How does a non-creepy guy overcome the presumption that he’s a creep … without sounding like even more of a creep? Oliver Lee Bateman has an idea.
So let’s say you’re sitting across from a female coworker, and you’re telling a bunch of jokes in order to break the ice. You don’t have any sexual interest in your coworker—contrary to the message of the seduction underground or those hot college comedies where a bunch of 40-year-old actors play horndog teens who can’t wait to get their cherries popped, there are many guys who don’t approach every new interaction with a woman as an opportunity to “pound town” on a “rando”—but she nervously mentions her fiancé anyway.
At this point you find yourself thinking: have I arrived in the Creep Zone? As someone who has often been described as garrulous, overbearing, and intimidating—sometimes all three at once—I’ve made frequent trips to said zone. Or at least I think I have—and therein lies the problem. The guilt arising from an interaction like the one sketched above (where anxiety-reducing alcohol is absent and your physical presence is way too present for anyone’s liking) is overwhelming.
Fortunately, I’m tying the knot in the near future. I don’t have to deal with this kind of ridiculous uncertainty any longer, because I’m now in possession of a get out of jail free card for such situations—an opt-out that’s not dissimilar to the one employed by the woman in our hypothetical. The only difference is that I can close the matter by dropping the word “fiancée,” whereas she has to reference her “fiancé.” Unless, of course, she’s writing an undergraduate paper on a tight deadline, in which case anything goes.
But that opt-out isn’t the real solution, is it? It’s not the same as being able to be totally honest with your coworker, saying something along these lines: “Hey, although we’re having this very nice conversation, I’m not trying to ‘get over’ on you at all, no ma’am—I’m not attracted to you, not that much at any rate, and, uh …” Not that the ability to say that would be all that great, because who on earth could bear to listen to that without taking offense?
It appears that we guys are doomed to remain stuck in this awful middle ground, with all of the attendant guilt. And, well, that’s just how it goes: it’s part and parcel of the male experience, at least until society arrives at a point where everybody can be totally honest with everybody else without coming off like complete lunatics. The Creep Zone, which serves as a sort of purgatory for every oddball dude who pushes a bit too hard, isn’t lacking in purpose or merit.
Part of being a “good man”—however variously one defines that term—consists of coming to terms with this state of affairs. You’re going to bother girls, creep them out, leave them feeling nonplussed—and even if you’re not at fault, you need to take the high ground. Dan Savage spearheaded the much-lauded “It Gets Better” campaign, which is useful advice as far as it goes, but it’s not helpful for our present purposes: this doesn’t get better.
But that’s no reason to lose hope. While the problem itself won’t get better with the passage of time, you almost assuredly will. You’ll learn how to deal with different types of people, even people who seem to take an immediate dislike to you. You’ll figure out how to stop analyzing every awkward opposite-sex encounter you have. You’ll become comfortable in your own skin, aware that the guilt that accompanies being a man—a guilt born of the knowledge that you’re always a few seconds removed from doing or saying something idiotic—is something that can be managed, albeit with considerable effort.
If that sounds like a bit too much work—and these days, with so many labor-saving devices at our disposal, what doesn’t require too much work?—there is an alternate path that you could take. Of course, relocating permanently to Skyrim isn’t an option for everybody, at least not for guys without Xbox 360s and PS3s.