Thoughts by Richard Bleil
My friend is ill. She’s not terribly ill, just a low-grade fever probably from overwork and lack of sleep, but she noted it on her social media site. So, I made a silly little comment saying that she didn’t need a fever because she’s already hot enough. A friend of hers felt the need to reply to my comment saying that it’s not funny, and its creepy, to which I responded that I wasn’t aware that my friend needed her for protection.
My friend is a highly intelligent, and exceptionally strong person. She is more than capable of deciding if something is said to her that she doesn’t like, and courageous enough to stand up for herself and take appropriate actions if she was. I found her friend’s comment, frankly, insulting to her. In making her reply to my comment, it’s actually implying that my friend is incapable of either deciding for herself if the comment was appropriate, or couldn’t stand up for herself, or both.
Now, I should mention that sometimes it is appropriate to reply to comments. Social media is very public, so comments that are overtly sexual, racist, or equally offensive should be called out, pretty much by everybody. I don’t know the person who replied to my comment, but if she had children who followed my friend’s page then, yes, absolutely call it out. But my comment didn’t rise to that level of offensive. It was a mildly flirtatious comment, old-fashioned and, yes, inappropriate for general use. But it was very much in line with the kind of relationship my friend and I have.
The comment was what I would call “meaninglessly flirtatious” which is common for my friendship with her. I say “meaninglessly” because she knows it’s not serious. It’s not a flirty comment with the hopes of some kind of response. She is married (and very happily so) and would no longer cheat on her husband than I would have an affair with a married woman. She knows it, and so do I. Her friend who felt the need to respond to my meaninglessly flirtatious comment may know my friend, but she certainly doesn’t know, or understand, my relationship with her.
I have had friends tell me that I’ve been too flirty with them in the past. I understand why women are often afraid to speak up since so many men have a hard time with rejection, but these female friends are still friends of mine. I’ve respected their wishes, apologized for making them feel uncomfortable, and we’re still friends today. It really was unnecessary for their friends to intercede on their behalf, and I would be ashamed if it were necessary.
So, should her friend have said anything at all? I think anybody reading this far knows how I feel about it. I could see if her friend reached out to her privately in a message to ask, but such a public response to something that is literally none of her business is, in my opinion, what was inappropriate.
My friend put it most succinctly when she suggested that it’s a conversation we need to have as a society. Frankly I’m bothered when I hear that it’s okay if that person in a suit is flirty while it’s not okay for that construction worker because he’s dirty. I do agree that some forms of “flirtation” is tantamount to harassment, regardless of how a person is dressed. I understand why women often are uneasy when I try to strike up a conversation because of how other men behave, and yet it’s distressing to me that when my intentions are not threatening (and I can take rejection maturely) I’m automatically distrusted. It’s clearly a conversation we need.
I’m also very confused about “unwanted advances.” Even today, women rarely make the first advance, so if I’m interested in a woman, it’s up to me to make that advance. How will I know if it’s unwanted until I try? Now, if she says “no”, then it is up to me to respect her wishes. The last woman I tried to ask out (I blogged about it; I asked her for coffee) told me that she is dating someone. I’ve not asked her out since, and truly appreciate her honesty, but if I never asked, how would I have known?
Some things make sense. Asking out someone who is clearly underage is always wrong. Asking someone out who is younger but of legal age, on the other hand, is a matter of personal choice, as is her decision and should be beyond comment. The real question now is how, and when, will the conversation occur?