Having to be Mean

Overall, I consider myself to be a genial individual.

From an early age, I learned how to exchange pleasantries with strangers, how to ask polite questions to put others at ease, and how to make polite conversation about nothing.

A few weeks ago, I made the (now apparent) mistake of conversing about the weather with a stranger at the Metro stop. It was really darned cold during that period, and we talked about how cold it was.

Given my background, I thought we were doing what strangers do when shivering under the heaters at the Metro stop, desperate for some relief from the cold. When you’re ass-cold, you like to tell other people who are also ass-cold, that you’ve been colder before.

It makes you feel somewhat better. For example, “When I lived in Wisconsin, it was much colder than this. This is warm compared to Wisconsin. Wisconsin was bone-chilling cold.” See, you suddenly feel less ass-cold.

After our conversation, I thought we might say “hello” to one another in the morning, or give a brief nod and smile. Because that’s what you do with strangers after you’ve had a brief, impersonal conversation with them. You stay nice, but you stay back.

The stranger, however, interpreted our polite Metro-stop-conversation as a sign that I wanted to be his best friend.

He quickly progressed to standing right in front of me until I acknowledged his presence. He started putting his hand over my phone when I was clearly occupied with other activities. He started making fun of me to get my attention.

He crossed over all sorts of Metro-stop-stranger boundaries.

One morning, a woman pulled me aside and whispered, “You know, if you ever feel like he’s hitting on you, you can come talk to me.”

Other people notice that this guy is not operating according to the polite stranger etiquette code.

So, I’m having to pull out the meanness.

For me, this is Phase 1:  Non-acknowledgment, and Phase 2: Keeping in my Earphones and Ignoring Questions. Tomorrow morning, I might have to practice Phase 3: Standing in a Different Spot and/or Moving Away.

It’s a weak meanness, but even this feels huge to me.

I like public transportation…but I often do not like the people on it: the guy who told me I made him hard and wouldn’t leave me alone for a couple weeks, the guy who made fun of me because of my peach fuzz, the guy who made fun of me because of my short hair…the current problem-guy. Interestingly, all men, which makes me sense a trend. Metro misogyny, anyone?

Anyway, starting my morning by having to be mean really starts things off on the wrong foot.

It is my hope that the current guy will quickly get the message and leave me the eff alone. Why can’t all people just be nice and polite?

3 thoughts on “Having to be Mean

  1. Darcie says:

    Good grief! This sounds terrible! It was nice of your fellow traveler to offer you a safe haven of sorts, but I wish it hadn’t come to that. Don’t think of it as having to be mean; consider it to be taking charge of your own space.

    Be strong, friend!

    • carrie says:

      I like your interpretation infinitely more. I don’t know why I always think of it as being mean. Geez, let me dust off my feminism badge.

      Here’s to taking charge of my own space!

  2. Your post reminded me of how deeply ingrained “Be nice!!” is for me…how standing up for myself, at 46 no less, is sometimes still a struggle. I’m glad you are able to do so Carrie – and believe me, the measures you describe are NOT mean, not at all. I admire the ability to think ahead to what you will do…and what you’ll do if that fails! You also obviously have a conscience…and that in itself is admireable. :)

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