One night last week I was doing my thing—reading news online, occassionally checking my twitter feed—when a message pops up on IM. Honestly, I’d forgotten that my instant messaging client was up. I’d run it earlier in the day because it was a work-from-home day, and just forgot to log out of all the accounts. Anyway, the message that pops up says, “I liked what you wrote.” I didn’t recognize the name, but sometimes that’s just because I forget all the handles some of my friends use (and let’s not even get into the friends who have a habit of changing the name and user picture on their accounts all the frikkin’ time…).
So I type back, “Thanks. Which thing, specifically, did you like?”
I write a lot of things, and have them posted/published lots of places, so this seemed like a reasonable question…
“The one about love and relationships.”
That doesn’t narrow it down. I’ve written dozens and dozens of posts here, on my essay site, and at my old blogs about love and/or relationships. At least two that week alone, right? And anyone who knows me well knows this, making it unlikely this is someone I know well. So I type back, “Who is this?”
He sends me a picture. It looks like a picture taken at a friend’s wedding: A man smiling at the camera, dressed up (with a tie, even) and a flower pinned to his lapel. He looks to be about 30 and has a nicely trimmed beard. But I don’t recognize him. At all. Which is what I tell him.
He answers, “I’m Sammy.”
I know someone named Sam who is in his thirties—my ex-wife’s nephew, to be precise. And I haven’t talked to him in about 15 years, at which point he was a teenager, so I can’t be certain that the guy in the picture isn’t him. However, this nephew never, ever, let anyone call him “Sammy,” even when he was quite little, he insisted on being called Samuel.
On the other hand, there have been times over the last few decades, where someone that I’d met at a sci fi convention or through one of the several fannish publishing projects I’ve been in, or through my former involvement in chorus, who contacted me on line. I didn’t always recognize them or remember their names until we’d exchanged a few messages and they refreshed my memory. So, I type back, “Sammy who? I don’t recognize the name or the picture.”
“We haven’t met, yet,” he answered. While I was trying to decide what to say next, he added, “I’ve been reading your stuff for a while. I really like your work. Trying to work up the courage to say something.”
So I answer, “Thank you. I’m glad you like my writing. I’m hopeful to get a fantasy novel published later this year.”
He types back, “I’d love to read it when it’s published.”
So I tell him I’ll post announcements on my blogs once it’s available.
He types back, “I’d love to date you.”
I went back and re-read our previous conversation. His responses didn’t seem like a spam bot, but this was an odd turn of conversation. Before I typed anything back, he sends me another picture of himself. It’s more casual, he’s sitting on a boat or a dock, with water behind him. He’s wearing shorts and a loose-fitting shirt. It isn’t a nude or overtly sexual, which is what you would expect from a spambot trying to get you to click on a link, right? So it’s probably a real person, but still, not exactly an appropriate fan request. I type back, “I’m married. Besides, I’m a bit old for you.”
“But I like you. And you wrote about loving more than one person.”
An instant message conversation with a stranger isn’t exactly the most ideal place to talk about all the ins and outs of monogamish-ness, polyamory, and related topics. While his conversation has gone into creepy territory, he hasn’t yet been rude. So I say, “You don’t know me. You don’t know if you like me, all you know is that you like my writing. I don’t know you. I think this is a very inappropriate topic. So, no thank you.”
“I’ve seen your pictures,” he begins, and then types several sexually explicit sentences.
By this point I’m trying to figure out how to block him on this particular IM service (which I was accessing through a cross-service application). I’m not having any luck, and he’s still typing. So I type, “I said no. Please stop.” And I signed out of the service.
It took me a few minutes of poking around on the site of the service to find out how to block a particular person. I hoped that once he found out that I’d blocked him, he’d get the message.
The problem is that there are lots of ways to contact me, and since my real name is associated with most of my online accounts, (and I tend to use the same handles at many places) it isn’t difficult to find me.
So there have been emails. “This is Sammy. Sorry I offended you. I just really would like to meet you. And your husband, too, if he wants.” Others have repeated that, “But I like you!” among other things.
I told him not to email me again. Which didn’t work. I put his email into the kill-file for that address. He sent messages to other addresses, so I blocked him in all my account. So far I’ve had to block two different email addresses of his from all my email accounts.
I’m aware that women have to put up with this a lot more than guys like me, but it doesn’t make it any less creepy. Funny that this pops up while I’m working on some essays about the links between misogyny, homophobia, entitlement, date rape, and so forth.
It’s a reminder that some guys, straight and not, just don’t know what “no” means, and think they have a right to your affections just because they want you.