As California pats itself on the back for being progressive and plans its secession, I want to tell you about Election Day in San Francisco. I wake up and put on a pantsuit passed down to me by one of the most resilient women I know. I vote.
After lunch, I sit in a park to read. A man walks by, sits down nearby. I have been trying, like my idols suggest, to be compassionate and kind, so I smile at him. He asks about the book I am reading, is soon telling me about his girlfriend, is soon telling me I am his girlfriend, is soon calling me honey. I say nothing in response to this last one, keep reading. He informs me he isn’t done talking to me. I tell him I am busy. He redirects his attention to a woman walking in front of us, pulls something out of his pocket.
“Honey,” he calls. “You dropped this.” He walks after her.
Hours later, I am waiting at the bus stop outside a red, white and blue City Hall. A man asks about the book I am carrying, is soon telling me I look familiar, is soon telling me the back of my outfit is sexy. I say thanks. The bus arrives. I sit as far from him as possible.
I fume as I watch the election results from my couch, more so as my male roommate finds them funny. I message a friend in exasperation. “Come drink,” he says. This friend has been vocally supportive of my writing. We share ideas for stories, stories about dates we go on. “I just have a lot of friends who are girls,” he told me days before when talking about his most recent date. “Like you and I are friends.”
I meet him and two of his girl friends out. No one is particularly happy. At the end of the night, he says his phone is almost dead and suggests we split an Uber to each go home. Outside his house, he pauses. “Have you seen my new place yet?” he asks. “You should come up.” When I decline, he just sits in the car. I ask him if he’s going to get out. I ask him again. And again.
Afterwards, the driver recommends I start wearing a fake wedding ring, for protection.
About a year ago, I had lunch with an ex-boyfriend, told him about an upcoming meeting I was excited about. A Forbes journalist had been impressed with my writing and agreed to connect me with a friend for some freelance work. “He probably just wants to fuck you,” my ex told me matter-of-factly.
I would be lying if I told you that sentiment doesn’t haunt most interactions I have with men, cast a shadow on professional success, add skepticism to friendships. I am always treading carefully, am consistently disappointed.
Each time, my distrust deepens.
In her book “Sex Object,” Jessica Valenti writes: “The individual experiences are easy enough to name, but their cumulative impact feels slippery.” I underline the words a few hours after Hillary’s concession speech. Write beside them: “NOT ANYMORE.”
Alyssa Oursler is a freelance writer based in San Francisco.