Open Letter to a Few Women in DC

I understand that there is a not insignificant portion of the men in this city who seemingly strive to harass, objectify, and verbally abuse you.  I get it – I really do.  The best I can express is sympathy as I am not a woman and empathy is not possible.  My understanding, however, does not grant you or anyone license to display rudeness in the face of civility, hostility in the presence of cordiality.

A few of you deserving of special mention:

To the redhead at Starbucks this morning, despite your protests about my motivations and desire to “check out [your] ass,” I assure you I was simply holding the door for someone I mistook for a lady.

To the power suited woman rocking the red pumps in Kinkos, if a gentleman says “I love your shoes,” then a thank you is a more appropriate response than “I’m not interested.”

To the Plain Jane married woman at the seafood counter at Whole Foods, when I asked what you were planning to do with the Skate, sneering “Making it for my husband” only makes me doubt the existence of a man who would marry you.

To the past her prime platinum blonde who I encountered sitting at my local, it had been a really long day for me.  I had just finished working/cooking the bulk of the evening and had endured the indignities and accusations from the aforementioned women throughout my day and I still found enough civility to offer you a light without speaking a word.  I know that you “can” light your own cigarette, and can state the obvious.

None of you, however, can change me.

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26 Responses to Open Letter to a Few Women in DC

  1. Jo says:

    While I know you’re just trying to be polite to all those women you are likely the exception. I’m usually nice to people and I’ve had too many instances where a guy thought I was flirting instead just talking back to be civil and polite. It’s a conditioned response unfortunately.

  2. kitty says:

    your last line makes the rest of it okay.

    if they can’t change you, then there’s no need for any of the rest of us to apologize for the women you encountered.

    full moon, maybe? that time of the month for everyone in DC?

    for what it’s worth, i always said thank you to anyone who complimented me — homeless, or not.

  3. Vie says:

    If someone’s being civil, sweet, and complimentary, there’s no reason to take it any other way. It bothers me when people act like the desire to engage someone on a human level could only possibly be full of sexual intentions. Hell, even if the intention IS sexual…it’s part of life. It doesn’t mean you have to say yes, and as long as someone isn’t rude or twice your age, it’s not inappropriate. A total stranger once told me at my Starbuck’s as they were leaving “you are perfect. Just so you know.” He didn’t try to make a move, didn’t ask for my number, he just gave me a compliment – and it totally made my day. People need to lighten up and stop being so caustic. Sorry you had to deal with a round of unsolicited bitchiness.

  4. Red says:

    Please don’t change and for the record those women are too uptight and probably out of batteries for their toys.
    There is nothing wrong with polite conversation and just connecting on a human level as Vie stated. I can feel your aggravation and this is probably why I don’t try to connect with people the way you do… For fear of them being so rude and hateful. I will do my best to do like RR does from now on.
    You will be my inspiration.

  5. Christina says:

    Wow, where is the simple “Thank you” in the world. I hope that these women are the exception to the rule!

    Don’t get too jaded because one I can tell you from experience and nice and meaningful compliment from a stranger can totally make your day!

  6. rondamarie says:

    After dating and being hit on by many a man looking for only one thing, it is easy to become jaded.

    I continue to hope that men like you exist everywhere. I will try not to become so jaded that I cannot see such a man for who he is when he holds the door open for me or offers me a sincere compliment.

  7. laloca says:

    no, they can’t. and thank heavens for that.

  8. LizInDC says:

    Please don’t change because of us. I usually give men a shocked “Thanks” and wait to see if you follow up the “love your shoes” comment with a “and your legs in them”, then get catty (sadly, I always expect some sort of sexual remark- though I’m delighted when it doesn’t happen).

    I’m glad there are guys out there that really do like our shoes or want to be gentlemen, like yourself.

  9. citygirlblogs says:

    Did you say anything in response to any of these women? (I have a feeling that you were far more tactful than I would have been in the same situations.)

  10. my mama taught me that “thank you” is all you should say to a compliment….

    my pet peeve is when you compliment someones dress shoes etc..and they feel compelled to tell you how much it cost…ugh…ladies… a simple “thank you”…
    please!! for me AND the refugee…
    xoxo

  11. k8 says:

    I said, “Aww! Thanks!” the last time a guy opened the door for me at the club. He said, “I always wonder what kind of response I’m going to get. I take a chance every time that she will never speak to me again.” I thought that was sad. I ADORE having a door opened for me. Don’t change. I want more of you around.

  12. justjp says:

    Awesome post! Strong work bro, strong work.

  13. elle dubya says:

    oh sweet mercy don’t ever change. procreate, please, and pass these traits on to your sons, teach your daughters to be appreciative of them.

  14. Great jeebus. Methinks these chicks flatter themselves cause I can’t imagine all of them being *that* hawt that any man talking to them is hitting on them.

    And the chick with the shoes, how does she know you didn’t like them…for yourself?

    I will say the other side of this (being friendly in return) can sometimes land you in the Whole Foods with a man following you around talking loudly about how he “just got out of the joint” with a long explanation about why he was in “the joint,” drawing all kinds of unwanted attention to the both of you…

  15. LiLu says:

    I love you for this.

  16. kate.d. says:

    i’m probably going to get flamed for this, but so be it. and for the record, i’m a regular reader and do enjoy your blog.

    part of me thinks “it’s too bad those women were rude to you,” but to be honest, a bigger part of me thinks “get over it.” obviously you’ve got the right to bitch about whatever you like in this space, but this post comes off as petty and small to me. people lack civility sometimes, it’s unfortunate, but like you said – empathy is tough for men in these situations, and who knows what they’ve dealt with in terms of unwanted attention from men that same day, week, month, year. it’s not an excuse for rudeness, but that context makes your indignation seem a little…outsized.

    i also find it interesting that you felt the need to describe two out of the four women as “plain jane” and “past her prime” – does that make a difference in this context, really? or do you just find it even more ridiculous that women like that weren’t sufficiently appreciative of your attention?

  17. It bugs me that they won’t read this. Asshats.

  18. @ kate.d.: Doesn’t sound like anything he did was particularly lecherous or inappropriate, so why the nasty attitude? And c’mon, ALL four of these women may have had bad experiences with men THAT VERY DAY so that justified them acting the ass with RR? No ma’am.

    Maybe it’s just my hometraining, but I try to always respond politely when people speak to/greet me in a polite way. I don’t assume the worst and certainly don’t decide I’m the hawtest thing since sliced bread and therefore any man opening his mouth in my direction must want to bed me. Besides, I’m the hawtest thing since cooked food, which is WAYYY better than sliced bread any day.

  19. Fearless says:

    Women and men both have bad days and resort to bad behaviour of which we are less than proud. Sometimes we are suspicious of the motives of others (justly or not), sometimes we read more into a written word or an action than we should, and sometimes we describe people who treat us badly in ways that we normally would not.

    I also had a very strong negative reaction to this post which I expressed to the author offline. But I’ll say it here…sometimes I just want to be left alone, and I would hate to think that someone would talk about me that way for making that choice at the end of a long, bad day. No condoning of rude actions, just an understanding that we all do it from time to time.

  20. Kristin says:

    You are absolutely lovely. I’m sorry you were on the receiving end of other people’s discomfort, bad days or poor upbringing.

  21. Madelaine says:

    I agree with another post. You commented on some of the women as plain jane and past her prime and that was not called for.

    However, you did do something nice and a thank you would be in order. I love it when guys do things like that and I always say thank you to a compliment! Oh and I own a pair of red pumps..

  22. So what you’re saying is, if I move to DC, my chances of snagging a gentleman increase tenfold as my competition is a bunch of bitter women who lack manners and grace? Wait, and I get to hang out with Kris Likey, Freckled K, Ryane and Mystery Girl on a regular basis?!?!? Sign me up!

    And to think Jackie O once lived down that way.

  23. Susan says:

    I only wish I could run into you after a day of total bs when perhaps my self-esteem is not at it’s highest. NEVER change.

  24. Kimberly says:

    You can check out my ass anytime you like and you can hold the door while you do it.

    If I smoked, you could light my cigarette so I wouldn’t break a nail or ruin my polish.

    I don’t know what skate is…but I’d have you over.

    You don’t have to love my shoes but most certainly you can can compliment my bag.

  25. Foilwoman says:

    If you were someone else, I’d assume you added a leer or something that made an impolite reaction reflexive. Having met you, I doubt that. I don’t know you beyond acquaintanceship, but I doubt you are anything less than very well-mannered in any setting.

    Nonetheless, I do agree with Kate D to some extent. I’m an average-looking, past-her-prime (except my family lives into their 90s, so I’m actually in my prime, except I have to admit to late 40s) woman, and I still get comments. Sometimes I’m flattered — no-one will every compliment my shoes, but hey — but sometimes it’s just bizarre/obnoxious/whatever.

    Sometimes women just get tired of men feeling they have the right to comment on us (“Why don’t you smile, honey” or “I’d like a piece of that”) and women get defensive. That doesn’t make these women’s responses to you less impolite — if your attentions bother them, a terse “thanks” would be the right response. But I think sometimes, a woman just gets overwhelmed with the feedback, and even positive comments feel intrusive and sexist. Even when they’re not meant that way.

    Again, I’m sure your comments were polite and unintrusive, but I’m also sure that the women you’re writing about had some reason. You can hold a door open for me any time. And if you were to complement any article of clothing I wore (unlikely, since you’re dapper and I’m in aging-thrift-shop-mommy-wear), I’d be thrilled.

    Take care, and I’m sure there are an equal number of women who you complimented whose days were made by the attention.

  26. shine says:

    I love this post. Politeness is politeness and it deserves politeness in response. There are certainly days when I’m in a crappy mood and I want to just roll my eyes at that guy who says whatever to me. But I don’t. Because I’m nice to people all the time and more often than not, either I get no thanks at all, or men assume I’m flirting. I’m not. It’s called “talking.” Understand the difference.

    Thanks for calling people out on their crap. Sometimes they need it. Though, of course, they’re probably not reading this.

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