Katie Heaney is a writer at Buzzfeed and the author of Never Have I Ever, which chronicles how she came to be 25 without ever having been in a relationship, much less a proper second date with too many tequila sunrises and sloppy kisses that lead to crying directly into a stranger's roommate's face while singing to Paula Cole. Like many young women with an online presence, and particularly those who share bits and pieces of their romantic lives, Katie has been privy to unwanted and unsolicited attempts at communication by men who are best described as "creepy" or "various weasels who have taken vaguely human form." And she has a question on how to best deal with this. She took to Tumblr to ask for advice:
What do you do when you get a Facebook message from a man you don’t know who is 51 years old (which is 24 years older than you are) and it says “You seem interesting ….. and a little damaged. I think I’d like that” ?
I thought I meant that question rhetorically, exasperatedly, at first, but actually I really want to know.
She's mostly ignored these, she adds, but wonders if there isn't something else she can do to deal with these… not hate mail messages, obviously, but whatever these obtrusive, irrelevant, often absurd bits of uninvited information can be called. "Every time I get an unwelcome/harassing/mean/rude/bizarre message from a man I don’t know," she says, "I have to decide whether to be proud that I can ignore it and say nothing, or to be aggressive, and make it known somehow, and give it (and therefore him) attention. These are terrible options."
I agree with Katie that ignoring these dudes/flesh bags of weasels is the best way to go, and I think that because, as I started writing here, these men tend to have their scripts outlined from the moment they decide they want to contact a female stranger.
In movies, TV, and literature, we have a name for the type of female character who aids the protagonist on his journey with her quirky, unique outlook on life: the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. She's a broken doll, smiling with blank eyes, wholly dependent on your love. She is a crutch for men who don't have it all together, but who, with her aid and perhaps a few zany hijinks, are on their way to figuring it all out by story's end. She's a one-note plot device, and she doesn't exist in real life. But for people who are weaving their own stories online, it can be tempting to try to and conjure her up based on the digital trail of breadcrumbs women writing about ourselves leave online.
This is why these men are best left ignored, in my opinion. Because they're only ever interested in absorbing your response into one of two scripts:
1. The damaged (or withdrawn or mysterious or jaded, or whatever other descriptor these men have projected onto their target based on their interpretation or cherry picking of the bits and pieces of information she’s put out there) girl is receptive to the advances of a man who is, somehow, different from all the rest. She is rescued or roused from her boredom or finally aware of a kindred spirit, because this guy is unique and understands her better than anyone else ever has.
2. She’s going to be a bitch (or a prude or a slut), just like all the other girls.
There's also the context to consider. Although it is fundamentally different from "meatspace," our online space can and does have boundaries. It's up to us to create and maintain these boundaries, and they might not be the same for everyone, but they exist — this is why we have privacy settings and the ability to deny or block requests from strangers wishing to interact. It is not up to you to explain the reasons for your discomfort, wariness, fear, or anger to someone who entered, unsolicited and unwanted, into your online space. They're on your turf, and it is your choice whether to usher them in, kick them out, or ignore them completely. You don't owe them anything, much less an explanation for feeling the way you do.
That said, it is important, I think, to communicate, in a public space, why it is that these interactions are so invasive and inappropriate, and set forth advice both for the recipients of these messages, and for the people who send them without realizing how they may come across.
But that's just my take, bbs and bobos. What do you think? How do you deal with fleshy weasel bags who want to write you into their screenplays, and why?