Let me preface this conversation with some important information: I’ve always liked being touched. I like to be hugged, I like to have my hair braided and my back scratched. I’m just touchable, it’s how I was born.
That said, I didn’t realize how inappropriately touchy the general population of men from New England are, until I moved away. Ladies, it might surprise you, but start paying attention when you go out; you may realize that you’re getting touched a lot by strangers and you don’t even recognize it.
Let me start at the beginning. After graduating college in New Hampshire, I moved out to Wyoming…. the land of chivalrous men. I was in a totally new world. Doors were opened for me everywhere. I mean EVERYWHERE. In a bar, when a guy came up to say hello, they came to start a conversation and that’s ALL. They would introduce themselves and chat with at least a foot of distance. And in a tight space, instead of trying to squeeze by and move me in the process, they would wait patiently until there was enough room to pass without invading my person bubble. In general, these men were just pleasant people to spend time with, and I made new friends fast.
I didn’t make any of these observations at the time– I just took their behavior as the norm, an integral part of my new life in Wyoming. I felt respected and I let my guard down. I trusted that they weren’t just saying hi to cop a feel later, and I was right. Eventually, I also learned that these same guy friends would defend me from any man who would ever be too forward (a big no-no in their book). All in all, I made great friends, and we had a grand time together. It wasn’t until I moved back to Maine that I started to see the vast difference between each culture’s standards for “gentlemen.”
After a few months of going out on the town in my home state, I compiled a list in my head of all the things I missed about Wyoming (clearly, struggling from culture shock). Moreover, it was a list of all the things that DIDN’T happen to me out in a bar, spending time with friends. Here’s just a tid-bit from that list:
- A strange man did not come up to me on the dance floor and try to hump me from behind. I did not have to have an “emergency escape plan” with a nearby girlfriend, to pretend to go to the bathroom while still trying to be polite. (When I tell my guy friends out west that there are men who actually do this, they still don’t believe me.)
- No one came up and grabbed my best friend’s boob unexpectedly. Literally, not one stranger came and copped a feel without saying hello.
- No one tried to “slide by me” while grabbing my waist and moving me a foot to the side as they slid their body along my back. Thank you, but there was plenty of room for you to walk by.
- No one tried to touch my… (yeah, I’ll let you take a wild guess).
- None of my girlfriends we’re rufied by the people they took to be their friends.
Some of you may think that’s an absurd list. But unfortunately, yes, all of those things happened to me or my close friends while in New England. Those are real interactions, at respectable bars. It didn’t take me more than once of going out in Maine to realize that I didn’t want to do it any more, because I had simply gotten too used to the chivalrous alternative.
Now, I will note for anyone who’s starting to get offended, not all men from New England are like this. I know that. I know plenty of respectful, down to earth and hands-off men and they’re treasures, so I try to befriend them all. But it seems that in the 20’s age range, in certain communities, these nice guys are far outweighed by the others.
On one of my evenings out in Portland, I met an old acquaintance from high school. We caught up, and I was thoroughly impressed with his respectfulness. For over twenty minutes, he didn’t so much as lay a finger on me. Always the one to reward with praise, I told him out of the blue, “Thank you so much for being the only guy here to not touch me all evening. It’s really refreshing.”
He leaned down, clearly having not heard me, he said, “What was that?” as he put a firm grip on my waist.
“Never mind…” I said.