I discovered headphones when I was in university.
A friend in my program joked that iPods were the way to stay "antisocial in style". Aside from being hilarious to me, this adage offered a solution to a problem I had dealt with for the better part of a decade; people talking to me. It was like someone had handed me the holy grail of ignoring unwanted attention without directly having to be an asshole. All I needed to do was drown out all of the audio accompaniment to my route with my favourite tunes.
After moving to Toronto, this became a habit. I would plug in the headphones if I was bombing across Queen Street or going to the corner store. Friends and co-workers would usually laugh at me, but I always said the same thing when they asked me why I insisted on them; "It's in case someone tries to talk to me."
Dan Bacon's How to Talk to a Woman Wearing Headphones invaded my Facebook newsfeed a few times in the past couple of days. A friend, who was aware of my headphone fanaticism, left it on my timeline with the caption, "I'm just going to leave this here." My initial thought was to laugh, but after a while, the pang of an old panic came to me.
Before I continue ranting, you might want to check out some of Dan Bacon's work for yourself via his page at The Modern Man or on Twitter (spoiler alert: Freud would say that he is ruined by his ex-girlfriend and pretty much obsessed with the prospect of how to get her back).
Although not as evil as some of the other PUA gurus out there, Bacon is the same tired tune played over the same tired jukebox that should have been trashed sometime in the late 1970s. The subliminal message of the lyrics tell men three things over and over again: 1) All women crave attention, 2) All women are fair game, and 3) "No" does not always mean "no".
Despite retaining my "anti social in style" persona, I've been interrupted more times than I can count by men telling me to take off my headphones so that they can talk to me.
Despite retaining my "anti social in style" persona, I've been interrupted more times than I can count by men telling me to take off my headphones so that they can talk to me. There have been times when they have literally jumped in front of me and blocked my path so that we could just "have a conversation" (and it's always the same one). The whole interaction is not just annoying; it often borders on invasive.
I know that there are a lot of men shaking their heads out there and calling me a "Feminazi" for ripping on their precious PUA tactics. Fair enough, gentlemen, but please allow me to explain why.
I have been in situations where men have called me names, spit on me, tell me in graphic detail what they want to do to me sexually, and made comments about my body at every time of the day. I have had men follow me through subway stations, try to kiss me without my permission, and grope me in public places. It was so painfully obvious that I wanted them to go away that I have had strangers intervene. Being a very petite woman with no karate skills has not helped me to fend off repulsive remarks.
I have had men follow me through subway stations, try to kiss me without my permission, and grope me in public places.
And then I discovered headphones.
The headphones act as a barrier. I look less available and less susceptible. My headphones serve as antennae that receive only the frequencies that I choose, picking up only the things that make me feel good about travelling from point a to point b. They're a warning light to the rest of the world, a signal to say that this entrance is off-limits to the public, so that I can move about the city as I please. They tell you that I don't want to be bothered not because I hate you, but because I WANT TO FEEL SAFE.
It's something that you really can't understand unless you are a woman. A man twice your size approaching you with sex on his mind and a "no sometimes means yes" mentality is ABSOLUTELY TERRIFYING. That's what a lot of PUAs and their followers don't understand. It's not about craving attention or being flattered, or even about being a stuck-up bitch. More often than not, it's about feeling like you're going to be OK.
The subliminal messages of the PUA mentality are exactly why I keep my headphones in. Every time I get stopped, it creates more of a barrier than the headphones initially were (and fair warning, I'm not as nice as I used to be when interrupted). The whole design created by people like Dan Bacon are more counter-intuitive than productive. At the end of it all, it just makes the men who stop us look bad at the very least, and look sinister at the very worst.
You are not going to learn a wealth of information on what women like or look for from a man...If you want to know the best way to talk to women, go to the source.
I get that there are a lot of men out there who find it frustrating to meet women, and this rant isn't for all of them. There are some genuinely nice guys out there who are so terrified of talking to women that they don't know where to turn to. It can't be easy to work up the confidence to talk to a pretty girl, but like all things, there's a time and place for it. Bars, online dating, social gatherings, parties, and meet-ups are all venues where women are more receptive to being hit on. But when it comes to seeing girls on the street, please do us all a favour and leave us to our headphones in. I can tell you that tip for free.
And one more piece of advice for the men out there who are taking a page from the book of PUAs like Mr. Bacon; JUST STOP. Trust me, you are not going to learn a wealth of information on what women like or look for from a man. It's like asking a Norwegian guy to make you the greatest Burrito you have ever tasted. If you want to know the best way to talk to women, go to the source. Talk to your female friends and family members. They'll be better teachers.
I look forward to the day when I can tell my daughter what PUAs were. It will be a cute anecdote about my youth that she can laugh about as she walks into the world, headphone free.
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