I always feel conflicted when men I don’t know ask me for my number. On one hand, I am offended. “Are you really only interested in my looks?” my inner self seems to ask the guy. But on the other hand, I feel flattered. “Why, thank you for asking for my number and not that of the girl walking in front of me.” And I do enjoy talking to strangers, despite my mother having warned me against it a tremendous amount of times. But sometimes there is no duality when it comes to those conversations. Sometimes the experience of getting asked for your number is downright negative.
I was walking home with my dog the other day. It was a usual December night, which means that although it was only six PM, it was already dark out. A passerby was walking next to me, wheeling his bike, and not mounting it. At first, I didn’t pay attention. Maybe the bike chain was off or he didn’t feel like riding his bike. But after a while, I noticed that he was staying in step with me. I tried walking faster, and he did too. I slowed down. He did too.
“Does your dog bite?” he asked. I had heard that question so often before. Somehow men seemed to think that it was the perfect conversation starter. I wasn’t scared when he started talking to me. In my neighborhood, you get used to it.
“I don’t think so. She hasn’t yet,” I answered. My dog Dandy looked absolutely terrified. She hated people she didn’t know, especially tall men.
“What’s your name?” the man continued. I never tell strangers my real name. I always have a standard answer ready for all the questions these men could possibly ask. Because somehow, their questions are always the same.
“Mary,” I said. I was always Mary from a catholic uniform school for rich, white girls. They always believed me. “Yours?” I always ask the same questions as they do, so that I would have at least some information to give to the police, just in case.
“Peter,” he replied. “Where do you live?” Somehow, that’s another question these men keep asking. What are they going to do with this information? Is it just a casual question to keep the conversation going or are they planning on stalking me forever and ever until I give them my number? I kept silent. “Somewhere around here?” he persevered.
“Yeah. There,” I said and pointed in a random direction. “You?”
“The street we come from. Hey, I’ve got an idea. Why don’t you give me your number? I’ll call you up and we’ll get something to drink,” he suggested so confidently that the suggestion sounded more like an order. I laughed at the ridiculousness of it. Peter looked surprised. I wondered whether that trick had worked for him before. Probably not.
“No, thanks,” I replied.
“Oh, come on,” he pleaded. “Do you have a boyfriend or something?”
“I don’t. But I don’t have the time.” That’s when I started backing away. I didn’t like his tone.
“Just a cup of coffee? Everybody’s got time for that!”
“Sorry,” I said. I kept backing away, but he noticed and followed me.
“Please,” he said as if saying ‘please’ would magically make me change my mind.
“Give me your number instead then,” I offered. That tactic had never failed me before, although I preferred not to use it, to avoid spending extra time with these men.
“Why? I know you won’t call me.” Of course, I won’t.
“I will, I promise,” I lied.
“Sure. Or tomorrow.”
“Alright then.” I took out my phone and he dictated to me his number. We said our goodbyes and I started walking in the opposite direction.
“Call me!” he called.
“Maybe I will! But I can’t promise anything!” I called back at last. Somehow, I felt bad for not giving him my phone number. To be honest, that’s kind of fucked up. I blame society.