The Worst Thing a Woman Can Call a Man

E_____ and I stood outside a movie theater waiting for a guy to text her directions to his apartment. She was paying him back for stiffing him out of a $5 cab fare after he called her a cunt; I was accompanying in bodyguard capacity, because while I’m not physically threatening I can glower and act crazy. His verbal aggression was more likely a defense mechanism than misogyny looking to turn physical, but for some reason she was equally worried about the damage he could do to her reputation among mutual friends (she’d gotten drunk at a party and yelled at him for being a prick). Should he decide to get nasty, she wasn’t sure what verbal recourse she’d have, but I didn’t think it would be a problem. After all, she had the biggest weapon women have against reasonably self-aware men — the word that makes us stay up at night.

“E_____,” I started, “Even if he shit-talks you, you have the upper hand. Because you know girls, and because you can lay the worst thing on him that a guy can be called.”

“What’s that?” she asked.

“You can call him creepy.”

Let me explain.

Without a doubt, creepy is the worst casual insult that can be tossed at a guy. A guy can publicly scoff at something you say and be a “douchebag;” sleep with your best friend, never call her back and become an “asshole;” cry while listening to Neutral Milk Hotel and forever be a “pussy.” But creepy is not that simple. It doesn’t relate to someone’s appearance, actions, or behavior. More accurately, creepy is a vibe. You can’t define it — you just know it. It’s when a guy looks at a girl for a little too long, when he friends her on Facebook a little too quickly, when he doesn’t understand that no actually means no, not “Try harder.” It’s a tag that isn’t easily dispelled — after all, what are you supposed to say? “I’m not creepy! I’m NORMAL! I say normal things and act like a human being!”

Creepiness is inextricably linked to sexual intent, casting you in the same light as someone who refers to his list of hook-ups as his “A-Team,” or someone who flashes his dick on the subway. And while there are plenty of dudes out there who come on way too strong in the Quest to Hook Up — duh! — a lot of them (us?) are simply naïve and overeager. Wanting to watch a movie isn’t always a disguised attempt to put things in you, but sometimes an attempt to, you know, watch a movie. When that attempt at friendship is misconstrued as an attempt at fucking, it’s accusing us of an intention that we never really meant in the first place. It calls everything into doubt. “Is it weird to want to be friends? Is it strange that I like her personality and think we could hang out? Should I ever approach women again? Should I ever do a thing?”

Ironically, the last time I got called creepy it was because I was hitting on someone, but hear me out. I’d met this girl at a party and we’d spent spent most of the night talking, drinking, commiserating, etc., and at one point she’d looked me in the eye and literally said “I like you.” Then she asked me to walk her home to her apartment 20 minutes away. I’m not bright, but I’m not blind. We left the party and walked to her apartment, where this exchange occurred.

Her: “So, I think I’m just gonna go upstairs and go to sleep.”

Me: “Uh… really?”

Her: “Yeah, I think I’m tired.”

Me: “Are you sure?”

Her: “Well, what did you expect?”

Me: “I don’t know, I thought maybe you were thinking of inviting me in?”

Her: “That’s weird. It’s kind of creepy of you to think something was going to happen just because we left together.”

Readers, this blew my mind. I gaped like a fish, stared at her for a few minutes while muttering an apology and a platitude about how nice it was to meet her, then stumbled to the train in a daze like a soldier coming out of the jungle. Where the fuck am I? Did I make it? How? The train ride home was a very long 30 minutes.

In retrospect, my reaction was the creepy thing. The appropriate response would’ve been, “Well, that’s unfortunate and I’m sorry if I made you feel weird. Good night!” Or simply, “Pfff, you are drunk and fuck you. Good night!” Then I would’ve gone home and played Madden for like three hours. Instead, I ran this dumb scenario in my head for two weeks and after coming to an internal resolution, willed the girl’s face and name out of my memory. When I think about her, a thousand butterflies and rose petals cloud my memory like a music video being censored (specifically, “This Love” by Maroon 5).

What I wanted my friend E_____ to understand was that, for guys, being called creepy is worse than being called an asshole. Assholes are kind of charming, as Kanye West has famously expounded upon. They have pathos. Creepy guys are not and do not. And this guy — the $5/cunt guy — he was genuinely being a creep! He’d told her that he didn’t want to collaborate on a project because he was attracted to her and didn’t want to waste time laughing at her crummy ideas while slowly trying to convince her to touch his penis. (Consensually, of course.) This wasn’t even some theoretical creeping, seen with an overreacting eye — it was legitimate, words-you-don’t-say-out-loud-to-a-human-being type shit. AND he’d called her a cunt? Please. She could ruin him much more than he could ruin her. It was almost unfair — no one woman should have all that power, right?

She was convinced she wasn’t about to get punched, so we rang the doorbell and waited for him to appear. When he came down, she immediately said (after apologizing), “I brought Jeremy as a bodyguard so you couldn’t knife me” so matter-of-factly that I blanched inwardly. It was cold-blooded, and he reacted with complete immobility. But 20 minutes after we left, he texted another apology and invited her to get a drink sometime. Was he genuinely sorry, or was the implication of creepiness too much to handle? She didn’t respond, and we went to go watch the Celtics game.

Related: What’s the Worst Thing a Man Believes He Can Call a Woman?

Jeremy Paul Gordon is a professional intern who misses Chicago very much. He just discovered Blu-Ray and now thinks DVDs are for poor people.

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