Not too long ago, I had the most perplexing conversation with a Facebook friend. It began when I uploaded a photo. Nothing special, just a photo. He commented on it favourably and then sent me a private message. He had enjoyed the photo, he said. “I’m glad to hear it,” I said. We had a brief exchange about what’s new and then he got back on the topic of the photo. He really liked it.

He really liked it.

“You’re such a tease,” he said.

I’m a what? “A tease,” he repeated. I didn’t know what to think. My photo, which was really so unforgettable I can’t even recall which one it was, was not for him. It was a Facebook photo that blurred together with the hundreds of photos I upload each year. Me with coffee. My bike. My coffee. My dog. Me with my dog. Me with my dog and my coffee. Unlike my Instagram photos, my Facebook photos are not curated for presentation. They are an explosive, technicolour yawn of whatever enters my head as interesting or memorable. There is no rhyme or reason. No narrative. I see it. I snap it. I upload it.

And for this dingaling, it hit some fantasy. Gross.

Social media is the land where unsafe behaviour gets amplified. Unknown men from unknown accounts see my photo and are moved to tell me I look beautiful and they want to get to know me more. That’s wonderful AdamXXv_007 whose profile picture shows a headless man next to car. We should get together and discuss your intentions. Or maybe your photography skills. Maybe if I am particularly blessed, I will be the horrified recipient of a picture of a naked mole rat that will cause me to block you. This is not a random occurrence. This is the daily existence of a woman on social media.

But this guy is already a friend. He’s a well-established friend. We have friends in common. We have socialized. In spite of the complete lack of relationship that would give him any reason at all to believe I was interested and welcomed his advances, he assumed it was his right to assume I am a tease and then to tell me, as if it were some shared moment. Which it wasn’t. Instead, I felt like our friendship, such as it was, had been betrayed.

How absolutely appalling.

If you have read back in my blog, you know that I occasionally hit the delete button on men who have such boorish behaviour. I don’t welcome it. I don’t approve of it. It is embarrassing. Not for me, mind you. But for them, I am deeply embarrassed for them. They are clearly deficient. They clearly can’t read social cues but seem undaunted by this deficiency.

Many years ago, I think I was in university, I read an article that talked about how men and women perceived each other’s signals. Men and women in the same group encounters were asked to rate how often they were flirting versus how often they were being flirted with. Overwhelmingly, men perceived women as flirting when women were not. Even when the women rated the men as being repulsive, the men still believed she was flirting with him. I have seen various iterations of this article over the decades. The numbers change but the slant does not: he thinks she’s flirting even when she isn’t.

Let me be clear on how things stand for me. I am middle-aged and married. I have an elected position. I work in a public health authority. I represent all those categories with respect for the positions and the organizations. I am not interested in meeting strange men online. I am not being a tease to men I barely know. I’m not interested in hearing the delusions of your underdeveloped mind. If I decide to swap out this arrangement, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, please keep your inappropriate thoughts to yourself.

While you’re at it, kindly behave with some decorum. It is embarrassing.

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