As I read Sarah Silverman’s autobiography on the beach, and digest the constant references to rape jokes that come with that endeavor, I am reminded of a story from my own life. Stay with me— this is not a story about getting raped OR a series of violent rape jokes (not really my jam, people). It’s just about a time I went on a date with a guy who is probably now a rapist. Wait, scratch that— probably STILL IS a rapist. (Covering all my bases for when this story gets fact-checked).
Years ago, my mother set me up on a date with the son of her friend’s friend’s friend’s friend. I know. This story should start and end with “My mother set me up,” because nobody, after that offer, should reply with anything other than, “Nope, no way, Mom. I love and respect you, but you’re 35 years my elder and, match-makingly speaking, have no fucking clue what you’re talking about.” But I didn’t, I said “Ok, sure” probably because I love a good story but also probably because I hate myself.
My first text exchange with this guy went as follows:
Me: “So, I hear you’re an actor.”
Him: “I am indeed. Are you in the arts as well?”
Me (a Kindergarten teacher at the time): “Yes, if cleaning up children’s play doh and their occasional loss of bladder control is ‘art.’ Which I feel like it is, because what ISN’T art these days, am I right?”
We weren’t off to a great start.
“Don’t meet this guy!” yelled the part of me that knows anything about anything, but…come on, that part of me is super boring and also kind of depressed.
So I went to Pete’s Tavern, a “classic New York institution” according to this NYC born-and-raised chap. Note: It’s a semi-decent burger place in Union Square full of old people. But points for being RIGHT off the 6 train (extra bonus: I fucking LOVE old people).
My first thought upon meeting this gentleman was “Meh, you’re not that cute.” But that was ok, because it was the dead of winter, so neither was I. (I’m only cute in May and September. Not May THROUGH September, May AND September. I have two solid months. Any other time, I’m either too pale or too sweaty. Thank you, Judaism.). So, reconciling that his so-so looks were quite appropriately matched with my own (you caught me off season, you lucky bastard), I sat down with him at the bar and we ordered a couple drinks.
“So, what’s it like being an actor?” I asked him, because I’m the most original person on the planet and he had certainly never been presented with such a thought-provoking query as this.
Him: “It’s great. I’m really enjoying this role I’m currently playing. I really connect to it.”
Me: “That’s great, what’s the role?” I asked, as if I would have heard of the role in this surely off-off-off-nope-take-one-more-turn-OFF-broadway play.
Him: “He’s a rapist.”
Me: “So…you’re a method actor, then?” I said, trying to diffuse my own discomfort and perhaps get him to chill with the I-take-myself-very-seriously slash I-might-legit-be-a-rapist vibe he was giving off.
Him: “Yes, actually. You know your stuff!”
Oh ok. I might get raped tonight.
Me: “Ok, let’s start over. Hi, I’m Emily. Are you a rapist?”
He finally laughed. In a non-rapey way. Score!
Him: “I’m obviously not a rapist.”
I considered pointing out that he should be less cavalier with his use of the word “obviously,” but I decided not to roll the piss-him-off-and-you-might-get-raped dice.
Him: “I’m just really enjoying the role because it lets me explore a side of myself I didn’t know was there.”
Me: “Like, the rape side?”
I chugged my drink.
Me: “Sorry, I’ll stop joking and let you actually talk, because I’m sure you have an explanation for being in touch with your rapist side that doesn’t actually involve you being a rapist. So, go on…”
Him: “I’m a really good guy. Just a nice jewish boy who always treats women with the utmost respect. And I do, I really respect women.”
“Cool,” I thought, as I cursed myself for not carrying pepper spray. Or a rifle. Because I just wasn’t buying it. It was something about the creepy way he said “I respect women,” that made me think he respected them less in a I-would-never-harm-you way and more in a I’ll-eat-your-body-parts-AFTER-I-kill-you-rather-than-WHILE-I-kill-you kind of way. Which, I’ll admit, has it’s own gentlemanly charm. It’s just not MY cup of tea.
He continued to explain.
Him: “So like, because of how I was raised, and because I am a moral person in general, it would never occur to me to ever harm a woman in any way, shape or form, much less RAPE one. But my character, he is, for all intents and purposes, a good guy— he just has this dark part inside of him that gets activated when he sees a young woman, alone and vulnerable, and he just can’t help himself. And ever since I started playing this character, now when I see a woman alone, like on a subway platform late at night, I think to myself ‘I would never rape this woman, but I totally SEE how someone could.’ Like, I can actually think the thoughts a rapist would be thinking in THIS moment, and I GET it, you know?”
I didn’t know. And I’m someone who knows some pretty fucked up shit. The words “Don’t worry— I don’t want to KILL myself, I just desperately want to be dead” have earnestly and sincerely come out of my mouth during a darker period of my life, so you have to be all sorts of fucked in the head to get a scare out of me. Mission accomplished, weirdo.
I just kind of stared at him.
Him: “I feel like I’ve lost you. I thought you’d get it.”
“No no no, I TOTALLY get it,” I said, because I was in my mid-twenties and had a desperate need to be liked. Even by a rapist.
“Cool,” he said. And we continued to get more drinks and talk for another hour. What did we talk about, you ask? I have no idea. My concentration was fully focused on how many witnesses I had in the room at all times. If I felt like there were less than 10 reliable ones, I excused myself to go to the bathroom and didn’t come out until I was sure the place was more packed with people who would come to my rescue when this psycho tried to knife me.
The night ended anti-climactically. He said he was going to do some traveling this month so he might be out of touch for a while, and I said no worries, which was code for “I wonder how many people you’ll rape while traveling.”
I’m not sure if there’s a lesson here (or a point, even). I’m not sure why I think there needs to be. Maybe I just don’t want you to feel like you’ve wasted your time? I hate when my time is wasted.
So, how bout, don’t date guys with a rapey vibe, especially the ones who admit to it? I feel like that’s a good, solid takeaway.
You’re welcome, moms everywhere.