Creepy is in the eye of the beholder
It is such a relief to find out that the person who makes you uncomfortable also makes other people uncomfortable.
Due to the requirements of polite society, people — especially women — are taught to hold their gut instincts in check and treat everyone nicely, even if someone makes the hair on the back of their neck stand up.
A boyfriend once pointed out that we only call men “creepy” — it’s never a term used for women. I examined my own life and found that to be true. We call women “crazy”; we call men “creepy”. Some women call men “predators” (I’ve done it myself in certain cases) if they’re overly aggressive. The definition of a “creep” or a “predator” are somewhat amorphous. Men get extremely defensive about the terms, with good reason — they can imply a lot about a man’s character and trustworthiness. The basic reason women call someone predatory or creepy is based on a feeling of safety — a man’s level of creepiness is in direct relation to how much control a woman feels she would have over a situation if the man were to ask her for sex (or a date, or romantic attention) and she were to say “no”.
While creepiness is thus a completely subjective opinion, it’s definitely against the rules to call someone a creep (in public or private conversation) without extensive, non-personal evidence to the fact. So when someone else — especially a man — validates your feelings by saying that they, too, find the person to be a creep, you can at last breathe a sigh of relief. You’re not crazy. You’re correct.
A few months ago, I posted on Facebook that I had published a set of erotic short stories. I posted it because a) I would like it to sell; b) I’m a writer, and for the first time in my life I had physical proof of this fact; c) I’m trying to be more “out” about how I actually am as a person, which is to say, I write erotic fiction, for money, and while my parents might not be proud of me for it, it’s something I’m proud of. A guy I knew tangentially from my time running a kickball league took this opportunity to start asking me creepy questions about how I write.
“How much of it is fantasy and how much of it is reality?” he asked me.
This set my antennae off. He was already a bit of a weirdo in my book, but now he was asking icky questions.
“They’re all fiction,” I told him.
After a series of increasingly creepy questions ostensibly about my writing process, but really about what kind of sex I’m interested in, I finally said that I understood it could be titillating to think of a woman writing about sex, but that this wasn’t really how writing worked for me. He got very angry that I would insinuate that he was titillated, called me a sociopath, and unfriended me, so that I could no longer respond to his messages.
I, being a diligent woman who was both angered at the interaction and in need of validation, shared the conversation with one of my all-lady Facebook groups.
They agreed he was being a creep. And throughout the week, they took turns posting the creepy messages he had also sent them on Facebook.
Validation achieved. I was not crazy. He was a creep. And it’s always nice when the trash takes itself out.
But then this week, a friend and former coworker invited me to his going away party, which was being thrown by this same creep.
I declined the invitation, because I’m going out of town this weekend anyway, but I was suddenly thrown into questioning how someone I knew to be a creep could be close enough friends with someone I genuinely liked to throw that friend a going away party.
Was I crazy, again?
It was as if every single time I had spoken up for myself because someone had mistreated me was thrown back into question. I have a tendency to give more time and space to “sick puppies” than I probably should, taking care of people who don’t seem to have other friends, or who have very serious issues. Sometimes those people are just quirky; sometimes they don’t have friends because they are bad at being a friend. When I need to cut someone out of my life, it usually comes on as a very drastic shut out, sometimes with a dramatic calling out of the transgressions because I’ve held it in for too long and let it build up. I’ve been better about standing up for myself sooner in the past few years, but it’s still hard to be “not nice”, even to people who have been intentionally abusive and manipulative, pushed me past boundaries I’m not comfortable with, disrespected me or lied to me. It embarrasses me that I’ve allowed people to hurt me, and the easiest way to hide that embarrassment is simply not to talk to them anymore, and especially not to discuss it with anyone else.
The worst thing for me is when my close friends still continue to hang out with the creepy or abusive person. Part of the reason they would do this is because my friends haven’t experienced the same abuse or bad feelings about the person; part of it is because I don’t discuss it very openly, and I would never, ever ask someone to give up a friendship with someone else just because they were bad to me. I don’t blame my friends for it. But it does make me question my sanity, my friendliness, my ability to form bonds with people. On some level, I understand that the issues that I have with other people are not universal; at the same time, I wish there was an objective line of reasoning that would let me know my reactions are valid and I should do what I need to do for myself, and that my friends support me in this.
That kind of validation comes when someone else agrees that the person I’m no longer speaking to also gives them the creeps, or is crazy, or is a predator. Even better is when they don’t know the details of my situation and tell me about their own experience, and it ends up, yes, there is something wrong with the creepy person. It is agreed. I am right to have cut them out of my life. And we can all move on.
So I was thrilled this morning when my friend who is leaving said the creep throwing him the farewell party was “a strange egg”. He’d insisted on planning the party, it was explained, and it was just the polite thing to let him do so.
“But we hijacked it,” my friend explained, “and invited enough good friends that we should be safe.”
When I said I thought the guy was a creep, my friend agreed. “He gives that vibe,” he said. “I definitely would not want to let him around the ladies.”
The whole experience has illuminated a source of work for me in my personal life. I’d like to be secure enough in my sense of self to be able to let people go much sooner when they set off alarm bells. I’d also like to trust women who describe someone as a creep or a predator when they do so, without needing a man or a series of other women to validate it. I’d also like to be able to allow myself that same validation, even if friends or bystanders don’t agree. My subjective experience is my own, for better or for worse, and I need to trust it, whether or not anyone else agrees with me.