(I actually wrote this several years ago, but it holds up)
The guy wearing the puka shell necklace flirted with me in the study hall on my college campus. Puka shells were a little out of date by 1983, but I found it amusing that he was wearing them, I’ve always been partial to dorks. We had one moderately fun date, and I planned to get in touch with him before too long.
“Thanks for the evening, I’ll give you a call,” I said.
I fully intended to phone him. We had a few things in common, he had a nice smile, there may have been more layers underneath. But I wasn’t certain, I needed a little time.
He didn’t give it to me.
He dropped by. Daily. Apparently my apartment was on his way home from campus. He showed up with candy, a card, or just to say hello. He appeared while my roommate was fitting me in a bridesmaid dress, gushing at my beauty as I stood there on a stool in the kitchen of my college apartment. He meant well, he meant to show me his interest, but it was creepy and I didn’t want him there. Each time he visited I said, “Nice to see you, I’ll call you soon,” hoping he’d give me a little more breathing room so I could determine if this was a relationship I wanted to pursue. I was polite, I was kind, I smiled sweetly. Occasionally I hid in my room while my roommate answered the door.
One afternoon he came by with flowers. I should have been flattered, but this man had continued to appear at my door, unannounced and uninvited, for two weeks, not receiving my subtle attempts to maintain my psychic space. I’d had it. I gave the flowers back to him and told him clearly and firmly no thank you, and that he needed to leave me alone. Perhaps I overreacted, but clearly he hadn’t understood me before.
He was, of course, crushed. I received an angry phone call from him a day later, describing how his roommate wanted to come over and give me a piece of her mind. I imagined him relating his side of the story to her, how he’d been nothing but attentive and I had rudely rejected him.
Hadn’t he heard me? Had I not spoken loudly or directly enough? I had tried to be gentle, to not hurt his feelings, but in a narrow space of time, he had smothered me with his attentions and adoration in a way that made me feel claustrophobic and unsafe. I have never been one to be owned, and I wasn’t planning on getting near anyone even remotely controlling. I’ve felt guilty for 20 years, but ultimately, my feelings of security were more important than kindness.
He would not stay at arm’s length. So I pushed. Sorry, puka shell guy.