I used to work in the heart of a seaside city. At lunchtime, savory scents from the food courts drifted down the streets. Seagulls flew low, hoping to spot a sucker willing to share his lunch.
Locals knew not to feed the seagulls. But tourists enjoyed watching them scramble for bread. The gulls became so confident that they would dive-bomb people coming out of the bakery.
Shoulders hunched, gaze focused on the sandwich in front of them, these poor people never knew what hit them. One minute they were taking a big bite, the next minute bam! Half their food was gone in a clatter of wings.
Shock. Whirling around, trying to spot their attacker. Disbelief. Then anger.
One thing was for certain. No one attacked by a seagull ever ate their bread freely in public again.
I tell this story because it explains a lot about men.
As a single woman, you’re lucky if men view you as more than a piece of meat. Or bread, as the case may be.
Be friendly, cast a man a few crumbs of conversation, and he gets greedy. He swoops in for the kill with beery breath and an invitation: “Wanna come back to my place?”
Happens a few too many times, and you stop throwing crumbs to scavengers.
When I was younger, I thought the answer was discernment. I thought I could be friendly to the nice guys while sending unmistakably chilly signals to the sleazeballs.
It’s like trying to throw bread to that cute, handsome young gull. Within seconds his older, uglier, ruder cousin butts in and acts like you’re throwing bread to him.
So I understand why some men describe women as “ice queens” or “stone cold b*tches.” It can take that much effort to get it through a man’s head you’re not interested.
Recently a friend of mine and I were at a music event. An elderly white-haired gentleman joined us. He seemed genuinely interested in our conversation—and the wine he was drinking. Within an hour he was well on his way to getting sloshed. By the end of the night, he mumbled in a barely audible slur that he hoped I didn’t mind but he was very, very attracted to me.
I get it. In a man’s heart, he’s always 18. So I nodded and changed the subject.
My friend wasn’t so lucky. She suffered through a week of constant text messages before he got the picture that she wasn’t interested in spending a romantic weekend in bed with him.
Some men believe that conversation is all the foreplay a woman needs. If she’s willing to talk to him, she’s willing to sleep with him. Especially if there’s alcohol involved.
Talking to a man in that kind of environment is like throwing bread to the gulls. If you’re not careful, a flock descends on your head.
A woman’s worst ally is her conscience. She wants to be nice. She sees the lonely gull hunting for food, and she feels sorry for it. She has food, so why not share? That’s what nice women are raised to do.
My mother raised me to be nice to everyone. If someone spoke to you, you smiled and spoke nicely back. Ladies were flattered by a man’s advances. Be grateful men find you desirable enough to harass.
No wonder I got myself into so many epic messes.
Once upon a time, you could tell a man, “I have a boyfriend,” and he’d leave you alone. Not anymore.
Thanks to the pickup community, men now know that women use that little white lie to brush them off. Besides, a woman with a boyfriend is more of a challenge, and there’s nothing certain cads like better than a challenge.
So how do you let a man know that he read your vibes all wrong?
You weren’t talking to him because your lust-crazed loins honed in on his manliness. You were talking to him because you’re polite like that. You talk to people.
You can’t say that. You can’t tell him:
“I’m sorry, but were you paying attention to my nonverbal signals? I’m not sexually attracted to you. In fact, I find you vaguely repulsive. If you were only talking to me to get into my pants, you can go now.”
Instead, most women simply excuse themselves. They find a way to get as far away from him as possible. They keep an eye out for him all night long so that they don’t risk bumping into him again.
What a way to ruin a perfectly good evening.
Is that the best we can do? Never let our guards down? Avoid talking to any man for fear he’ll turn into a creep?
For me, the realization slowly dawned that I couldn’t do this alone. I got myself into so much trouble because I was a young single woman on my own in strange cities. I didn’t have backup.
All women need backup.
That’s where your posse comes in. They’ve got your back. If they see you make the secret signal, they come rushing in to rescue you. They circle the wagons. They keep an eye out for the creep the rest of the night.
It’s what women do for each other.
The next time you go out, have a confab with your posse first. Agree to take care of one another. Refuse to let any man make any one of you feel unsafe. Come up with a secret signal to let each other know when one of you needs rescuing.
And if you think of a better way to turn a man down—even if you’d never dare say it out loud yourself—let me know in the comments.