On the Nature of Creepin’

I have a strict policy about accommodating creepers. I don’t.

One of my best friends works the night shift, and as such most of our hangout time has to happen at odd hours. Last night we went out for her night off to a small 24/7 coffee shop here in town and spent several hours just hamming around, talking about boys, politics, stories, her illustrations, possibly collaborating on producing an art book to go with my story The Wellspring, and so forth. We covered a variety of bases over the course of about 6 hours of tasty beverages and generally keeping to ourselves. The whole time, though, I was aware of a noteworthy amount of eavesdropping coming from the table behind us.

The man, probably in his mid-thirties, didn’t make his move til I had gone to close out the tab and by the time I returned about five minutes later, he had my friend thoroughly cornered and was pitching his idea for a novel to her. I came back to the table and took my seat, addressed both of them: she responded in her usual gregarious manner, but he refused to look at me or acknowledge that that was my friend whose ear he was talking into the ground. Even if I hadn’t been aware of his listening in for the entire night, this would have set off several different alarms. And given my history with creeper-detection, it did.

Generally anytime my sis or I go somewhere with our ladyfriends, most of whom seem to exude the cheerful but shy vulnerability that attracts both pleasant strangers and dire creepers in equal measure, it falls to us to be that wicked bitch who keeps the undesirables at bay. The majority of my sister’s experiences come from downtown outings and the occasional trip to the clubs for dancing (which I don’t have much stomach for since I have a tendency to get increasingly scrappy and start trying to knock people down if I’m in the middle of a large group), and I’m the one that tags along as wingman to first/semi-blind dates to make the initial assessment and provide an easy out should the date go awry. Between the two of us, we’ve elbowed a lot of stomachs, trod on a lot of toes, and given the basic ‘f*ck-right-off’ stare to many who have given us bad vibes. Still, I do try to avoid this:

"My friends always die if I'm not there to save them."

To be fair, our friends know that we’ll be able to tell good from bad but they also know we won’t indiscriminately scare off everyone, including the ones they like – in fact, part of the job is encouraging the nice ones to make a move since many of our friends are pretty shy: more than once, right after stepping between a friend and some handsy jackass at a dance club, my sister has gone and found the shy guy our friend was eyeballing to tell him: “You may want to go dance with the girl in the green dress.” Likewise, I’ve done my fair share of conversation encouragement and elbow nudging and, at times, damage control to help a date along.

All that to say the first clue to spotting a creeper often comes when the guy in question has recognized one girl (i.e, me or my sis) as that bitch who has the potential to ruin his fun, and attempts to eliminate us from the equation. The guy at the coffee shop did exactly that when he waited for me to leave before addressing my friend and tried repeatedly to alienate me from the conversation once I had returned, even when my friend made moves to draw me into their discussion. Still, I knew that she, even as pleasant and polite as she was being, could handle herself with minimal support from me so I opted to sit quietly and assume the “I see what you did there” pose as she brought the conversation to a delicate end.

Being a nerd myself, I know the feeling of being morbidly socially inept and I know the desire to connect with others only makes the awkwardness worse at times, but there are certain behaviors that go beyond awkward and approach predatory: the repeated and unrepentant divide-and-conquer tactic is one of them.

Whether you’re a lonely but decent shy kid or a girl keeping a weather eye out for bad apples, avoid this behavior at all costs. Guys, I know it’s difficult to approach one specific girl who catches your eye since we tend to travel in packs, but for the love of all that’s holy, don’t pounce at the first chink in the armor. It is possible to talk to more than one girl at a time and still get a number at the end of the night, and likewise, treating a girl’s friend poorly in front of her is a good way to get nothing but the finger from both of them.

Sigh. I guess it’s time to cue the slogan…

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