On Not Being an Attention ATM for Men: Internet Edition


Until last night, I was Facebook friends with this guy who I’d met once at a party about a year ago. He’d been messaging me regularly for the past few weeks to tell me about the novel he’s writing and to ask for my opinion on various lexical things, because he knows I’m an editor. He had also posted some lite-mansplainey/devil’s-advocatey trash on my Facewall a couple times, and I’d responded with gently annoyed comments like “come on, man,” which once got him to delete a comment. But he still kept doing it. Almost every day.

The phenomenon certainly wasn’t new, but it was new from this guy, and I’ve been puzzled on what to do because I don’t know this cat at all and I was worried he’d hulk out on me–yanno, like aggressive people reliably do when you tell them to back off. The clues were there. Been chewing on it. And also stalling, TBH.

Last night, he Facemessaged me, wanting to know my opinion on the word cacophony. I made up a total lie about how my BOYFRIEND and I were just talking about words with the suffix -phony, which I should have known wouldn’t work and isn’t the high road anyhow. It didn’t work. He kept on talking about the word cacophony. Wrong move, self.

So, I said what I should have said first, which is “I dunno, man, I’m not your editor.” He told me he had decided to use it, and I didn’t reply, and he added that he only asks me because “you have superb taste.” Then:

Wait, that’s not true–I met him twice. Once at the party and once about a month ago, when I was waiting for a friend outside of a cafe and he Facemessaged me to ask if I was standing outside of Caffe Vita because it sure looked like me, while not telling me where HE was that he could see me from (terrifying!), and then I went into the cafe with my friend when he arrived and the guy was in there and told me about his novel. Oh. Just like on the Internet, then.

Anyway. I told this guy to fuck off and blocked him, not before he had the chance to tell me to get over myself. Then I went over to the exquisite I Will Fight This Man group on Facebook and posted the screen cap above, and everyone yelled with me and it made me feel better.


But on the real, two things got dredged up here that I think not everyone knows, so here’s a couple PSAs, on the house:

1. Unless you are super hyper best friends for life, do not send pro-level people your editing/writing questions if you don’t plan to pay them for their advice. Aforementioned, this is what I do for a living. It happens that my day was a 13-car pile-up of unpaid labor for job headhunters who probably won’t even make me an offer for my trouble because they’ve got me competing against 38 other people, and I’m already resentful about that. But even if it weren’t, I still don’t wanna spend my free time volunteering on someone’s project, especially if I don’t even really know him. Actually, don’t do this in general if you’re not strictly BFFs with someone–don’t do it to lawyers, don’t do it construction workers. Knock that shit off. Okay, cool.

b. There is a burden that I and other women, I am sure, carry inre. Internet dudes who we don’t know very well who message us all damn day that is REALLY FRUSTRATING and also A FUCKING TRICK, and I never speak up about it to them because of exactly this reason. God, It’s such a complete rip-off trick. Because these guys may not say anything officially untoward to you, but you can smell the intention on them, via the weird flowery compliments and TMI-about-their-lives bits and mostly just the constant contact. As my smart friend Genevieve Jenner said, “It’s that thing where you see them test you with a comment… they are trying to see how much they can get away with. And if you don’t say anything or you change the subject, they will either keep pressing or play it off as a joke.”

And that’s how you know your only option is to tell them straight-up to stop, because they’re not interested in taking hints. And THAT’s how you know you’re gonna get called a bitch who’s full of herself by this kind of dude. (Or I guess you can stop replying and then get called a bitch that way.) It’s 100% no different from skeezers who harass ladies on the street.

So here’s where I’m at: I don’t really want to be friends with any straight single men anymore, regardless of what their intentions are. I can’t even tell; the only safe thing is to assume that all single dudes just want to foist their expectations for attention and validation on you, and then not listen and call you names when you don’t wanna give it, because IT ALWAYS HAPPENS. Like, at this point, I don’t care if their intentions are chaste. I don’t want the problem of trying to figure that out, because it’s not my job to fucking pay attention to some rando, and I don’t want him to pay attention to me. I did not enter into this contract, where he can purchase my attention with his. It’s exhausting and magnificently rude.

Like I said, I’m writing about it here because I think lots of folks genuinely do not know this shit. E.g., I absolutely believe that the dude from my anecdote has no idea why I’m mad and just wrote me off as a conceited ho without batting a lash, then told himself that he did nothing wrong. It’s the “sorry I bothered you with my friendship” defense, and it’s lame as fuck. Sara Benincasa wrote an essay titled How to Treat a Lady on the Internet that touches on this as well, wherein she talks about maybe not bombarding women whose work/brains/style you enjoy with 18 fuckloads of online attention. Even if you’re honestly just a fan and aren’t trying to get some ass out of them.

Because guys, it’s okay to be a fan. It’s good to like things! I as well am a liker of things. But irritatingly, what goes hand-in-hand with fandom sometimes is that think many people (ahem, often straight cisgender men kinds of people) assume that they are owed something by being a fan of a lady’s, and they get rull mad when the fandom is not automatically returned by OH MY GOD SOMEONE WHO HE DOESN’T EVEN KNOW, and that’s the shit that’s not okay to do. Those are two different things. Do one but not the other one.

In closing, if you’ve been messaging a woman online all the live-long day who you’ve met few if any times in real life and she has never, ever messaged you first even one single time, regardless of your obtaining-ass-from-her goals, fucking stop. Or, as Michael put it, Internet strangers can basically just


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