Most people are aware of how difficult it is to find work after graduating from college. Many college graduates, like myself, have loans to pay off which makes finding a job even more stressful and time-sensitive than it already is. Knowing this while I was in school, I had accepted that I needed to act on that sooner rather than later. I made a serious effort to develop connections with successful people while I was a student.
Though I was at school in Baltimore, I somehow managed to weasel my way into various levels of relationships with successful people in New York City, including a photographer, an owner of a clothing line, a world famous artist and a few popular musicians. All these people have things in common. First, they are both creative and successful individuals. And second, they are all men.
It’s all thanks to my social media voodoo magic– I mean, reproductive organs. Most of these people decided I was interesting based on my appearance. Even though I am 22 years old, just yesterday while I applying for a job, I was asked if I am older than 18. I look young but I’m legal and for whatever reason, that is appealing to many a significantly older man. Though absolutely none of them did “get” anywhere with me, they stuck around when they realized I was actually someone worth talking to.
I was, honestly, put off by the behavior of some of these men, but I chose to ignore my apprehension. “Maybe it will be worth sticking it out,” I silently insisted, justifying my questionably empowering decisions. I didn’t want to tolerate being treated badly, but I also didn’t want to make enemies, especially with people I may be working with in the future. There were definitely instances that I made a point to politely tell them to stop when I felt uncomfortable. I felt pressured to be polite, worried that I could ruin an important opportunity if I spoke too harshly.
At a certain point, after learning I had the option, I decided to use my appearance to my advantage. Safety was my primary concern and I made sure to never spend time with them alone if I felt uncomfortable. Ultimately none of these people ended up being dangerous or threatening but instead, rather misguided about what was socially appropriate, despite some of them being around or quite literally double my age. All of them, I believe, are genuinely nice people simply existing in a society where they are taught to believe that their behavior is acceptable, which is why I did my best not to be too harsh with them as I could tell their intentions were not evil. And trust me, it wasn’t easy.
But I couldn’t help considering if male college students/graduates had ever been put into similar positions. I find it troubling that even though there are plenty of successful women out there, the people interested in talking to me were heterosexual men who did it initially not because they were interested in my talent or intellect, but my body. This is not a wild assumption, might I add, because they made that rather clear to me and it has become increasingly obvious as a result of their less frequent contact after my being in a relationship. As a result of a few of these instances, it has become difficult for me to differentiate between a man genuinely trying to help me and someone who is talking to me for an entirely different reason. The confusing social interactions which result from that aren’t fair to any of us.
Like I mentioned before, none of these people were dangerous to be around which was very fortunate. But just because I wasn’t physically hurt, doesn’t mean that their behavior is appropriate. It also doesn’t mean that every guy who speaks to women the way these men have to me are all completely safe to be around either. I never once was alone with them in a private place, especially if alcohol was involved. I think it’s important to keep safety in mind and also speak up for yourself when you feel uncomfortable. It’s possible to tell someone you aren’t interested in whatever it is they are suggesting without being “mean.” Don’t let that stop you from standing up for yourself.
Though I am dissatisfied with these situations overall, I don’t feel as if I have been taken advantage of because I did not put out what they wanted and I was aware of their motives for the entire time, taking that into careful consideration with all of my interactions. If anything, I feel like I got the last laugh given that they have provided for many an unforgettable story and phone number I, to this day, feel unworthy of possessing.