way. Or you know, patriarchy, for shorthand.

I’m sure you’ve heard this stuff before. Men have been socially conditioned to be confident and assertive, to treat women like objects, and to pursue them as conquests. Women, on the other hand, have been socially conditioned to be passive and polite, to coddle the egos of men, and to put everyone else’s needs before our own. Is it any wonder then that a byproduct of this social conditioning is shitty hetero sex at best, and outright sexual assault at worst?

Men take what they want and women get what they receive. It’s a shitty gendered power dynamic but it exists and it’s ridiculous for anyone to say that this dynamic is not pervasive in our culture–not just in the workplace, but also in the streets and in the bedroom. Which means that Aziz still had power over Grace as a man (a wealthy and famous one at that) in this reported encounter, even if he wasn’t her boss. His male privilege, wealth, and cultural capital don’t miraculously disappear just because he didn’t happen to be sexually coercing her on a film set while namedropping celebrity friends and throwing Benjamins around.

And yes, I agree individuals have agency and should be held accountable for their decisions and actions–but within the context of pervasive and toxic gender norms that also exist. What I hate so much about the backlash I’ve been reading about Grace’s perceived inaction is how the social conditioning of women has been downplayed or completely overlooked. It’s not that people defending Grace are making the argument that women are inherently too helpless or weak to speak up for themselves, as some have alleged. What we’re saying is that patriarchy has created conditions that have made women speaking up for themselves difficult, whether that’s in a factory, on a film set, or at a horny guy’s fancy apartment. And it’s not that easy to override social conditioning when it’s so deeply ingrained.

Take it from me. I’ve been told I’m strong, confident, opinionated, and independent. Yet I have struggled to assert my agency during some of my sexual experiences with cishet men. Why? Because of that damn social conditioning (which goes doubly for me as an Asian woman, ugh). I get anxious about giving feedback to my sexual partner because I worry about hurting his feelings, especially when sex already makes people feel vulnerable enough. A part of me fears that any objections or resistance on my part will escalate a situation into outright violence, and that would mean I definitely couldn’t dismiss the encounter as “just bad sex” anymore–I’d have to deal with it as assault. And even when I do muster the courage to voice my desires or concerns, I’ve had cishet men disregard them (yes, even the more respectful ones), which erodes my confidence in being listened to, makes me think I was the one who said or did something wrong, and causes me to wonder if anything I say really matters anyway.

Just think of all the emotional energy I’ve been expending, trying to create space for communication so I can articulate my needs without offending my cishet male sexual partners. I wonder how much energy was spent by them on trying to do the same. I am willing to bet money that the answer is little to none. Because wordlessly shoving their dick in me and calling it a night has sufficed.

Women are taught to be careful around men. We are also paradoxically told that it’s misandrist of us to assume that ALL men could be predators or abusers. These are confusing messages to drill into our heads. So when women take the chance to meet a strange man for a date because he’s attractive and seems cool, we do so hopeful that the man in question will respect us while also wary that things could go awry. And when he’s being disrespectful, we have to do the mental gymnastics to figure out whether the possible physical or social repercussions are worth calling him out: whether or not rejecting him right then and there will be “too rude” or “too melodramatic,” which can maybe lead to “too dangerous.” Some of us second-guess our intuition. Some of us want to play it safe and avoid confrontation. Some of us get stuck between “yes” and “no” and are punished for our uncertainty.

The onus has largely been on women to speak up, do more, and be more in regards to our entanglements and relationships with cishet men. We are told what we need to do or what we should have done. We are told that we are weak and at fault if we fail to do these things. Yes, in a perfect world free from the tyranny of patriarchy, women should be able to advocate for themselves, and ideally we would be able to do so perfectly, unapologetically, and without having to weigh the risks and possible consequences. But that perfect world doesn’t exist yet. What exists is a world in which men are at an advantage and non-men are not. So at a minimum, we need to be met halfway by our male counterparts. I would even go so far as to argue that men should meet us three-quarters of the way until we have made substantial strides in achieving social parity between men and women. For instance, it should be easier for someone who has been socially conditioned to be confident and assertive to start a conversation about sexual desires, than for someone who has been socially conditioned to be passive and polite.

What does it say about us as a society when we are focused more on grooming women to resist the advances of men, instead of demanding that men just respect women in both public and private spheres?

Which leads me to what bothers me most about holding women more accountable than men when it comes to shitty hetero sex: the implication that women must be taught to better ask for our humanity to be recognized, more so than for men to simply recognize the humanity of the women they are sexually engaging with. That’s really the heart of the matter: if you respect someone as a human being, you would care about what they thought and felt, and you would notice if they were uncomfortable. The issue is that many cishet men can’t be bothered to view women through that lens, especially when initiating sex. They can’t be bothered because society has allowed them, encouraged them, and even enabled them to be selfish and unfeeling in their behavior towards women. And apparently, teaching men to be kinder, more respectful, and more empathetic towards women is just asking too much.

(Seriously though: Why can’t we expect cishet men to just fucking ask questions or read body language? Is it that difficult to ask “Can I kiss you?” Is it too hard to observe that when someone is pulling away from you, that is a sign of disinterest? That has nothing to do with mind reading, that is just picking up on goddamn social cues.)

In short (well kind of), I believe that sexual violence is a long, discordant spectrum, with catcalling a stranger on the street on one end, sex trafficking on the other end, and bad sex somewhere close to the middle. I believe and understand how bad sex can become a slippery slope to sexual assault or rape because of how the dynamics of sex can change from moment to moment. I believe in and support ongoing, affirmative, and enthusiastic consent. I believe women have the agency to define our own experiences and the right to be trusted when we say we have been harmed. I believe we have much more work to do when a woman’s response to Grace’s story is “Ha! You’re stupid, I’ve suffered worse than that and I’m fine!” I believe we will not progress as a society if we are only willing to exercise empathy for the stories of people who meet our legal definitions and socially accepted expectations for what trauma looks like. I believe patriarchy has created conditions that have made it risky and at times downright dangerous for women to vocalize dissent, and the onus is on individual men to leverage their privilege to help change these conditions so that women aren’t afraid of advocating for themselves, whether in a professional or personal setting. I believe that rather than diluting movements against sexual harassment and assault, stories like Grace’s give them greater complexity and nuance, because we are asking people to look beyond the minute details and at the bigger picture of gender-based violence perpetrated by cishet men, in which the safety and wellbeing of all women and femmes have been systematically compromised in so many different ways, all of which are worthy of our time and attention and empathy. And lastly, I believe that the pain of women, in all its heartbreaking shades, need not reach society’s threshold in order to be validated.

tl;dr SMASH THE PATRIARCHY WITHOUT VICTIM-BLAMING/AZIZ ANSARI HOW COULD YOU GRRR

Thank you to my friends Jakki and Allison for unintentionally helping me write this post.

LINKS TO GOOD NON-VICTIM-BLAMING THINKPIECES/POSTS ON THE AZIZ ANSARI DEBACLE THAT HAVE INFORMED/INSPIRED ME:

“What happens to Aziz Ansari isn’t the point” by Molly Brown (Washington Post)

“On Aziz Ansari And ‘Bad Sex'” by Katie Anthony (Bust)

“On Aziz Ansari And Sex That Feels Violating Even When It’s Not Criminal” by Emma Gray (HuffPost)

Kat Blaque’s Facebook page (she wrote a very thoughtful post on the matter on 1/17/18, just scroll til you find it)

Guerrilla Feminism’s Instagram (check posts made during the week of 1/14/18 – 1/18/18)

“The Aziz Ansari story is ordinary. That’s why we have to talk about it.” by Anna North (Vox)

“The Patriarchy Strikes Back” by Sarah Jones (New Republic)

BONUS THINKPIECE WRITTEN IN 2015 THAT IS RELEVANT AND VERY VERY VERY GOOD:

“Why Sex That’s Consensual Can Still Be Bad. And Why We’re Not Talking About It.” by Rebecca Traister (The Cut)

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OKBye Story #12: Bitch in Berkeley

My retelling of previous OKCupid dates might make it sound like I was done with white boys. But I wasn’t done with them just yet.

What’s with this fixation on white boys anyway, you might be wondering. Well, living in a white supremacist world helps a lot, quite frankly.

And to be further honest, I don’t think I cared for white boys much until I got to high school. Probably because I didn’t see very many of them. Once I was a teenager, however, those messages from the media about eurocentric beauty standards started sinking in, reinforced by seeing a plethora of cute white boys at my school. It was ugly and awful internalized racism, of course, but it didn’t really register as such at the time. Ironically, white boys were a foreign species to me. Except for my next door neighbors, I knew little of the ways of my white male peers, except for what I saw on TV. So perhaps that was the appeal for me: a nice and wholesome, good looking white boy whom I could project all my heteronormative, vanilla fantasies onto. (I know, I make myself want to vomit.)

Online dating had unfortunately become an entry point into better understanding the white male as an identity, an identity deeply entrenched in privilege and entitlement. The more I interacted with white dudes, the more I wondered why I was interacting with them to begin with. I guess I didn’t want to come off as “racist.” (Social Justice 101: you cannot be racist against a people who benefit from structural racism, aka white people.) But if a guy was cute, kind, sociopolitically aware, laughed at my jokes and just so happened to be white, would I really hold his race against him?

Well, no, I grudgingly admitted. I just had to really make sure that this elusive white boy was actually sociopolitically aware though.

Which was why when a seemingly cute, kind, sociopolitically aware white boy messaged me, I decided to respond.

connor1

Our conversation went exactly like this:

RandomDude12 Hey, just wanted to say that I found your profile entertaining to read. What do you find fun about writing an OKC profile? Most people seem to hate it. Sent 9/13/2014

CrumpleHSnorkack I think the fun is in being able to create an impression of myself that isn’t totally restricted by standard social norms. I’ve noticed other people (friends included) who treat their profiles like a resume and write to impress, but who am I trying to impress on here, really? I figure if I’m going to go on and on about myself I might as well try to make it kind of entertaining, even if I’m the only one being entertained.

Also I’m a writer and a social media narcissist so the OKC profile is both a good exercise in character development and an excuse to talk about myself without actually talking to anyone about myself.

Do you hate it? Sent from the OkCupid app  9/14/2014

RandomDude12 I don’t hate it. It stresses me out, but it’s an interesting challenge. I tend to post very little on social media, but since OKC doesn’t really work that way, it gives me an opportunity to go out of my comfort zone and try to differentiate myself from the hordes of other users. It’s a balance, I suppose, of writing to impress (shameful, I know), and trying to express the unfiltered me.

I find exchanging messages to be trickier, since I’m not only attempting to express myself, but also trying to emulate conversation in the absence of social cues. So to follow up on that, would you be interested in meeting up and continuing this conversation over coffee, maybe this Thursday? Sent 9/14/2014

CrumpleHSnorkack Okay maybe I’m interpreting your invitation too literally, but I don’t drink coffee lol. How bout drinks Sent from the OkCupid app  9/14/2014

RandomDude12 Sounds good! I’m less familiar with drink places in Oakland, how does Jupiter in Berkeley sound? Say at 6:00? Sent 9/14/2014

CrumpleHSnorkack Okie dokie. See you then! Sent from the OkCupid app  9/15/2014

RandomDude12 Cool, see you Thursday! I’m Connor*, by the way. Sent 9/15/2014
CrumpleHSnorkack Cool, I’m Learkana. Sent 9/15/2014

*name changed to hide true identity of generic white guy you are unlikely to successfully cyberstalk even if I had revealed his actual name, which is only slightly less generic than “Connor”–presuming you would even care to cyberstalk him, which you probably don’t, so whatever idk

I headed over straight after work. I ended up being kind of late because traffic was a bitch, trying to find parking was a bitch, and trying to find the damn pub was also a bitch (ugh, fuck Berkeley). Connor seemed pretty nonchalant about it however. In person, he was pretty cute. His voice was a little too squeaky, I noted. (I have this thing about voices. Don’t ask.) We briefly hugged, sat down at the table he had secured for us, ordered our drinks, and commenced with the awkward small talk.

God, what did we talk about? I think we went all over the place. We talked about all the boring stuff: work, family, school, interests. The more alcohol that went in me, the more I was willing to say whatever the fuck came to my mind.

“I really hate awkward pauses,” I told him. “Don’t you hate having pauses in the conversation?”

“I don’t mind them,” Connor said.

“Oh. Well, I just think they’re really awkward.” Thus making it all the more awkward, of course.

I wish I could blame it all on the alcohol, but all I had was a hard cider.

“So…can you define what rape culture is?” I asked. This had been my go-to first date question for a while now. A very straightforward approach to screening dating candidates. A method by which I have separated the decent guys from the rest. A litmus test for sociopolitical awareness and feminism (or a lack thereof).

Which was why I was completely thrown off when Connor pursed his lips and said, “I would rather not.”

“Wait, what?” I said. “Are you serious?”

“I don’t want to talk about rape culture,” he replied.

“But…why?” My mind was spinning. Obviously it’s an awkward subject to bring up on a first date, but it’s totally relevant! And if a guy knows what rape culture is, he’s less likely to be a thoughtless perpetrator of it, right? And if he was a feminist, he would totally be down to talk about it, right? Right??

“I just don’t want to,” he insisted.

I dropped the subject. For now.

We finished our drinks and a waiter came by with the check.

“Wanna split it?” I asked.

He said sure. He put down his card. I pulled out all the cash I had, but was short a couple of bucks. That was when I started counting out change for him.

“You don’t need to do that,” Connor said. “It’s fine.”

Still, I kept pulling out more change from my wallet. For some reason I was fixated on paying him the exact amount I owed him. It took a few minutes of him watching me helplessly as I very meticulously counted out pennies and dimes and nickels before I realized that I was being weird and should stop, immediately. “Uh. I’ll buy you a drink next time if you want,” I said.

He agreed to that. I got up. “I need to use the bathroom,” I announced. “Um. Feel free to leave if you want, I promise I won’t get offended.” Oh my God what the hell was I saying. Truth be told, I was kind of freaking out because this date seemed to be going terribly and I wanted to give him an exit if he needed one.

So I went to the bathroom, came out and couldn’t find him. Oh shit, he really did leave me, I thought. But then I spotted him waiting just outside the venue. Whew.

He asked if I wanted to take a walk and I said sure. We wandered through the streets of downtown Berkeley, talking about dating and relationships. Things quickly went downhill from there–figuratively speaking.connor2

I started ranting about how awful online dating was, and how I would go on dates with guys, make awkward small talk, then never see them again. All my pent up frustrations with being a heteronormative intersectional feminist came pouring out. I told him I was too awkward and neurotic and blunt to be doing this, then apologized for doing this while being awkward and neurotic and blunt. Nothing I said was charming, sweet, or alluring. Everything that came out of my mouth was enough to shrink the boners of the most sexually deviant and easily aroused men, and ward off any guy with even the slightest propensity for romance: just 100% unfiltered, self-sabotaging word vomit.

Connor kept reassuring me that he was having a good time, though, and that he was happy I was being perfectly honest with him. I was not convinced.

“You’re very interesting,” he said.

“Well thank you,” I said, somewhat gratified. “But it’s probably because I’m slightly inebriated right now. Although you did think my profile was interesting and I was sober when I wrote that, so actually I guess I am interesting without alcohol, so thanks.”

I started running out of things to say, so I brought up the subject of rape culture again. “Would you be okay with defining rape culture now?” I asked.

He didn’t seem upset that I asked again, and did a decent job of defining it (uh, don’t remember the decent definition he provided, but I would have definitely remembered if it was shitty).

After walking up and down and around several blocks for the umpteenth time, I offered to walk Connor to his car. On our way there, a homeless man sitting on the sidewalk looked up at us and remarked, “Cute couple.”

Awkwarddddd.

We ended the night with the lighthearted conversation topic of racism (he talked about racist microaggressions experienced by a friend of his). We finally reached the parking garage where his car was. Again, a brief hug. No sparks. My bitter feminist monologue had ensured there was nothing to ignite. Then I walked away as fast as I could before realizing oh fuck I don’t remember where I parked my car fuckkkk.

By the time I got home, it was late and I had already revisited the night a hundred times in my head. Every time I thought back to all the things I said to Connor, I cringed and groaned and facepalmed and probably smacked myself a few times as a reflex. But there was nothing I could do now.

Except apologize, specifically for nagging him about rape culture when he had explicitly stated he didn’t want to talk about it to begin with.

So the next day, I wrote him the following message:

Hey! I just want to apologize for being so pushy about talking about rape culture when you were clearly uncomfortable with it. I can be a pushy person in general but that’s no excuse. I usually bring up the topic as a way of screening out dudes who are ignorant/apathetic/disinterested in feminist issues, but I guess I’ve never really thought about other reasons why someone wouldn’t want to discuss it (aside from general awkwardness). So yeah, sorry for being a jackass.

To my relief, he responded soon after:

Hey, I totally get that if there’s a dealbreaker issue, you’d want to know as soon as possible. Honestly, I found it refreshing to have a completely honest conversation with someone, it made me happy. So you shouldn’t focus on the negative (says the eternal optimist).

Evidently our conversation didn’t make him that happy, because I never heard from him again.

Not that I was surprised or anything.

This may have been one of the worst dates I’ve been on. And the worst part of it is, ~I~ was the reason it was one of the worst dates I’ve been on. I wondered if Connor had secretly thought the same thing.

Then I wondered, is it possible to be even worse at dating than you were to begin with?

tl;dr Boy messages girl, girl and boy meet for drinks, girl word vomits all over boy, girl and boy never see each other again

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OKBye Story #8: There’s Something About Learkana

Another white dude, another blog post.

(I would like to reiterate that these dudes messaged me first. I had not yet gotten to the point where I felt comfortable initiating contact. If I had, I’d like to think the selection would have been somewhat more diverse.)

I don’t remember much about what was said with this particular nerdy 90something percent match white dude. (Let’s call him Eric. To be honest, I don’t remember his actual name.) I remember he was very persistent. I kept replying only because he kept messaging. He looked handsome in his pictures, but his profile was wordy and boring, probably because he had studied cognitive science at UC Berkeley (no offense to cognitive science majors who are actually interesting). At some point in our constant, insipid messaging, he brought up meeting in person. My ambivalence gave way to agreement. Sure, why not. If this was a mistake then whatever, I’m in my twenties.

steven2.1

He asked what I wanted to do. I racked my brains, trying to think of something interesting. I hadn’t gone bowling in a while…

I located a bowling alley in San Leandro for us to meet up at. But he didn’t drive, so the plan was for him to BART over to the San Leandro station, where I would be waiting with my car to pick him up. He arrived about thirty minutes late. I was kind of annoyed, but played it cool. He looked like his pictures, but was much shorter than I had imagined. (Not that I am all that fixated on height–well, less so than the average woman. As long as the dude is at least a couple inches taller than me, it’s all good–given that I am 5’1”, this has been the least of my first date worries.)

So I drove us over there and already I was like, meh. We made the usual small talk. I think he said he was a canvasser of some kind. I told him I was an administrative assistant, and mentioned it was stressful at times. “But…you’re just an admin assistant, right?” he said.

Bitch, as if your job is any better, I was tempted to say. “Well, yeah,” I passive-aggressively said instead. I decided right then that I didn’t like him.

But we still had to go bowling. Upon getting there, I realized what a terrible mistake I had made. First of all, who the fuck goes bowling with just one other person? An awkward Asian girl with a shitty dating life, that’s who. Everyone else was in big, sociable groups. Another thing was that everyone there appeared to be good at bowling. Where were my fellow mediocre bowlers at? It only later occurred to me that a weeknight was not the preferred time for my bowling demographic.

We got a lane and our shoes. As I watched him pose with the ball, his back faced to me, I suddenly noticed how slim he was, how his hips narrowed. It was an instant turnoff. (I don’t mean to body police, but I just don’t like scrawny dudes. I don’t like overly buff dudes, either. If men get to fetishize me because I’m petite and cute or whatever, then I get to be picky about their physical builds too, goddamnit.)

Eric ended up being exceptionally skilled at bowling. I ended up exceptionally sucking. I was not surprised. After the ice skating fiasco (see OKBye Story #4), I should have known better. He even admonished me for stepping up to bowl when someone in another lane was preparing to roll their ball. “You’re actually supposed to wait until other people are done bowling before going up,” he said.

I felt stupid. “Oh.”

He had been part of a bowling league back in the day, and admitted to finding bowling to be somewhat stressful.

“Then why did you agree to go bowling?!” I exclaimed.

“I don’t know, I thought it might be fun,” he said.

It wasn’t fun. I was annoyed at myself for coming up with this bad idea. I could tell Eric was feeling awkward about it too. He knew I sucked, but didn’t want to seem like a condescending know-it-all by giving me pointers, which I sort of appreciated.

eric3

After we finished one game we mutually agreed that we had filled our bowling date quota for the rest of our lives and left.

But now, what to do with him? I found myself driving aimlessly around the East Bay with him in the passenger seat. He still wanted to hang out, although I would have been perfectly happy dropping him off at the nearest BART station. I decided to grill him, and asked him to define rape culture.

“Rape culture? Uh…” he paused for a very long time. “Well, it’s…I know what it is, it’s just…” he fumbled for a good ten, fifteen minutes to the point where I just felt bad for him. “It’s okay, you tried,” I said to end his suffering.

We ended up at a park in Oakland Chinatown. We climbed up into the jungle gym, still talking. This was the part where Eric showcased a surprisingly detailed knowledge of my profile. He quoted me on several things I wrote. He even mentioned watching my Youtube videos, only one of which I had linked under the section “On a typical Friday night I am…” (a video of me lipsyncing and dorkily dancing to Taylor Swift’s “22”). I was not sure whether to feel flattered or creeped out. I had barely skimmed his profile. The only thing I remembered was a question about virginity he had answered in a way that had bothered me. Something about him preferring virgins, which I felt reinforced the sexist, patriarchal idea that women needed to be pure and innocent in order to be respected and seen as desirable. I decided to bring it up. “So…do you have a virgin fetish?” I asked.

He rambled on about him being sexually inexperienced and preferring to see sex as a way of making a deliberate, special connection. Well, something like that. “Are you a virgin?” he asked.

“Wouldn’t you know? You read my profile,” I semi-evasively responded.

“What are your thoughts on love?” he wanted to know.

I started swinging on the bar. He stood at one end and watched me as I swung back and forth, back and forth, towards him and away. “I don’t believe in soulmates,” I told him. “I don’t believe in true love. I’m just a very jaded, cynical person.”

He had a small smile on his face as I was saying all of this. I hated it. I told him it was getting late. We got back into the Shatmobile (the name of the craptastic car my cousin bequeathed to me as a college graduation gift) and I dropped him off at a downtown Oakland BART station. He got out of the car and looked at me with another smile. “See you later.”

“Okay, bye,” I said. I drove off thinking, meh.

Eric texted me later on, wanting to meet up again. I was somewhat surprised. I didn’t think we had really hit it off. But okay, sure. Maybe I was too harsh on the first date. Maybe I would like him more when I wasn’t throwing gutterballs. Clearly, something about me appealed to him, although I felt I had been an incredibly lackluster date as well. We took forever to make plans, though. He responded so slowly that a full week passed before we decided that we would meet up at a dive bar on Piedmont. I hate making plans, let alone plans with strangers I felt little to no fondness for, so this was torturous. By the time I had to meet up with him, I was not feeling it at all. In fact, I was contemplating cancelling at the last minute, but didn’t want to be a complete asshole, so I drove over, inwardly fuming.

I went inside. He wasn’t there. I ordered a beer, sipped it, and waited. I checked my phone: no new texts. After almost thirty minutes, I was done. I chugged most of my remaining beer and walked out. As I was leaving, I saw a glimpse of someone who looked like him, but thought, nah. He would have texted me. Right?

I sat in my car and waited out the slight wooziness I was feeling from the beer. Might as well let him know.

I texted: ‘Hey, you weren’t there, so I left.’

He texted: ‘You were here? I was waiting outside.’

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Ah fuck, so it was him. Well, why didn’t this motherfucker just text me when he got there? I guess I could have been proactive and texted him to let him know first, but he was the one who wanted to meet up with me, not the other way around. Ugh. Whatever.

He texted: ‘Come back.’

I texted: ‘I’m feeling really tired. Sorry for pulling a dick move.’

Does this count as standing him up? I wondered. God. I really was a dick. I felt really bad, especially knowing that he took public transit to get to the bar and was now probably walking back to wait at the bus stop he had just gotten off at. Still. I had no interest in meeting up with him. If me pulling a dick move was what was required for him to move on, then fine by me.

Except that he texted me a few days later, asking to meet up again. I was totally confused by this point. Hadn’t I proven myself to be a terrible person? Why the hell did he still want to hang out with me?

I texted: ‘Hey. So you seem like a cool guy and all, but I think this can only be platonic.’

He texted: ‘Why? Because of the virgin thing?’

I texted: ‘Well, partly. But I also don’t think we’re compatible.’

He texted: ‘Okay. Want to get dinner?’

Fuckkkkkk. I didn’t expect that he would take me up on the friendship offer. The truth was, I didn’t want to be friends with him either. He was boring vanilla, and I wasn’t interested in being his exotic topping.

I texted: ‘Sorry, I’m really busy.’

He texted: ‘Come on. Take a walk with me in the rain.’

I didn’t answer his cheesy ass invite. He didn’t try texting me again.

I guess instead of telling him I was busy, I could have said, “Sorry, when I said ‘platonic’ I didn’t mean I actually wanted to be friends.” But that would have been a bitchy thing to say, right? I hated that I had to lie to him. That dating was just a game of well executed lies and skirting around the truth until you inexplicably found yourselves in too deep to care about putting on a front with the other person.

I once told a friend, “I can’t play the game, so I will always lose.” As melodramatic as that sounds, it rings true.

tl;dr Boy messages girl, girl and boy go bowling and have an awkward shitty time, girl and boy end up at park where deep questions about love and sexuality are half-assedly answered, girl and boy try to meet up again but girl changes her mind and kind of ditches him, girl and boy never see each other again

2

OKBye Story #3: 10 Things I Did Not Particularly Like About Him

So this guy. Let’s call him Steven #2, because he did, in fact, have the same name as Steven #1, who starred in one of my previous OKBye stories, but obviously a name change is required so I’m not a complete asshole as I recount the anticlimactic tale of our not-really-an-affair-like-at-all-and-you’ll-find-out-what-I-mean-soon-enough, through a numbered list of reasons why this guy lasted one date with me:

1. He messaged me and he wanted to meet up right away. This was while I was still talking to “Todd” from OKBye Story #2 (and yes, the date with Steven #2 that I am about to narrate for you is the one that got awkwardly brought up with Todd in OKBye Story #2–if you are confused, please refer to–duh–OKBye Story #2). Steven #2 had a very high match percentage with me (90 something), which was a plus, but lookswise, I didn’t find him all that attractive (yeah yeah I’m a shallow bitch, get with the program already). I figured there was the potential for him to be way more attractive than his pictures. I was also pretending like I didn’t really care about looks all that much. And you know, he did have a high match percentage with me (was it 94%? 93? 92? damnit I don’t remember)…so I figured, why the hell not?

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I said yes, but asked if we could meet in about two weeks’ time. I think I was a little antsy about going on dates with multiple people at once, but mostly I didn’t really feel like meeting up right away. Like, can a girl get courted a little at first? Sure, we can glance at each other’s profiles and whatever, but I’d like a little conversation to happen before an actual conversation in person can happen. Okay, and I know the idea is that we’d get to know each other in person and yadda yadda yadda, but I’d like a sample of what that would be like, por favor. It’s like getting a job interview. If a company means serious business, they’d want a preliminary phone interview before potentially wasting their time and effort on interrogating you in the flesh (well, that’s my made-up reasoning for inscrutable business tactics anyway). And I am serious business-ish when it comes to online dating. (Well, I was. See pointless update #5.)

2. He asked me why I couldn’t meet up right away. Okay so maybe this was a totally innocent question, but I found (and still find!) it invasive. If I say I’m busy, I’m busy. Why inquire further? I already said I would meet you, goddamnit, what more do you want from me?! I think I vaguely mentioned something about work and he dropped the subject. I’m all for the “honesty is the best policy,” but in my experience, most people aren’t. And I have the minimum number of social skills required to recognize that it would have been somewhat impolite to tell him, “I’m putting off meeting up with you because you’re not very high priority on my list of people to hang out with and also, I just don’t feel like it.” So vague white lie it was. We then agreed to meet up at Dolores Park for a free small concert on a Sunday afternoon. I was running late (a combination of reluctance, pre-date jitters, and the usual poor timing), but texted him ahead of time to let him know. We met up at 16th and Mission, and as he walked towards me, I realized…

3. He looked different from his pictures. But like, in a not-good way. Okay can I say it? It’s my blog, so I’ll say it: I was not attracted to him at all. Look, I know shallowness is supposed to bad, but honestly, I’m in my early twenties, I’m young and naive and dumb, respect my poor decisions, please. This is the time to make them! Just kidding. What I mean to say is, everyone is shallow in their own way. What I find attractive, someone else might not, and vice versa. Meaning that maybe to someone else’s eyes, I’m not shallow at all, because to them I have crushes on weird-looking dudes. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, etc. And it’s not like I don’t take personality into account. It’s just that I also factor in looks. Why should the two be mutually exclusive? That’s just what they want you to think. Anyway, I’ll save the shallowness rant for another anecdote. So yeah, Steven #2 was kind of scrawny and his features were a bit too delicate for me. It looked like I could break him in half, which is not a good sign coming from a small Asian chick with a theoretical yellow belt. Still, I smiled, he smiled, we shook hands.

4. He kept talking to me like we were on a date, or something. Well you were on a date, ya dumbass, you’re probably thinking if you’ve even made it this far. Okay true, and I was mostly fine with doing the polite small talk with him as we made our way to the park, but when the concert was in full swing (nothing crazy, just a vocalist and someone playing the guitar) I actually wanted to take a break and listen to what they were playing, because hey, it sounded pretty good! But no, he kept talking at me, trying to get to know me, as if I was that interesting, as if we could really get to know each other on an intimate level within the span of two hours because that’s how long he had me for, because no matter how interesting he could pretend to be, my misanthropic ass couldn’t handle strange company for much more than one hundred and twenty minutes. When I couldn’t hear him over the music, he suggested we sit farther away from the whole point we were there, which I found mystifying and annoying. Okay, and maybe definitely it was not the whole point for him, to sit there and just listen to the music, but it was at least 1/2 of the point for me. Different priorities, I guess.

5. He asked me why I got into women’s rights. Ugh, really? “I don’t know…because I’m a woman?” I said. (Of course, you don’t need to be a woman to be for women’s rights, and there are some women who sadly and sadistically AREN’T for women’s rights, but if a self-identified woman has self-identified herself as a supporter of women’s rights, you can bet your ass that her self-identification as a woman played some sort of role in her self-identification as a women’s rights supporter…it’s kind of like asking a gay person how they got into LGBTQ rights–you don’t need to think too hard about it. I hope.)

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Dude became flustered. “Well yes. So how can I learn more about women’s rights?”

“I don’t know,” I said with poorly restrained sarcasm, “How do you learn about things you don’t know about?”

He grew even more flustered. “Google? The Internet. Sorry.”

Yes, I’m fully aware that he was just making small talk, and since I basically had FEMINIST AND PROUD emblazoned all over my profile, he thought this would be a safe point of entry, and probably you did, too. Maybe if he had asked, “What feminist issue are you most passionate about?”, I’d have been more receptive, but the naivety of his phrasing was too cringe-inducing. It was set up in a way where I was expected to supply him with the knowledge about something he never felt the need to look into himself, until now, with a handy dandy female person in sight, who also happened to be someone he was potentially interested in dating (male privilege much?). And when the “something” he knew nothing about involves the fundamental rights of a very large subset of the human race, then yeah, that is a pretty big turn-off.

 6. He didn’t know what “rape culture” was. Okay, Learkana, cut him some slack, you’re probably thinking. The poor guy doesn’t know about women’s rights–how can you expect him to know about rape culture? Well, at the very least, I expected him to have a rudimentary clue about what those two words put together would maybe, sort of mean, even if he had never contextually come across the phrase before. This is where his fancy Stanford degree should have been put to work, but no.

7. He like literally had no idea what “rape culture” meant. I had to break it down to him: “It’s the idea that it’s okay to rape women.” (Clearly not the greatest or most inclusive definition, but I was speaking within the context of women’s rights and I elaborate later on, okay.) He looked at me, slightly puzzled. “Well yeah, that’s bad,” he said. His response irritated me even more, because I could tell he still didn’t actually get what the big deal was. It was like I had said, “Killing people is bad” and he was all like, “Well no shit, Sherlock.” And I could imagine him secretly patting himself on the back for intuitively knowing that raping people is bad, he didn’t rape people, so therefore he was A Good Person. This bitchhh.

8. Like, he had NO CLUE I mean omg seriously. I brought up the example of sexual harassment–how, very often, women are afraid of going out alone and are more likely to be accosted, in the streets, at bars, etc. “How is that rape culture?” he asked. Mothafu–how did we got a high match percentage again?! Where were this dude’s critical thinking skills? Did he donate them to science? “Because it’s all rooted in the idea of women not owning their bodies and no meaning yes and consent not mattering,” I said, exasperated. “Don’t you have any female friends? Don’t they tell you stories about gross men in bars?”

“Well yeah,” he said, thinking it over. “I actually had to shield a friend from a stranger once.”

And you don’t fucking know anything about women’s rights? I was tempted to ask, but didn’t, because I was already pushing it with my rudeness. Instead I secretly marveled over the idea that he had ever been asked to serve as a bodyguard for anyone, because seriously, the dude was tiny. So we sat there in awkward silence until a couple of teenage Christian missionaries came over and told us a biblical story and we humored them out of equal parts secular kindness and relief at not having to continue our strained conversation (I swear to you this is not a made-up non-sequitur, the teenage Christian missionaries were very real and very earnest, this I remember). And then I vaguely mentioned something about having to leave because I was meeting up with some friends and he said oh, I have to meet up with a friend too, and after exchanging those lies we got up and he walked me back to the BART station, mostly in silence.

9. He knew the date hadn’t gone well, but went for the hug anyway. We stood there, facing each other, both knowing that the date had sucked and that we would never see each other again, because he had asked the wrong questions and I had given the wrong answers. I stuck out my hand so we could shake hands one more time and be done with it. He wouldn’t stand for this, though. Maybe his line of thinking was, this goddamn awkward bitch is seriously going to give me a goodbye handshake, oh hell no–!!!111 or okay, probably it was more like, all right, I know we didn’t really hit it off, but the very least you can do is hug me goodbye so I don’t feel like a total ass even though you were the one being an ass, actually. Either way, he ignored my hand and snatched a hug from me. Seriously, that’s what it felt like–a hug-snatch. He grabbed me, briefly crushing me against his toothpick body, before letting me go and walking away. I boarded the train and thought, what a waste of a Sunday afternoon. Either way,

10. He was a decent guy who would go on living a decent life, with or without me. Is this grounds for “not particularly liking” someone? For someone as misanthropic and fucked up as me, sure, why not. Yes, he was a nice guy, yes, we had a high match percentage, yes he was open to learning about feminism and women’s rights and blah blah blah but honestly, so big fucking what? Was I supposed to fall in love with his niceness? Throw myself at him because the OKC algorithms had us aligned? Think his ignorance of feminism as cute and darling and promptly proceed to expend time, effort, and resources to educate him over the inevitably fleeting course of our intertwined lives until he became a passionate feminist himself? No, thanks. “You could have been nice,” a friend of mine reprimanded me.

Nice as in lying. I should have smiled and nodded and laughed and in great detail and at great length explained to him how women are sometimes not treated as people, but it would have had to be nicely explained, given that it had never been relevant to him before, of course the poor dear wouldn’t know, and then he could be enlightened by my knowing-ness but more importantly charmed by my nice-ness, and he would have liked me because I was nice and then we would have talked more about all the nice things under the sun on future nice dates until we got nicely married with two nice little kids and a nice white picket fence and we would live nicely ever after. Do you see what I’m getting at? Niceness is quite figuratively bullshit. It doesn’t tell you anything. It soothes, it comforts, but it also suppresses, hides, tricks, misleads, smothers. Murderers can be nice, for crying out loud.

I don’t deal in niceness. I deal in honesty. And honestly, I wasn’t interested, and he took the hint. I’m sure he is (or is going to be) very happy with some nice girl who isn’t me, so from a totally assholish perspective, I did him a favor…right? Right.

This is not a nice story, but I never said it was.

tl;dr boy messages girl to meet up, girl is like whatever, girl and boy meet and girl is still like whatever, boy walks away probably thinking whatta bitch, girl walks away thinking–you guessed it–whatever, girl and boy never see each other again