Running for Attention
At 19 I was jogging around a high profile park in Fox Hills, California, a small upwardly mobile suburb of Los Angeles. It was a very hot sunny day and I decided to run shirtless to both feel more of what little breeze might be available as well as perhaps court some attention from the preponderance of beautiful women that also could be found jogging around the park on any given day.
As I finished my run I had to reconcile myself to the fact that none of the beautiful women that I saw that day appeared to have noticed me, or definitely didn’t make it obvious to me. Catching my breath as I was walking back to my apartment I noticed a car pulling close to the curb and slowing down. Since this was occurring in L.A. I really paid close attention to the car because I had no interest in being a statistic or victim of a drive by shooting. After just a few seconds the car pulled off and I continued heading home. Within just a couple of minutes that very same car returned, slowing down again as it pulled close to the curb. This time though, the window dropped and a young man in somewhat of a hushed voice said to me “Would you like a ride?” For a split second I was prepared to say simply “no thanks” and keep walking. Then it donned on me that I was dripping in sweat and half naked. Why would anyone offer me a ride? At that point, I became angry and lashed out at the driver of the car with venom I didn’t know I had in me. You will have to use some of your imagination to get inside of the profanity laced tirade I leveled at him as a result of his proposition. I said “No, #$%^&, I don’t want a #$%^&*ride. Take your #$%^&* [mule] away from here before I kick your #$%^& [mule].”
As he pulled off, totally caught off guard by my extreme reaction to his simple invitation I was so physically angry I could feel the tension in my body. I felt it so much that it made me ask myself the question that began my epiphany. Why was I so upset? First, why did I believe that he was flirting with me? Secondly, I was looking for attention that day, and had gotten it. So, assuming he might have found me attractive, was that a good enough reason for me to threaten him with bodily harm? If it had been one of the beautiful women offering me a ride that were running around the park just moments before I would have jumped in that car with no hesitation. So who was I kidding? I had just taken my first psychology course and experienced my first introduction to Sigmund Freud. What would Freud have said about me, in some larger context? There was no way I could distance myself from my homophobia in that moment when I look back on the experience.
In less than five minutes I experienced pride, confusion, anger, introspection, shame, and pride all over again. Without getting too detailed, the final sense of pride I felt was in realizing that a compliment is a compliment and no one, and I truly mean no one, deserves to be treated rudely simply because they said something to you that you may have preferred not to hear, but that was genuinely meant as a compliment.
My response to him is something that I wished I could take back, but on another level, I value it as the first step to my becoming more enlightened about the differences in the ways we treat one another and some of the intriguing ways we respond to one another. For example, would a woman jogging around a park, looking for attention from men, have reacted that way to another woman’s proposition to her for a ride? I know I am speaking in generalities, but would the average woman get as hostile in her response? Why are men’s egos so threatened when their masculinity is challenged or questioned? What do you think your reaction would have been to a similar situation? What are your thoughts?