Thursday, May 29, 2014

ConQuest, Stalkers, and #YesAllWomen

I was probably going to write this anyway, but all this #YesAllWomen kerfuffle has made it particularly relevant.

I have what you might call a minor-league stalker. We'll call him Old Slow Stalker. OSS met me at ConQuest several years ago and started following my blog, commenting on every post, sending me emails. It was harmless stuff, though I found it condescending and irritating. I have never enjoyed anybody, particularly strange men, telling me things I already know, or telling me I got something wrong when I know I didn't, or giving me advice I didn't ask for.

I told him to knock it off a few times. He didn't seem to get the idea. He sent me birthday cards in the mail, having acquired my address from the ConQuest mailing list (I'd like to smack whoever was in charge of guarding THAT information). He offered to buy a copy of my novel (I did sell him a copy of an early work, before I realized what was afoot). He began to develop this idea that he was a valued contributor to my writing work.

Every year at ConQuest he'd show up with some trinket or message or oddball present, which I consistently refused to accept. When I married the Sparring Partner, OSS tried to get close to him, chat him up. I believe he sent us a card of congratulations at our new home when we moved out of state. When I banned the OSS from my Facebook feed, he friended some of my friends and makes a habit of talking about me to them (although they have been warned, and know to be circumspect). He approached my friend Haymitch, who runs my writer's group, and tried to get himself invited to it. Luckily my Haymitch is a savvy one and checked with me first.

This year, the week before ConQuest, Old Slow Stalker sent me an email, the first in years. It was quite polite, even obsequious (my unwanted fanboys are invariably unctuous, even submissive). In it, OSS informed me that he was NOT a stalker, because reasons, that he'd always looked on me as a favored niece, and he was glad he'd met me because that had enabled him to meet another friend of mine, who was also very beautiful, and he intended to come to my reading at the con, but he wouldn't say anything while there.

Now, OSS has never made any lascivious comments toward me, although he has repeatedly and randomly assured me how pretty I am. He is, in a way, an old-fashioned gentleman, although of the type that seems to believe women have no faculty over their own needs or wants or brains, that women require the support and approval of men, that we are there as objects to be admired and be grateful for the admiring. Imagine the kindest, politest guy on Mad Men, the one who was sweet to all the secretaries, and you'd have OSS.

I didn't respond to OSS's letter because I have adopted a zero-acknowledgement policy toward him. I trashed it. And naturally, when I arrived at the ConQuest hotel, he was almost the first person I saw on the floor. He practically did semaphore signals with his arms, trying to get me to notice him, but I didn't. Three times I ran into him Friday, and each time I ignored him.

I hadn't thought too much about what he would do if he DID show up to my reading; I figured if the room was full I'd just ignore him. But when he walked in, in the middle of my second paragraph, there were only two people in the room, and the Tao decreed I was not going to put up with him, sitting in there and sucking off my qi.

"I don't want you in here," I said. I wasn't even angry. I was just drawing the line.

He blustered, protested. I told him I had made myself clear and I would go to the Con committee if he didn't remove himself at once. He announced he would NEVER CONTACT ME AGAIN and stormed out.

I apologized to my audience for the interruption and went back to reading. Gradually more people arrived; I ended up with six. They all laughed at the right places, and you could have heard a pin drop when we got to the climax. Not bad for a chick whose book isn't even out yet, especially since my Bio was left out of the program. I enjoyed myself.

But you know, I just really don't understand the mentality of someone who will keep trying to force themselves in where they are clearly not wanted. Hell, I have a couple people at that Con who hate my guts, too; if I see them, I nod. If they ignore me, I don't press the issue. But then, my self-esteem is sufficient that I don't feel the need to be more than polite.

I'm aware that it could be much worse. I don't believe OSS is so deranged he will turn violent, and even if he did I could and would happily break him in half. But he does seem to believe that I owe him some attention, or at least an explanation.

And that offends me: that imposition, that implication that I owe him something. Not because I feel threatened, but because there are so many women everywhere, in similar but much more dangerous situations. And because there are so many men out there who don't understand that their actions are causing enormous distress, even illness and pain, even though they "don't mean anything by it," because they are too absorbed in what they want to consider another person's feelings. It offends me on general principle.

Old Slow Stalker will almost certainly turn up here and read this.

When you do, SG, let the above serve as your explanation. Don't bother rebutting; any emails from you go directly into my "evidence" file. If you need further insight, go read Chuck Wendig's post. Especially the part where it says, "forcing yourself into safe spaces and unwelcome conversations makes you an entitled, presumptive fuck-whistle."

That about sums it up.

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