So once I concluded that Lunch Guy’s anonymity was conditional, I realized that if he approached & I didn’t want to be around him, I could just say that – why pretend a twisted civility that just protects everyone from seeing the impact of their behavior? Why get all uptight & carry the mess alone, in private? It’s not, actually, my mess (or even his & mine). It belongs to all of us.
Shortly after the training I walked out of, and my subsequent conclusions about privacy, there was another event that he & I both attended. It was large enuf that I easily evaded him throughout. Afterward, I happened to sit down in a crowded cafeteria with a woman who knew both of us. Midway thru lunch, she said ‘There’s [lunch guy]’ and started to stand up. “You’re not calling him over, are you?” I asked. “I’d thought to,” she replied. “Well, that’s fine if you do, but if he joins us, I’m going to leave,” I said.
She immediately plunked back down with those big ‘tell-me-the-story’ eyes women get when they sense some juicy gossip. So I told her the whole thing, beginning to end (in summary form), and that started a whole new mutual understanding between us.
She shared her own experience just a couple hours before, being in a group discussion, having arrived all open-hearted, fully present, ready to be in love with the universe. . .
And then she started getting the stalker look from some guy in her circle, which made her shut down & want to leave. She was utterly put out by the whole thing. Indignant at showing up fully present & open and having that be taken as an invitation to leer. And at the same time, trying to shake it off, because what can be done about a thing like that?
“How can we stop that from happening?” she asked. “We can’t,” I said. “It’s inevitable. You’re lovely. And an open woman is a powerful magnet. You can’t expect to show up & not attract masculine attention. But you don’t have to let that close you down. We have to get better at dealing with that when it happens – having a dialog about it. If we’re going to show up fully, then we have to just start being honest about what we experience in that fullness”
The discussion deepened. She talked about her beautiful adult daughter, who feels she has to try to make herself smaller than she really is everywhere she goes (quieter, less smart, more agreeable, less attention-getting). She feels she has be smaller both so that men don’t start stalking her and so that women don’t start to envy and resent her (which is a very dangerous position for a woman to be in).
But listen – It’s not objectified sexiness, folks – really, that’s so boringly reductive. It’s not about wanting to get laid – that’s the furthest thing. It’s just that we are whole beings, we don’t open our hearts & let our creative juices flow without there being an energetic correspondence. And, I’ll tell you, that energetic correspondence is powerful stuff.
Powerful & misunderstood & so rare in this female-objectifying culture that to experiment with it at all is, frankly, dangerous business. I attest to that.
It takes guts. Guts that most people misinterpret. Men often take it as availability. Other women often interpret it as naive vanity.
I’ve been impressed by how many women have been appalled at me for even having lunch with the Lunch Guy in the first place, given the initial circumstances. You’d think I’d never displayed the slightest bit of sense before in my whole life the way they talked to me about how dumb I’d been (women I know, I’m talking about here – not strangers) – and let me make something clear – no-one, no-one ever in my life, considers me stupid. Except in this one place & suddenly I’m an absolute bimbo – what is that about, do you think?
I mean, let’s contemplate this. A man I have no intention of ever having sex with makes the slightest indication of erotic response and suddenly there are NO OTHER FACTORS to take into consideration – it’s flat out risky & idiotic to have lunch, in a crowded mall, with my husband nearby knowing exactly where I am & who I’m with, with this guy who is part of a community where we both are known & trusted. Wow!
And – put it that way & I guess it’s clearer why I felt shamed. Put it that way & you have to begin to wonder what kind of lives most women lead. . . It seems frighteningly stultifying. Makes me hope that ‘most women’ are not like the one’s who’ve responded to this story so strongly.
So anyway. If I hadn’t vetoed my own presence at another lunch with Lunch Guy, my friend would never have brought up the ‘stalking’ thing. We’re all making such an effort to be so non-judgmental & accepting – it sounds either narcissistic, infantile or seriously uptight for a 50ish woman to complain about a strange guy’s excess attention. Yet clearly it can have an impact.
Instead, in private, we just rule the guy off the list of human beings & make every effort to avoid him, keep trying to show up ‘open’, and giving control of our openness to strangers by being impacted by their behavior without ever giving them feedback about how that works. Maybe we go home & question how we misled the guy. But we’d never dream of trying to have a dialog about it. At least – no woman I’ve spoken with has seemed to consider that an option. When I say it, it sounds unrealistic & radical. I hope there actually are women out there who could have that conversation, but the only ones that come to mind personally are other ex-whores I’ve known or whose writing I’ve read. . .
Maybe it’s a generational thing & I’m just not close to enuf younger women – but the ones I know seem to share this taboo.
Anyway, this friend & I talked about shifting that paradigm – how women’s true power will never enter the room if we don’t shift it. As it is, our power enters, people react to it, we feel shamed to death and run & hide.
Seeing how strongly this friend responded to the whole thing affirmed that I wasn’t just spouting my own idiosyncratic crap. A whole layer of experience & observation I’ve long held in my depths surfaced that day, and stayed surfaced. It had peeked it’s head up here & there previously, but this time it didn’t go back into hiding.
I also started seeing the whole thing as an experiment. Not such a big deal. I was practicing showing up more openly, Lunch Guy was practicing how to respond more from his heart. It disproved whatever theory of engagement we each were working with, and we each learned some things.
I still wasn’t ready to deal with Lunch Guy at the level he seemed to be approaching me, because I still didn’t sense that his new theory of engagement would prove any more workable for me, but I quit framing it in my head as if it had been some sleazy thing I’d allowed myself to get dragged into.
The whole thing was very useful in fact. Seeing it all in that light, writing thru it all and writing off on related tangents elsewhere, and beginning to talk with selected people about it, over the course of the following year, helped me finally understand how to frame something I’d struggled with for over 30 years – namely, my life’s purpose.