I mentioned in an earlier post that, despite my misgivings, I’d registered for an online dating service last month. I was a bit dismayed by many of the messages I received, but there was one in particular that struck me immediately and has become a sort of shorthand for all of the inappropriate comments strange and nearly-strange men make.
Oh, there are many worse messages out there, but there’s a distinction in my mind. At a certain level of vulgarity, I have to assume that it’s intentional, that a man is looking for something fast and cheap and wants to make that clear from the beginning. But this type of message seems different; it’s so common that I can only think of two possible explanations: there are more truly vile men out there than I want to believe, or they think they’re being complimentary.
The first message in this series had the subject line “sexy”, and the entire text of the message was “your sexy babie”.
I’m a writer by trade, so the first thing that struck me was that the message was three words long and two of those words were misspelled. When I got past that to the substance (using the term lightly), the whole thing just got worse.
I’m not one of those women who takes offense at words like “baby” (when they’re spelled correctly), but I do believe they should be reserved for people you…well…know. And I’m certainly not opposed to a man telling me he thinks I’m sexy if a) he thinks that and b) I know him and c) he’s basing his impressions on more than a thumbnail headshot. Coming from a complete stranger who knows nothing about me, it can only mean one of two things: either he says it to every woman he contacts because he thinks that’s what we want to hear, or his criteria for “sexy” can be applied with a brief glance at a couple of photographs and two paragraphs about me. In either case, he’s not a guy I want in my life.
I’m sure there are women who are flattered by that kind of comment and respond positively, and I was going along happily believing that men like this were simply looking for a certain kind of woman with those comments and probably finding them.
When the same man sent me “your sexy honie” and then “your hot sexy!!” (with no apparent recognition that he’d contacted me before), my theory was supported.
But just about the time I thought all was well again and was just cheerfully deleting those messages without a second thought, Mike went and told this woman he barely knew in an online forum that he’d like to see her under his Christmas tree. Rocked my world, I gotta tell you.
See, if I’d seen that comment from a stranger, I’d have written him off pretty quickly. It’s not much of a leap to make assumptions about a guy who sees a woman as something that should be wrapped up and presented to him–especially a woman he doesn’t know anything significant about. I’d think “tacky” and move right along.
But I know Mike. I couldn’t make those assumptions, because I know who he is. I know that he’s a great friend and a great dad, that he’s looking for a serious relationship and that he takes fidelity very seriously. I know he’s smart and funny and creative, and that he takes pride in his work and feels strongly about doing what he’s said he’s going to do. In short, he’s exactly the kind of guy you wouldn’t want to write off on a dating site or in some other public forum.
I shot off a quick comment to him about that line being pretty much on a par with “your sexy babie”, and damn if he didn’t defend it all over the place. I’m not going to get into the details of his point of view–I’m sure he’ll do that himself. But the bottom line is that it had never crossed his mind that the comment might send any of the messages that it sent to me.
That discussion, and both of our subsequent conversations about the issue with other friends of both sexes, have me thinking that this is an area in which there’s a real perception gap, and one that might have decent men cutting off whole huge sectors of the population as dating options and women ruling out guys who will never know what they might have done wrong.