I’m not a huge fan of Valentine’s Day.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m ridiculously romantic and am quite keen on showering love and affection upon those I love – especially if there’s a particularly special someone.
Personally I don’t think that this should be focused on one day a year but should instead be a rather persistent state of any given relationship – but that’s not the point of this post.
No, this post is about what happens when a well-intentioned but socially inept individual steps forward … and puts his foot directly into his mouth.
It began in late January when I got a friend request on Facebook from a fellow named … well … let’s call him Jon. His face looked familiar, but a quick scan of his profile and the fact that the three friends we had in common were not really close friends of mine led me to leave his request in the digital holding pattern of my friend request folder.
Fast forward to February 13. I’m at the SF New Tech Meet-up taking place at Mighty.
As I stood in deep conversation with some entrepreneurs, out of the corner of my eye I could see someone circling our group. I’m not one to break eye contact during a conversation, so I let it go.
A few minutes later, I stood at the bar waiting for a drink and catching up on some text messages. I felt someone standing next to me and looked up. It was the fellow who’d been circling my conversation.
“Hi,” he said. “You look familiar have we met before?”
His face seemed familiar to me too, but I couldn’t place it.
“No… I don’t think so,” I replied. “But you do look familiar.”
We did the requisite card exchange and I saw his name … Jon XXX.
Then I remembered.
He was the same fellow who’d sent me a friend request on Facebook a couple of weeks prior.
I mentioned this and commented that I’d not accepted the request because I couldn’t place where we’d met. We chatted a bit and then the presentations began, so I excused myself to go watch.
Fast forward another 30 minutes and I’m back at the bar awaiting a fresh club soda and handling yet more text messages. Again the sensation of someone standing next to me.
I look up.
It’s Jon XXX.
“Hi again,” he said. “Enjoying the presentations?”
“Yes,” I replied. And went back to the message to which I was responding. That probably wasn’t very polite of me, but frankly I wasn’t all that interested in talking with him. And on top of it, I had someone needing an answer right away.
As I continued typing, I realized he was still standing there, so I looked up again.
“May I ask you a non-business related question?” he asked.
“Well … what are you doing for Valentine’s Day?”
It seemed an odd question, and I wasn’t sure how to reply so I just looked at him quizzically. Then he continued, “How about having dinner with me?”
Okay now you might say, WOW, that guy has courage, and how nice of him.
But to be perfectly honest I found it strange at best and creepy at worst. I mean, perhaps I should be flattered, but something about the whole thing gave me the heebie jeebies. Both because he so clearly lacked any sort of reasonable social aptitude to realize that this was weird and because between the Facebook request, the circling early in the evening and the two bar appearances, I felt stalked.
But then I started thinking about it. Was this just me? I mean … I am, after all, a lesbian and so just not interested in dating men. If I were straight would I actually find this flattering?
Not having the right data set to make this analysis, I looked for some of my female friends at the event, and took an informal straw poll.
Response was overwhelmingly in favor of my initial reaction.
So what of this social ineptitude? And, more to the point, when someone errs on the side of improper behavior would it have been more appropriate to let him know that it was an out-of-line thing (in a kind, gentle way, of course), or do you just let someone continue their way through the social jungle without the proper tools for survival?