“Hey Miss, you writing a poem?”
I looked down at my newspaper, which was clearly not a poem and actually the weekend crossword. I was stuck on a four letter word for a Jewish Harvest Festival at 11pm on a Sunday, engaged in a moment of perfect Zen; a corner seat at the bar of my favourite watering hole, Bob Dylan playing on an old-fashioned jukebox, an especially delicious brew, a chilled mug and a delightfully empty puzzles page. I’m boring, I know, but it’s pretty much the perfect way to end the weekend.
And now, here’s this jackass.
Dressed in a genuine filthy sheepskin jacket with an unlit cigarette dangling from his lips, he was in his early thirties, fairly attractive, if you’re into men, or more specifically men who dress like they’re about to go rustle up some cattle.
He was drinking Bud Lite. That’s always a bad sign.
“No, I’m not,” I smiled, the kind you know doesn’t show in your eyes, and turned back to my paper. Clearly not interested.
“Oh, well. I was just wondering, uh, because I’m something of a poet.”
This would have been an acceptable pick up line if:
a) He wasn’t starting to slur his words;
b) I hadn’t just made my disinterest in him clear;
c) He was Oscar Wilde; or
d) I was into men.
As none of these conditions were met, I was forced to deliver a devastating eyebrow raise, and turn back to my paper.
“Oh?” I said, paying careful attention not to look him in the eye. Straight men on the prowl are like wild animals — if you don’t look them in the eye and they may just go away, “That’s nice.”
His face fell — not the effect he intended. But, imbued, however, with the formidable single-mindedness common to barflies, he armed himself with swig of his cold cat piss (also known as American beer) and threw another line at me.
“Would you like me to write you a poem? Maybe we could start with a drink…?”
“Listen, I’m going to stop you. I’m sure you’re nice and all,” I rubbed the bridge of my nose between my thumb and forefinger. I still didn’t have a four-letter word for a Jewish festival, but I did have a four-letter word for something else on the tip of my tongue.
“I think you’re barking up the wrong tree.”
“You’re wasting your time. I’m gay. And I’m trying to read. Please leave me alone. I’m serious. I’m not interested. Please go away.”
I turned back to my paper, leaving off the Jewish festival question to try the next one.
“So, you mean you don’t date men at all?”
If one more man asks me that question, I’m going to go on a blood-splattering killing spree with a rusty kitchen knife.
“Well, have you ever been with a man?”
Why can’t hot, curious twins or a sultry, lonely Russian woman ever stumble into a bar to flirt with me? Why is it all drunk men in sheepskin coats?
“Maybe, have you?” The question from my end is rhetorical. “Go fuck yourself.”
It’s always struck me as funny that “fuck” is both simultaneously a slang term for sex and a vicious curse. In this case, my meaning is pretty obvious. The sleazy jerk downed the rest of his beer in silence and left. I don’t enjoy being rude, but it’s just so damn effective.
As women, we have the right to reject the advances of a man (or woman) if we’re not interested — and once, frankly, should be enough. In the particular case of the lesbian community, what really irks me is that the phrase, “No thanks, I’m a lesbian,” seems to translate, through liquor and testosterone into, “I’m a lesbian, but open to a Q&A and maybe some T&A if you play your cards right, you big sexy hunk of man meat. Please feel free to quiz me about the particulars of my sex life, you total stranger I just met in a dark bar.”
It seems you have to tell somebody off in expletives before they get the picture. I’d really like to know what happened to that brilliant expression of the ’80s “no means no?” Call me a man-hating, frothing-at-the-mouth feminist if you will, but it seems to me that a woman — any woman, regardless of sexual orientation — should be able to have a drink in peace. I know that’s a bit to ask for in a seedy dive, but in a decent establishment, you wouldn’t think it should be a problem.
An argument has been made (mostly by idiots) that women must come to expect this sort of behaviour from men in male-dominated zones. This, frankly, is bullshit. Male and female “zones” are clearly marked, so far as I am concerned, by the little men and women signs on public washrooms. No little sign? Not a “male” zone. If I were to start taking my morning coffee in the men’s locker room at the YMCA, I think I’d be a little more forgiving.
As women, we have the right to stand up for ourselves, to carve out some small measure of peace in the public sphere. And if that means being a raging bitch, well then someone had better get me a mailman chew toy.
In the meantime, I still don’t have a four letter word for “Jewish harvest festival.”