Thoughts on Dan Bacon, and other pork chops

9/02/2016 05:50:00 pm

Have you read about global man-about-town Dan Bacon*? And his series guiding men with no clue re how to talk to women**?? I'm a bit embarrassed because when I read "How to talk to a woman wearing headphones" I wasn't outraged.... mainly because it's so creepy and objectionable that I truly believed it was satire, and thus thought it was quite funny. Turns out, not satire. Joke's on me.

*I won't link to him because that would give his website more traffic, and I philosophically object to doing that now that I've realised he's not joking. 
** You might know the series by its other name, "How to be an offensively pushy man who doesn't understand that women aren't obligated to talk to you, and if your target resolutely rejects your advances (which, you know, she should be so lucky) she's just a miserable bitch who hates men and you should follow her home and set fire to her mailbox so she knows just what she's missing out on."

Just keep on walking buddy. 

I remember a very uncomfortable encounter with a moderately unhinged Dan Bacon type, many years ago, that unfolded in that den of debauched behaviour: the Randwick Library. It started in the borrowing line, when he turned around and asked what I was reading. Since I had the books in my hand I would have thought it was fairly obvious. About 10 minutes later, after some faffing with an overdue book, I left the library and he popped up behind me. To give you the mise en scène, the Randwick Library is upstairs in an urban shopping mall, tucked around a dark corner with only some post office boxes for company. It's not the kind of corner where you just hang out.

Anyway, I went out the door those 10 minutes later and even though he'd been in front of me in the line, there he was. Unprompted he fell in step with me as I continued down the rarely-used back stairs of the mall and out on to the street. At any moment, I thought, he's going to peel off to the bus stop or into another shop on the busy main street of Randwick. But he did not peel, rather, he was quite stuck.

Halfway down Belmore Road, almost the whole way down Belmore Road, he matched me step for step. He was making me quite uncomfortable as he hovered just behind my elbow and I mumbled back one word responses to his questions. Thinking back, I'm also quite sure that I had earphones in and he gestured at me to take them out! Was this guy Dan Bacon??

At the time I lived about 20 minutes walk from the main drag, a walk which included a very narrow and rather isolated section of path running between 2 buildings (formerly the tram track) where it wasn't possible to walk two abreast. You know, the kind of place where even though there happenings all around, you feel quite alone. He followed me right to the front of my building.

By then, I was getting kind of desperate because I didn't want him to see which number I lived in, but at the same time I didn't want some kind of nasty confrontation - there was no one else visibly around (although there were probably lots of people at home in my complex, which was where they accommodated the foreign exchange students and two lone Australians hailing from country towns) and he was right up in my personal space - and I just didn't know how I was going to shake him off before he followed me right down the garden path to my front door.

"Ok, well, I have to go now," I said, or words to that effect.
"Let's get a coffee one day," he said.
Laughing nervously I said, "Oh, no...sorry, I don't think I can."
And then he got pissed. "Why NOT?"
"Well, I don't have coffee with people who I just met in the street..."
I mumbled the old, "My boyfriend [imaginary] wouldn't like that" and fled, heart pounding, and checked behind me So Many Times to make sure he wasn't in pursuit.

I don't know how exactly one makes friends, but surely it isn't by following them home from the library like a f^cking Dan Bacon creeper.

I saw that guy a few more times on Belmore Road, and each time I nipped inside a shop to avoid crossing his path. And I was annoyed at MYSELF for not being gutsy enough to tell him where to go.


Some 10 years later, I wouldn't call myself particularly street savvy, and I'm not tough, but in general I am in control of my surroundings. But in Avignon recently (the location is important, I'm not just name dropping foreign travel) I had another one of these interactions, and again, in the aftermath I was annoyed at myself for what I perceived as my own stupidity. I felt like a fool, and that in turn made me embarrassed as though I had somehow put myself in a dicey situation or acted the wrong way.

What did I do? I crossed a busy street in broad daylight. I know.... I was asking for it.

Here's what happened:
  1. At a busy crossing near the station I became separated from my travel companion (Jenny, the mother) when I crossed and she didn't (mainly because, in the Australian manner, I mistakenly looked to the left and then danced nimbly through on-coming traffic). 
  2. It was the middle of the day, and there were lots of people around, but in an instant I was alone. A man on the other side, noticing that I was isolated (or so he thought) began to attempt to engage me in conversation, at first in French and then when I didn't respond, in English. 
  3. Unsure of what he was saying, I tried to ignore him at first, but he was very insistent and, not wanting to be rude, I was forced to start talking with him. I was short in my responses, and didn't make eye contact, but he also began to make physical contact with me... a high five when I said I was Australian, and a hand on the arm when he asked how long I was in Avignon for. 
  4. His line of questioning confirmed my initial instinct, which was that I did not want to talk to him: where are you from, how long are you here for, are you by yourself etc. He started a laughing shouting conversation with a group of guys stopped in a car at the crossing, with a lot of gesturing towards me. 
  5. The lights on the crossing changed, just as I was saying, "I am leaving now with my mother", another person, a girl with long dreads and hemp clothing, came to my left side (the guy was on the right) and also touched my arm and said, "Hey, what are you doing? You're coming with me right?" And I thought, well this is f&cking great, another freak is accosting me and I'm about to get my wallet lifted. 
  6. Noticing that Jenny had made it across the road, I said again, "I'm leaving, with my mother". The girl, letting go of my arm at that point, said to me, "You need to be careful of the guys around here."
  7. We went on our way.
I don't know, maybe it doesn't sound like much, but it was decidedly unpleasant. All of it.

First up, I am so annoyed at myself for my initial reaction to the girl who had come to my side. In the flurry of the moment I completely misjudged her intentions and got confused, thinking at first that she was going to mug me, and then secondly that somehow that she was working with the guy. It had sort of clicked into place by the end of the interaction that she was trying to help me out, but I was short and dismissive with her, as I had been with the guy, partly because the whole situation was so bewildering. But my suspicion towards her was because of the way she looked, and that realisation is pretty lowering.

Jenny mentioned that the girl had actually doubled-back as she had crossed the road, and turned around to come back to where I was standing. Were the same three minutes replayed, I wish that I could have changed my response to that girl: a stranger who noticed someone potentially out of their depth, and whose own instinct was to do something about it.

My prejudice aside, why the f*ck do men think that it's ok to act like this? This creep accosted me in broad daylight and persisted when I clearly did not want to engage with him in any way. My failure to respond to his questions, my monosyllabic responses when he would not leave me alone, my closed-off body language... none of this was enough to stop him from invading my personal space and forcing a weird and uncomfortable interaction.

Women do not act like this. Or at least if they do, it's the exception and not the rule.

That I was in a foreign country, the language of which I do not speak, made it doubly difficult because it is really, really hard to pick up on social cues when you are an outsider. This writer describes it so well: "I don’t know the subtle cultural cues, [and] I can’t call my best friend to come pick me up if things go awry." Had this played out at a set of lights in Sydney I'd like to believe that it would have been completely different because I would have known what the guy was saying, better enabling me to ignore him, and I would have had a better grasp of the ebbs and flows of what was happening around me, thus I would probably have avoided the scenario altogether. Plus, if push came to shove in my homeland, I would feel more able to look the guy in the face and tell him to get f#cked, in my native language no less.
Avignon: not in a rush to return...
Had this been another world entirely, where the likes of Dan Bacon don't exist, it wouldn't have happened at all. None of this would. Because in an ideal world, women aren't responsible for deflecting the unwanted attention of men; we're free to borrow Irish chick lit from the library unimpeded, we can cross the road without being pestered or worse, and we can leave our headphones in whenever we damn well please.

And before you leap to the defence of the poor, misguided Dan Bacon who followed me home and only wanted to make friends, that bastard didn't even offer to carry the library books for me.

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