One of the things I love deeply about living in Wilton Manors is that I never, ever, ever get harassed. Go deeper into straight-ville Bro-town Fort Lauderdale, and it’s all over the place. I was outside a bar called The Poorhouse (which has just somehow gotten into serving five star bar food…so many contradictions) this summer and some dude grabbed my ass in a walk-by. I shouted out as severe an obscenity as I could think of as loudly as I could down the street, but he probably still snickered as he walked away. Fucking asshole.
I wrote a few months ago about an odd fellow whose pick-up line in a Panera parking lot while I was on my lunch was “EXCUSE ME!” (Incidentally the same line I heard some dude yell in the Publix deli aisle as he was about to start a grocery store brawl – I was just trying to pick up fried chicken.)
But not only do I avoid harassment here, it seems, so does everyone else. All of the bars here make their intentions clear, whether they be Bear Bars or places with names like Ramrod, whatevs. But whatever happens indoors, it doesn’t lead out into the street.
One of the greatest mythologies that homophobes have, I think, is the idea that if they encounter someone who is gay, they’re going to get hit on and made uncomfortable. Having lived here, in the US city with the 2nd highest number of homosexuals per capita behind San Fransisco, for a year and a half, neither my husband or I have ever experienced anything remotely akin to this. I get hit on in creepy ways by straight men in lots of places, but neither of us is ever bothered here. I see women get hit on in compromising, uncomfortable ways all the time, but I don’t see anyone hitting on anyone uncomfortably out here.
Maybe it’s because the gay community knows what it’s like to be maligned, even bullied. But the streets of my small city are some of the safest places to walk at most times of either day or night, it seems. And not just in conventional ways.
I was reading this article a few days ago, and what I love the most about it is that the author brings up ways in which dudes can gather females’ attention without being creepy, stalk-y, and harass-y. One of the more important ones being of course, don’t touch her. (Re: earlier statement – just because my ass is big, whether I’m wearing something short & tight or not, does not mean it’s communal property. I have plenty of friends who I will freely permit to smack away. But I don’t know you from pig shit, so kindly back the fuck away.)
I have a couple more to add:
1. Smile. A smile from across the room is the simplest, most effective form of opening up communication. It’s an invitation to initiate conversation. And no, not in the Usher inspired “noticin’ you, noticin’ me” sort of manner.
2. Unless you meet at a fetish club/orgy party, sex talk can wait. At a coffee shop? Don’t make bad jokes about foam. At a bookstore? Leave out the “between the pages” talk. You get the drift. Don’t be a Casanova. Just be a person.
3. Compliment a conscientious detail of his/her style you like. “You have really cool glasses,” is obviously kind of a targeted line, but it works. Compliment something that you can tell the target of your affection picked out themselves. And yes, dudes, you can compliment a girl’s clothing choice without sounding gay, if you are needlessly worried about that. A dude I dated forever ago who is now one of my all-time ever best friends first caught my attention when he complimented my black and grey plaid corderoy pants.
4. Don’t be artificially nice, just be nice. I would advise from doing anything you feel that you can’t really keep up throughout the course of well, anything. Honesty is a good point to start from. Women, men, everyone is starving to meet people who are kind and who are also upfront.
5. Be thoughtful. Don’t reuse “techniques” or old lines. Think of something creative, but not too eager. And if someone wants to be left alone, as previously mentioned, take a hint. Sometimes women (or men or whoever) just want to be left alone. Sometimes people doing things individually are not starving for company. Sometimes they are eating on the way home from work while their husbands are in grad classes.
Just be cool. And maybe it’ll make the world at least a slightly more tolerable place.