A couple of days ago, I wrote a post about how I don’t apologize for occasionally being an “asshole”. Looking back on it, I think I should amend that title. You see, I was raised in an environment in which I was somehow taught that being assertive is an affront to other people. I’m not sure where it comes from, either. My mom and my sisters are all assertive people. My dad was, too. But I was the youngest, raised by a southern, conservative, religious, Air Force veteran who insisted that I needed to have “respect” for him. I am naturally a bit obnoxious and outspoken, and as a child, I often got chastised for being myself. I think the end result is that, as an adult, sometimes I hesitate to stick up for myself when it’s perfectly fine to do so. Sometimes, I even feel guilty for “talking back”.
In that “asshole” post I wrote the other day, I wrote about two incidents in which I found myself at odds with conservative white men on Facebook. The first incident was regarding a guy who, five days after I posted a response to a friend on her Facebook page, decided he needed to confront me about my comment. When he demanded an explanation from me, I responded “You should have asked me five days ago.”
Most people would understand from that comment that I am not interested in engaging. But this guy is clearly pretty dense. Because he came back with a snarky comment, not taking the hint that I wasn’t going to be arguing with him. Again, my response was very clear. I wrote something along the lines of, “I have zero desire to talk to you. Leave me alone.” Most people, having been firmly asked to leave someone alone, will back off and find someone else to bother.
That wasn’t enough for this person, though. He continued to try to engage, and asked me why I had responded to him. And I asked him, “Why did you? I responded to this thread days ago. Just let it go.” Again– clear as day. I was saying “no” to him. He engaged a fourth time and I wrote, “Give it up.” After the next comment, I finally hit the block button. I don’t actually like to block people, but sometimes it’s necessary. And yes, I realize I could have just ignored him, but that would leave him free to keep tagging me in posts.
The sad thing is, he probably thinks he’s “won” by being so annoying and disrespectful that I finally felt the need to force him to leave me alone. If that’s how he gets his kicks, I guess I’m happy to oblige in helping him. I have to wonder about guys like him. Why can’t they simply respect another person when they clearly ask them to stop harassing them?
Before I blocked him, I took a look at the guy’s page. People always do this, don’t they? You get into a scrape with someone and you check out their Facebook page just to see where they’re coming from. From a few seconds of looking at his page, I learned that this gentleman is conservative politically, lives in the Midwest, and is divorced. If this is how he treats strangers on the Internet, I can see why he’s divorced. He clearly doesn’t have any respect for other people. I suspect that he doesn’t respect women, especially. Anyone who isn’t a Trump supporter ranks even lower.
It might have been fun to resort to insulting the guy, but it was clear he was playing a power game with me. And I didn’t want to play. I made it very clear that I didn’t want to play, even before the temptation to resort to insults arose. I didn’t want to waste time and energy coming up with clever insults against someone who obviously doesn’t respect me as a person. I can see on the other thread he engaged in, he doesn’t respect other women, either.
Next thing I knew, I was ruminating about what kind of upbringing this guy must have had. What was his mother like? Where did he learn this habit of trying to force women into arguments with him, demanding that they defend their opinions when they’ve made it abundantly clear they aren’t interested? Is he like this when it comes to his offline relationships, too? Does he demand that his romantic partners engage with him, even when they’ve made it very clear that they want to be left alone?
Maybe that might seem like a stretch to some. Men who are very overbearing and insistent toward women, hectoring them in an attempt to force them to interact, may only be that way in a verbal sense. But as I sat there pondering this person’s disrespectful actions toward me, I couldn’t help but wonder if he’d go as far as to assault a woman for saying “no” to his advances. Assuming he’s not gay, I wonder what he does when she says she’s got a headache or isn’t in the mood. Is he going to keep nagging, whining, and badgering until he finally tries to take what he wants by physical force?
I suspect what this guy really wants is attention. He might even be horrified that I wonder if he’s capable of rape. It seems to me, though, that if a woman clearly says “no” and a man keeps poking, it’s not that much of a leap to assume that person has serious issues with boundaries, much like rapists do. If someone can’t respect a person who clearly asks to be left alone, even if it’s just online, what are they like when the objects of their attention are within an arm’s reach of them? Hopefully, they are a little less bold about “reaching out” in that case. I still wonder, though.
Maybe I should have asked him if he has boundary issues offline, too? Imagine the reaction I would have gotten if I had asked him if he makes a habit out of ignoring people who ask him to stop bugging them. What if I’d thrown in an insane or accusatory comment about sexual assault? He probably would have reacted with outrage, and there would have been a huge shitshow, which no doubt would have attracted a lot of lurkers and comments. But I suspect that would have only made me look unhinged and caused offense. I think it’s a fair question, though. If someone explicitly makes a reasonable request to be left alone, and another person refuses to honor that request, it says something loud and clear about the person who won’t take “no” for an answer.
Which brings me to my next point… One of the reasons I didn’t want to engage with this guy is because he was pestering me on a mutual friend’s page. I don’t know the boundary challenged guy at all. I also haven’t met our mutual friend offline, but she and I both like horses. That’s how we have a connection. We “met” on a second wives and stepmothers Web site we both used to frequent. I don’t pay much attention to most of her political posts, but the one that I did comment on had triggered me because of a grammar error. Otherwise, I let her post whatever she wants to about Trump and Limbaugh, without any input whatsoever from me. I’m mainly interested in her ponies, goats, donkey, and horses, and that’s about it.
Boundary challenged guy probably knows her personally, and they obviously have a stronger bond. I don’t feel comfortable having pointless arguments with mutual friends on other people’s Facebook pages. I figure that kind of drama should be hosted on one of the involved parties’ pages, unless the “host” gives their express permission. Also, it was pretty clear to me that his mind is made up on matters involving conservative politics. My mind is also made up. You will never convince me that Donald Trump or Rush Limbaugh have done great things for America. So there’s no point in having a discussion. But really, when it comes down to it, I don’t owe anyone an explanation for my opinions. When I say “no”, I mean it.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not still sometimes hard to say it. I still sit here after a confrontation like that and ruminate, asking myself “WTF?” I mean, if I had known that leaving a comment for my friend was going to result in an uninvited correspondence with one of her friends, I surely would have kept scrolling. I find myself scrolling a lot lately… which makes me wonder why I haven’t ditched Facebook yet. I stick around for the people I know around the world who I enjoy keeping up with. But every year, with every unpleasant or unnecessary negative interaction I have with some stranger online, I wonder again if keeping up with my friends is worth it. Then I contemplate kicking more people off my page. 🙂