We've all been raised to be polite. Polite to elders, polite to strangers, polite to everyone around us. That's good. It's absolutely important to think before you speak. Sometimes words slip out too fast, and we regret them later.
But is there ever a time when it's OK to be rude?
Is there ever a time when you SHOULD be rude?
The answer is a resounding yes.
I'm not talking about when someone cuts you off in the grocery store. I'm not talking about how to respond to a rude person, although some days it sure is tempting.
What I am talking about is: using rudeness to discourage a potentially dangerous person from continuing the interaction.
And I'm talking about actual predator-types; which basically includes guys in general (sorry fellas). You don't even have to be verbal. It barely has to be a dirty look; if they're staring at you, you look right back at them.
Don't stare, but lock eyes with them for about three beats. (Say to yourself: I see you.)
Then look away. Do not lower your gaze; this is almost always read as a submissive look.
If you can still feel them looking at you, turn around deliberately and stare at them again. Doing this lets them know that, first, you see them, and you know what they look like, and two, you STILL see them, and are paying close attention to what they are doing.
You have to make it clear that you aren't a willing party. Sometimes these psychopaths think that by you making eye contact with them, that there is a connection between you. There isn't. Let them know early on that you will not be complying, and will not go quietly.
If he's already talking to you, and you do not want to be part of this conversation, be flippant, rude, and direct. Throw some sarcasm in there. How would you respond if he was speaking to your daughter like this? Or your wife? Your sister? Adapt that same indignant attitude as you would in those situations.
Don't give him excuses either. Until you have information that suggests otherwise, you need to assume that he does not have your best interest in mind. What is your gut telling you? You still listen to it, right? Don't let your politeness end up with you getting killed, or worse, enslaved in human trafficking.
The extend of your rudeness should be determined by your location, current defensive position (did you carry today, or is it in the car?), and the person's apparent mental state.
And yourself. You be the judge; it's your safety at stake. If you think it's an inappropriate situation, it probably is.
Remember, if it happened to be an innocent conversation, you can always apologize later if you need to.
Maybe you're now wondering what exactly you should be saying to him. Don't bother rehearsing the verbiage now; instead, go through and decide where your boundaries are. What's your trigger? When will they have 'crossed the line'?
Don't assume that in the moment you'll know when it's gone too far. Believe me, as women, it's way to easy to move that boundary line we just drew. We tend to want to give people the benefit of the doubt. We also don't want to be embarrassed later. We're worried that we are just being too emotional in the moment, and making a big deal out of nothing. We don't want to draw attention to the exchange, it's embarrassing enough as it is, we don't need an audience.
Take those thoughts and lock them in a closet.
This is your safety and well being. It may be hard at first, but STOP being concerned what other people think. Your first and only job is to get home safely. If the people overhearing your words think you're overreacting, that affects you zero. Nil. As Phoebe would say, their opinion is a moo point.
But I can't stress this enough: decide where the line is BEFORE the interaction. Before you leave the your house.
Do you want them to put a hand on your shoulder? No? Well that decision has to be made way before you're in any position to have that happen. Decide what your response is going to be. If it helps to get mad, get mad. There's plenty to be irritated about these days!
And if you're still worried you'll react stronger than the situation warrants, realize that deciding how you'll respond now is the first step in responding appropriately then. If you came to that decision at home while you're safe, there's a good chance it'll be a reasonable response in the moment. (Unless other factors play in, for example, he has a hand on your shoulder, but is also leaning way into your space. Don't assume things will play out like they did in your head.)
(This may not help, but I'd be more concerned about not responding strongly enough. What's the worse that can happen? He walks away sooner?)
I would rather be embarrassed later, than mad at myself for months after because I let someone take advantage of me. Or worse, it ended up meaning the loss of my life or freedom.
So, your takeaways should be this:
Don't be afraid to be rude. Think of drawing attention as your goal. If you're getting looks, so is the other guy. That means more witnesses.
Decide where the line is now, and then decide how you will respond once that line is crossed. I don't care how nice he seems; if there are alarm bells going off in your head, listen to them.
Way too often, once someone crosses a boundary line we made previously (for example, a hand on your shoulder), we make excuses for them (“I'm sure he doesn't mean anything bad by it...”), and so we make another boundary line. They cross that one, and the vicious cycle continues.
This can happen with strangers or family members.
I think we all have one or two people that we know personally who give us a bad feeling. I've had a few, and later, after certain events come to light, after the initial surprise is over, I'm like “Yeah...I should have seen it.”
Because, somehow, your gut knows.
Listen to it, people!
There's no reason to march around being permanently bent out of shape, but I do think it is a good idea to practice standing up for yourself. Practice getting irritated. Get mad!
Ok, so one time, I did a dumb thing. Like, reeeeally dumb.
I was at Kwik Trip fueling up. It was spring, so the bugs had come back out, and I was scrubbing my windshield while pumping gas. The guy on the other side of my pump had this young, gorgeous Husky attentively waiting in his driver's seat while he filled up his truck.
I love Huskies, and I couldn't resist complimenting him on his dog. We struck up a conversation, and we talked for probably ten minutes. It was a nice, casual conversation about life in general. I kept specifics out, but it ended up that he used to rent from the same landlord as me, and had similar problems with them.
We parted ways as unlikely friends, and I expected never to hear from him again.
Unfortunately, this was not the case.
He told me his name, and I told him mine. Right immediately before I said my name, there was a little nagging feeling that made me hesitate. But I pushed on because he seemed like a nice guy.
Then I was off to Appleton. At my first stop, I saw that I had a message from someone: the guy at Kwik Trip. Whose name was Johnny, by the way.
Based only on my fist name, he had found me on Facebook.
Rule number one, folks: don't give out your real name. For any reason.
This guy was perfectly nice. He was married, in his late thirties, had a dog, and lived in the country. He was a volunteer firefighter, for crying out loud!
And yet, he felt the need to continue chatting with a younger, clearly married (I mentioned “my husband” multiple times) woman.
Naturally, I was crushed, humiliated, and furious. The exchange ruined my day, which had included big plans on shopping and eating Chick-fil-A.
(He messaged me asking if I had Snapchat, and offered any assistance I might need in dealing with my landlord. Like, are you kidding me? Weeks later he messaged me again asking if he had seen me at a local bar. Yeah. These guys exist!)
So yeah. I have a different name I give people now.
My point is, looks can be deceiving. Don't feel like you have to give people the benefit of the doubt. If I could redo that interaction, I would have given a different first name. One that could not be traced back to me.