Something happened last week that made me really uncomfortable, but the more that I think about it, the more pissed off I get. Last week, I received a message on Facebook from a guy I kind of-sort of know from undergrad. He is an acquaintance at best. Everything was fine at first, we just kind of chatted about what he’s been up to and what’s new in my life. He sent me his cell phone number and asked me if I wanted to hang out when he got home. In an attempt to be polite, I replied with something along the lines of “oh, I’m really busy between now and when I leave and I want to spend as much time with my family as possible. I’ll check, but I’m pretty sure I don’t have much free time” instead of just saying “no.” That was my mistake, but it’s often difficult for me to flat out say “no” when I’m invited to do things with men.
I pretty regularly feel like I have to apologize or make an excuse that they would find legitimate. Saying “no thank you” or “I don’t want to” would make me a rude bitch in the eyes of many people, so I often say things like “oh, maybe….I’ll have to check my calendar” or “oh, I’m so sorry, I already have plans”. In general terms, if I really want to hang out with someone, I’m going to make time to do so and would say something along the lines of “I can’t today, but I’m free on Saturday if you want to hang out then”. This summer is different and a little more tricky since I do have less than 40 days left in this country and a LOT to get done in that time. But I digress….the conversation continued via Facebook. The specific details of it aren’t really important, but he ended up saying that he hasn’t had much alone time for the past year and telling me that there are three things he’s been without for a year and that he really needs right now.
A person that I hardly know asked me to hang out with him, then expressed to me that one of the things he needs as a result of his deployment is a woman. I can assure you that he has no romantic or long term intentions, as he included “a woman” in a list of other things. Perhaps I misunderstood, but the context of the rest of our conversation led me to believe that he was hopeful that I could help him with this ordeal. Partially because he said things like “that’s what I hope to get when I get home” and “been gone for a year and rarely alone” pretty shortly after asking me if I wanted to hang out with him.
This offended me and upset me for so many reasons I can’t count them all. I don’t care who you are or what you have done for this country, I am not an object and am not a piece of meat that you get to order from a menu just because you’re a veteran or just because you think you need and are owed the company of a woman. With the exception of my student loan service company and $5 I borrowed from my friend last week, I do not owe anyone anything, including but not limited to: my time, my money, my body, my belongings.
I have read on many Peace Corps South Africa blogs that many volunteers receive marriage proposals frequently. When they say no, the men who have asked can’t seem to comprehend why the volunteer wouldn’t want to marry him and can’t seem to fathom why the answer may be “no.” I hadn’t realized how frequently *some* men in America (and women, I’m sure) have the same attitude. Our culture teaches women that if we do dare to say no, we better have a pretty damn good reason for doing so and we better be willing and able to give a list of how and why we came to that conclusion. Just saying no doesn’t seem to be accepted and “no thanks” seems to be the mark of a prude or a bitch rather than an assertive individual.
I guess what I’m getting at is this- Even when this guy made me really uncomfortable, my response was to make an excuse and say I couldn’t talk anymore because I was going to go watch a movie. The next night, he facebook messaged me again. He said “hey” to which I responded “I wish you well and I hope your trip home is safe, but you made me very uncomfortable last night.” End of conversation. I should definitely work towards being better at communicating my feelings to others, but that does not give anyone the right to say things to me that make me feel unsafe or uncomfortable.
Later in the same week, I responded to a different request from someone else by essentially saying “no…sorry!” and was told that I had hurt this person’s feelings. I am allowed to say no. It’s not ok that people often try to make me feel guilty or ashamed for telling them no. I should not feel like I have to apologize or make excuses when I don’t want to do something. There is a big difference between being assertive and being a bitch, but I think that many people confuse the two.