How I learned not to be a creep

It took a major crush who was also a best friend. I was “in love” with her. I can’t really tell you why I crushed on her so hard. She was beautiful, didn’t have lame conversations, laughed at my silliness. But that’s also what made her an even more important friend.

Yes, I crushed on her but being her friend was more important to me than anything.

I remember the moment that made me watch my creepiness. I guess I was sitting really close to her and she said, “OH MY GOD! YOU ARE ALWAYS SO NEAR ME!”

That was the first time I realized that I tend to get really close to people. It happens with my friends but I know it stands out more when it’s a female. In fact, I tend to lean/rub next to countertops and tables. I scraped my elbows pretty bad recently because of this. I almost got fired from a job because the boss (who loved doing coke in his office) thought I was (not sexually) pressing up against the cash register to steal something. It’s just a weird tick I have. It happens more when I’m tired. Maybe my body is just trying to prop itself up.

I am a touchy feely guy. But I’m also hyperaware of this. So I remind myself to keep my distance. I tend to walk either in front of people or behind them because if I’m walking exactly next to them, I start to bump into them because my “inner whatever” likes to be close to people I really care about.

This really stands out with girls. Especially girls that are hyperaware to how guys can be really creepy.

So I learned that I have to be aware of space. I had to learn that touch is different levels of intimate for each person. Some people you can hug right away and some have to feel very comfortable for even a one arm hug.

Can a bit of it be from my culture? Latinos are known to hug as a greeting and even exchange a kiss on the cheek as a hello from time to time. But the US culture is all about space and distance.

Then there’s the “street” culture where you hug your closest friends and even let them know you got love for them. But no kisses on the cheek there. “I got love for you but not like that!” I’m not street but I didn’t grow up in a gated community. I went to a public school. You had to learn how to interact there.

Then there’s the Texas culture of saying hello in some way to people as you are either passing each other or just standing near each other. This only happens from time to time in LA but it’s usually between people that grew up with a little street in them. It’s a nod of “We are both sharing this space and we are both not crazy”.

Walking these weird balance beams can be as tricky as an oiled obstacle course. I’ve watched a Latina friend give a solid handshake to someone she knows would take a peck on the cheek as an advance even though she considers it just a casual hello. She probably had to be hyperaware of this as she started to deal with American men who consider a kiss like that an invitation to something more intimate.

But to be a well rounded individual, I truly believe one must recognize and respect these lines. Not misinterpret them. (Age plays a decent part in this too but there’s physical age and mental age. Maybe I’ll expand on that one day. I usually explain it as the “bitter years” of a man and his love life.)

And it was because of my “best friend/crush” I learned that. It helps that I’m already a hyperaware individual. So I was open to this lesson. And I also understood that her friendship meant way more to me than anything intimate.

Now, understand that this next part is not justifying the creepiness of men. It is just an acknowledgement that men get creepy. (More than I know, to be honest. I’ve seen some of the texts guys send to my female friends.) There are men that only want to advance intimately with girls. There are men that don’t see a reason to “just be friends” with women. Are they all bad men? Not necessarily. Some of them don’t pursue anything with women unless they know they are going to end up in the bedroom. That’s a “controlled creep”. Then there’s some that take everything as an advance. That is a “fucking creep”. And in the middle, I think, are where most men live. Kind of “Sleepy creeps”. They tend to stay polite, don’t really make advancements but if you “play flirt” with them, well… you awoke the creep.

Once again, this is not placing blame on either side. (Except for you “play flirts” because you know what message you’re giving off and it’s usually for a benefit to you somehow, whether it’s just to feel like the prettiest in the room or because you actually want something in return. That’s a dangerous line to walk.)

But I will say this. Most guys didn’t have the “best friend/crush”. In fact most dudes hang with a crew of dudes. And you can’t learn how to be respectful to women if all you hang around are dudes. I know a few of you are thinking “You shouldn’t have to LEARN to be respectful to women”. You’re partly right. We have to learn how to interact with each other. To live peacefully in society, you have to learn how to not disrupt other people’s peace. You have to learn how to live in their space, especially if you are in their space.

I think men have to learn to be respectful to women by being respectful to women. I think they need to learn from being called out and understand if they feel attacked (which is not how one should feel) or if they accidentally stepped out of line (which is what one should acknowledge). I do think women have to learn to understand men. Most do. Quite a few keep all men at arm’s distance. But then there are the few that don’t acknowledge the “sleepy creeps”.

Now I know some of you are saying, “I don’t have to acknowledge shit! They should know!” A lit match doesn’t know if it’ll become a fire or not but you should still know where the fire exits are.

Does that make sense? I don’t know.

Look, if it wasn’t for that girl calling me out, I wouldn’t have checked myself. And I’m glad I was smart enough to check myself. I might be creepy from time to time. I try not to be but it happens. But thankfully it’s rare (I believe) and at least I’m watching myself all of the time. And I’m sorry if I creeped on you. I probably beat myself up plenty after I walked away.

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