When Wooing is Harassment
Refusing to take no for an answer isn’t romantic, no matter what the movies tell us.
I’m a fan of Dan Savage’s “Savage Lovecast.” In a recent episode, Dan answered a call from a woman who dated a man for a while, realized she wasn’t into him, and ended the relationship. The man asked if they could stay friends, and then spent months clearly trying to woo her back. He thinks of her all the time, she said, and does things like sending her a series of hand-made birthday gifts and offering her father a kidney.
That latter craziness was the focus of the call and response, but I want to address something else — because I have been this guy. My teen years, into my early twenties, featured a series of women who turned me down for relationships, who I then continued to pursue and work to impress and change their minds.
I thought myself unlucky in love, unappreciated. That’s how I was taught to regard myself by a whole series of romantic comedies and television shows in the 1980s: The guy who gets passed over, who some girl will eventually realize she loved all along. You just have to stick it out, and win her affection through some grand romantic gestures, right?
No. What I was doing is harassment. A gentle sort of harassment, true, nothing on a level with Harvey Weinstein or Roy Moore, but harassment nonetheless. It’s a form of harassment most women — if not most people — have to endure, and I’m here to say: Guys, stop it.
How do I know this harassment? Easy: The woman said no, and yet you’re still trying. Rather than acknowledge the decision made by the object of your affection, you’ve decided you know better than her. You just need to prove why she’s wrong: You send flowers. You write poetry. You remember her birthday, her favorite songs, her favorite movie, her favorite type of flower. You remember her parents’ birthdays. You remember her pets’ birthdays. Whenever a special occasion comes along, you go the extra mile to stand out among the other men in her life — especially the guy she’s currently dating.
And what’s worse? While you’re working your manipulation, doing everything you can to undermine the decision she made and informed you about, you pretend to be her friend.