How To Turn Down Men Of Any Age Macking On You

Without contributing to misogyny, or juicing your own misandry

“I’m from Portugal,” he said in his thick fresh-off-the-boat accent. “I’ve been living here for seventy years. My wife died, and I am alone now. I live right over there.” He pointed to a building across the street from mine.

Oh yeah, I could see where this was going.

I am literally a young chick for the retired seniors in my ‘hood.

La plus ça change.

“Yes, well it was nice chatting with you,” I said. My head dipped toward my shopping bags. “I’ve got stuff that’s melting, I need to go. You have an awesome afternoon!”

Problem solved.

I wasn’t annoyed, certainly not fearful. Even laden with groceries and a bum knee I could outrun an 80+-year old man. Plus, it was broad daylight. I was more amused than anything else.

Nurse or purse. That’s what they say when the old folks get married in my mother’s retirement home.

No thank you.

I contemplated how it might have panned out differently if I was thirty. I remember what it was like, young and still trained to be nice, to be polite, to not hurt his feelings. I remember the discomfort and trying to figure out a way to get out of this gracefully without making the guy feel like a jerk.

There’s a place for that, even in the #MeToo era. Especially in the #MeToo era, and most especially in 2021 after the last five years have turned Americans into raging psychos, and we more peaceful Canadians less polite and less patient than advertised.

Young women don’t always know they have the right to say no, or if they do they go about it the wrong way. The wrong sort of turndown, in my opinion, leaves the guy feeling like crap at best, often for no good reason, and puts the woman’s life in danger at worst.

The right sort of turndown reduces the danger the woman is in and allows the man to depart with the universal human need to ‘save face’.

Several years ago I heard a story about a well-attended all-ages Toronto singles party. An 80-year-old man monopolized the attention of a 30-year-old woman, who sat looking pained and clearly unable to get away from this tiresome grandpa as he droned on to impress her.

She needed a graceful exit. She didn’t want to hurt his feelings, she knew she was supposed to be nice.

I wondered what I might have done, had it been me, which at the time was my late forties.

I definitely wouldn’t have wanted to stick around Casa-NO-va.

I would have looked for the first break in the conversation or interjected with a comment to shut him up and then add, “Listen, it was nice talking to you but I’m going to mix and mingle now. You have a great evening!”

I’ve learned I have the right to not waste time with amorous strangers. I don’t have to listen to them to be ‘nice’, but I do have the obligation not to be rude, or worse, nasty. Many men don’t understand how irritating, aggravating, or downright frightening they can be when they mack on women.

Many women don’t understand the first warning shot doesn’t have to be nuclear.

We should all strive to be ‘nicer’. By ‘all’ I mean, like, everyone.

So, time permitting, I chat. I’ve begun talking to my neighbors more in the last year when I became truly starved for human contact. From a safe six feet.

It means sometimes the gents hit on me. Shrug. I don’t take it as a personal attack on my womanhood, a toxic masculine slap in my #MeToo face, or assume the guy is a privileged asshole who thinks he’s entitled to women’s bodies.

He might be, but I don’t know, and I like to give people the benefit of the doubt until and unless they demonstrate they’re not worthy.

Let’s break down a man macking on a woman at its primal core.

What we forget, when we’re ranting about privilege and entitlement and the patriarchy, simultaneously giving ourselves an unacknowledged narcissistic pat on the back for being all brave ’n’ feminist ’n’ empower-y ’n’ stuff, is that the most basic human need is to connect with another person, emotionally and/or sexually, to not be alone.

It’s an elementary evolutionary survival strategy. Solitude results in death. It’s why literal social ostracism is most terrifying — you’re cut off from others, your family, friends, community. You’re cast out into the wilderness. You’re on your own.

Good, uh, luck.

Pair bonding ensures the survival of the children. It’s better to be paired than to weather life’s difficulties alone. I know. I’ve been doing it most of my life, since I moved out of my parents’ house.

Pair bonding isn’t wrong.

Men have traditionally been the pursuers, and a hundred years after First Wave Feminism successfully won women the vote, we are all still infants at gender equality. None of us know what the hell we’re doing as we follow ancient scripts wired into our much slower-evolving cave critter brains.

Men often are genuinely clueless about how uncomfortable they make their targets when they’re pursuing women. Especially strangers, the subject of this article. Coworkers, longtime friends, and bosses are other, more complicated matters.

It’s not our job to educate men, although I encourage it. It is, however, our job to refuse firmly and politely. We have the right to say no, and to remind them No Means No, the holy Canadian mantra.

But let’s not make assumptions about what he thinks about us, or believe our assumptions about him are correct. The strongest lesson I’ve learned in the last two years is how much victim feminism primes female brains to identify with helplessness, how every interaction is misogynist and favors the man, and builds the so-called Patriarchy into a monolithic network of privileged, entitled males out to degrade and humiliate women to keep them in their place.

Get hassled by a few drunks on the street, and your brain can turn it into an epic attack by Team Patriarchy and compel you to throw away a new dress you like.

Men may express their desires to connect in often inappropriate ways, but it may be all they’re trying to do — connect.

Which is what we all want.

I’ve been fending off men for decades, and I have yet for one to turn into a truly scary encounter. Your mileage may vary, and maybe I’ve been luckier, but I think I do some things right:

  • I don’t act like a victim. I take the lessons we were taught in the ’70s to walk with purpose, act like I know exactly where I’m going, and keep vigilant.

  • I avoid or am extremely cautious around men from high-risk misogynist groups.

  • I don’t yell at the guy or raise my voice unless he’s really pushy.

  • I sure as hell don’t yell about The Patriarchy and entitlement and male privilege as I understand some women have done.

  • I’m polite. Yes, would-be Romeos are annoying but the world is full of annoying people doing annoying things to other people, and I’m one of them. So are you.

  • I cut it short, smile, say I’ve got to go, and walk away. I wish him a great day/afternoon/evening/holiday weekend.

We women need to ask ourselves what we’re doing to juice The Patriarchy.

Consider the last time someone went off on you for something minor you did and made a much bigger deal out of it than it was. Maybe they accused you of being selfish, irresponsible, stupid, lazy, or careless. Maybe they told you what they thought you think about them and how you didn’t have the right to do or say blah blah blah.

How’d that work out for you? Did you think, Yeah, you’re right, I am that awful person, I will work hard to mend my ways! or did you yell back, try to defend yourself, get out of that situation immediately, or quietly stew about how much you dislike the person?

Mission unaccomplished. The person who thinks you wronged them didn’t change your thinking, and steeled you to be more resistant the next time you encounter this situation. It makes you dislike the person, or even the group they represent.

Treating someone you don’t know as the worst sort of dirtball and layering on numerous judgments about what kind of person you think he is, leaves him feeling worse and quite possibly justifiably hurt because all he was thinking was, “Wow, she’s really pretty, I wonder if she has a boyfriend?”

He might be a creep, or a player, or a sexual predator, but, as long as we’re throwing suppositions around, you might be an overprivileged narcissistic gender studies-addled #MeToo hysteric.

Just sayin’. I don’t know you, therefore I have the right to bury you in my own self-serving personal narratives, right?

A nasty, unjustified interaction leaves the man feeling like crap and if it happens often enough, can turn him slowly into a hater — the kind who joins toxic embittered incel-ridden Reddit forums to rant about how feminism has ruined everything.

Can you completely blame him?

A once-decent guy becomes more toxic when a woman shames him. Maybe he deserved it; maybe he didn’t. What we need to consider, when some guy we don’t know macks on us, is to consider that core universal need to connect with others, and to perhaps pair bond, even if you’re both beyond childbearing age and one seems suspiciously octogenarian.

This goes for men of any age. Just because they’re younger and more capable of overpowering you doesn’t mean they will, but if they’re the wrong sort of man they might. It’s less likely if you allow them to save face.

That’s why I have a boyfriend/partner/husband is one of the best lies out there.

Why aren’t you wearing a ring?

Because we agreed we don’t need to mark our territory. They’re a silly vestige of a former patriarchal belief that the man owns the woman.

Oh no! A feminist! “You have a nice day, ma’am!”

I know there are exceptions to everything. You don’t know who you’re dealing with, and some men are threatening and don’t take no for an answer. I don’t run into too many overly persistent ones, but on a few occasions I’ve raised my voice with the Holy Canadian Mantra: “NO MEANS NO!”

I haven’t run into the kind who stalk me or get aggressive. Okay, apart from this one time in Istanbul, and fortunately the cop right there likely dissuaded him.

I’m not writing this for women who still live in highly patriarchal cultures or dangerous neighborhoods. Turkey is harder-core than North America. I imagine I’d carry pepper spray if I lived in Turkey.

Here’s what I want young women to know about men who approach them for some undefined romantic endeavor:

  • Don’t assume he’s a bad person because he approached you. Give him the benefit of the doubt unless he clearly demonstrates he’s not worthy.

  • Be nice and polite to a point. You don’t need to chat for a few minutes as I did with the old Portuguese man. I had a few moments, and when I realized he was hoping for more I cut it short, nicely and politely. I smiled to let him know I didn’t think he was a dirtball.

  • Acting confident, like you have someplace to go, truly helps.

  • Make up any excuse to get out of this. “Hey, nice chatting with you, I have to go.” “Sorry, can’t talk, I’m running late!” “My ice cream is melting!” “I have to get home and walk the dog before he creates an Olympic pool-sized accident on the floor!”

  • If he asks for your contact information, say, “Thanks, but I have a partner at home.” Now he believes there’s someone who’ll come looking for you if he gives you too hard a time. Or just the all-purpose lie, Sorry, I’m too busy with work right now.

All I can say is, these things have always worked for me. If I have any superpower it’s in not getting assaulted or harassed in any significant way.

We not only give a much-not-needed boost to misogyny when we reject rudely, but we juice our own misandry when we add our own interpretations. Many women are as blind to their own misandry as men are to their personal misogyny. Some deny it’s even possible to be misandrist in a patriarchal culture.

It’s an excuse, a self-serving justification to ignore the problem in one’s own inner backyard. Everyone can be a hater. And hate is always toxic and counterproductive.

Don’t be the problem you’re fighting.

Misandry does NOT help the feminist cause. It feeds misogyny, as misogyny feeds misandry.

Be part of the solution, not the problem.

When I’m not getting macked on by old retired ‘hood gents looking for a young chick for companionship, I help women reclaim their power on my website, Grow Some Labia.