Won’t Leave Me Alone

October 18, 2012 § 2 Comments

One recurring theme since coming to New York is the unprecedented amount of attention I’ve gotten from strange men, mostly on the streets, mostly (probably) crazy bums. The only time I’ve experienced anything like this was two years ago in Hong Kong, when I was 10 pounds heavier — and thus had bigger breasts — and wore low-cut tops, causing certain people (mostly creepy old men) in HK to behave like they had never seen cleavage before.

On Tuesday afternoon after dropping B off at Newark Airport, I sat on the train on my way back into Manhattan. The inside of the train looked like this, with cushioned benches; the seats on the right can fit three people comfortably while the seats on the left can fit two, if they sit pretty close together. It wasn’t very crowded, and I picked an empty seat on the left, prepared to stare out the window for half an hour (or sleep) while listening to my iPod and wishing my boyfriend wasn’t flying 1,108 miles away from me.

In my peripheral vision, I saw a tall person dressed in black stop next to my seat and hoist his bag onto the shelf above my head. The seats around me were empty. He sat down next to me, and I moved closer to the window, annoyed that of ALL the seats available nearby, he chose mine. Whatever.

The train started moving, and I was gazing out the window, lost in thought, when I felt my neighbor say something to me. I pulled out one earphone and turned my head. He was a thin man, probably in his early to mid-30s, had a receding hairline of wavy black hair, and was somewhat formally dressed in black layers. He asked me if I knew how long it would take for the train to reach Manhattan. “Um, about 30 minutes?” I responded, and that gave him the chance he was so obviously looking for to continue talking to me.

He asked me where I was from. What I did. Where I lived. Out of politeness, I tersely answered his questions and asked him about himself. He was French (he had an accent) and worked as a private chef. He might’ve been handsome if I were old(er) and desperate, who knows. Mr. French Chef gave his game away when I asked if he was visiting New York (he had a suitcase), and he said that he had lived there for three years. WTF! As if he didn’t know how long the train would take!! I scoffed (internally), incredulous, and put my earphone back in once the brief conversation stopped, but he kept trying to talk to me. CAN I PLEASE JUST THINK ABOUT MY BOYFRIEND IN PEACE, I thought.

But no. He clearly had an agenda — he walked in from the back of the car, which meant he probably followed me onto the train, and deliberately chose to sit next to me so he could chat me up for half an hour. So he wasn’t going to take a hint.

He was telling me about how his friends open art galleries often in the NYU area, and how he likes to attend those events, and did I like to drink wine? Ugh. Then, as the train was nearing New York Penn Station, he gave me his business card and asked for my name and number, which I actually gave him because I guess I’m a crazy person. (Actually it’s because I’m bad at saying no and/or improvising my way out of unwanted situations.) Then I speed-walked off the train and out of the station because I was kind of freaked out.

As I scuttled toward the Herald Square subway station, I felt a wave of self-loathing. I hated myself for being too polite, for not having the courage to say “Please leave me alone,” for actually giving some weirdo my phone number. And maybe he’s actually a really cool dude and an amazing chef (or “l’Architecte du Gout©,” as it says on his business card). As a journalist, I thought, hey, maybe this guy has an interesting story that I could listen to over some wine, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is the guilt I felt for not being able to stand up for myself and knowing that if I related this experience to anybody else, they would probably respond “Well, you should’ve just ignored him.”

Why? What is wrong with me? And is it even right to believe that there’s something wrong with me at all? Is it irresponsible to blame “society” for raising me to be nice to people who creep me out?

He texted me before I reached my apartment.

Hi Laura
Was a pleasure to meet !
I will give you a ring sometime this week!!
Have a nice day !!!

I didn’t respond this time.

The website doesn’t work.

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§ 2 Responses to Won’t Leave Me Alone

  • kaiti says:

    THAT WASN’T A REAL WEBSITE. ugh.
    and private chefs aren’t real chefs.. they just go to people’s houses to cook for them.

    To avoid people in these situations, you just have to be shameless. (Although really, they’re the ones being a little shameless sometimes.) But you probably will feel bad afterwards.

  • Jeff says:

    Sorry to laugh at your expense, but this was funny. Good luck in grad school.

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