I hate saying no to the people who offer to straighten my hair or wash my hands for me at mall kiosks. My bathroom drawers are literally bursting with manicure kits and flat irons that these people always convince me to buy.
I hate saying no to friends who are bored or want someone to warm the stool beside them at the bar.
& if I hate saying no to friends & sales people, I loathe rejecting men who ask me out. I think men are very brave for putting themselves out there & I'm even more impressed when men handle rejection with dignity. I've had things thrown at me and rumors spread about me by men I turned down. More than once, I thought someone was asking me out & when I started to reject them, they told me they weren't asking me out & then I felt like a vain shit person (& of course, I could have been right & they could just have been saving face but I still felt bad).
Currently, one of my law classes intersects with the graduate program such that of the 18 of us in the course, 11 are master's degree candidates from Saudi Arabia. Tuesday morning, I got into my car, turned the key, and noticed that my tire pressure light was on. My school is in what some might consider "a bad neighborhood." And while I'm not afraid of the area, I knew I'd be hard pressed to find friends who aren't afraid of the neighborhood who could help me should I realize I have a flat and it's getting dark out.
So I decided to miss my first class and go to the tire shop. I got things squared away in time for my second class, located directly across the hall from the class I missed. I also sit in the seat right in front of the doorway to the class room. While I was waiting for class to start, one of the Saudi students came out of the class I missed and saw me across the hall. He came into my class and said, "you were not in attendance in class today."
"No I wasn't. I got a flat tire."
"I also did not attend. I was too long awake last night."
& while I found it strange that I'd literally just watched him come out of the class I missed, I went along.
"Do you know what is the homework for next class?"
"No, I wasn't there today. I'm sure Professor Sutton will email the assignment...since he always does..."
"Oh...yes. Sometimes I no check my email. It not work all the time. Will you check your email and tell me what is the homework?"
Again, since I LITERALLY just watched him come out of class, I thought it was strange that he was asking ME about the homework, & especially strange that he would expect the professor to have sent us an email already. But I opened my computer & logged into my email to be polite.
"He hasn't sent us anything yet."
"Okay, we do this: my name is Akbar and I give to you my number so you can tell me what is homework for next class."
"Umm, okay sure." & Akbar gave me his number.
"Now you give to me yours so I can text you if I have homework question."
"Sure." & I gave Akbar my number so he could text me about our class. A few moments after he left, he came back into my class to tell me that professor Sutton was teaching another course in the Fall and I could register in March.
That night, I went to bed early & when I woke up, I'd missed a call from Akbar as well as three texts from him. None of the texts were about class so I didn't respond.
Wednesday was pretty ordinary and I met my friend, Chau, at a fundraiser for an aspiring district attorney.
While the attorney was giving his speech, I got a phone call. I looked and saw it was Akbar. I didn't answer because it would have been an awkward time to be on the phone but when the speeches were over, I text Akbar to see if he had questions from class.
"I want to talk with you," he said.
"Oh okay. I'm out right now & I won't be home until late."
"That's okay, take your time."
& then, about 15 minutes later he asked, "where are you?"
"I'm still out Akbar. Did you help with something?"
"No thank you."
After the fundraiser, I met up with a friend from school for Bible study. (Now you may think it's strange that someone like me would go to Bible study & you're totally right. But my friend has been inviting me for a really long time, consistently & persistently. He is one of the best people I know & I'm genuinely touched that he cares so much. So I started going because I know it means something to him & ultimately, it can only be good for me.)
While I was at Bible study, Akbar text me again. "I want to ask you some question."
I had not even done the class reading yet so I told him & asked if he could text the questions & I would text him back once I'd read.
An hour later, Akbar text me and asked if I had time to talk. He said he'd gotten a ticket that day and had some questions.
I told him he could call me and when he called, he said he got a ticket while driving on the highway for using his phone. He wanted to know what to do. I told him the instructions should be on his ticket. He said he didn't get a copy of the ticket but that it was being mailed to him. So I told him he should check with the municipal court. He asked me for the address and I told him I would text it to him when we were off the phone.
Up until this point, I thought Akbar was just very studious and concerned. But then he asked me if I like soccer or Arabic food. I said I didn't like soccer, he wanted to know why blah blah blah.
& then he said, "what weekend are you free? I take you to eat Arabic food."
I said it would be a while before I had a free weekend due to midterms & getting ready for graduation. Then Akbar asked me if I was married. When I said no, Akbar said, "oh so then you are single? I often see you wearing ring & wonder, 'is she married? Is she single? You don't wear it all times."
I told Akbar again that I am not married. I thought that he only had two choices, married or single, was maybe a cultural thing or a language barrier and disregarded it. (This is also a good time to mention that Solo & I are still a thing. After I wrote the posts about us breaking up, we decided to take a step back and work on things because we still love each other and we've already come this far. But anyway)
I somehow excused myself and ended the conversation & we got off the phone.
The next day, Thursday, Akbar & I had our mutual class. I had never even talked to Akbar before Tuesday and he usually sat clear on the opposite side of the room. Thursday when I got to class, Akbar had moved to the seat directly behind me. I thought it was super weird and when class was over, I left in a hurry. Akbar called me promptly & when I didn't answer, he sent me a text apologizing for not talking to me in class.
"I'm not sure, but I think he thinks we're dating. Or at least he's kind of acting that way," I told my office mate that afternoon. She and I were going to our next class together when Akbar called me again. Class was getting ready to start so I didn't pick up.
"You are in school now?" He text me soon after.
& then he asked me which class I was in & when I didn't respond he sent that text again...
& when I still didn't respond, he sent, "Lauren, are you in school now?"
"Yes and I can't talk right now."
"When are you out?" He asked, and when I didn't answer he said, "I want to see you."
At this point, I finally felt certain that something was not right. And actually not right instead of me just imagining that someone was hitting on me. It's because of the two or three times that I assumed someone was hitting on me that I typically ignore those feelings now and wait to see how things pan out. But now I realized: if I told Akbar up front that I wasn't interested or that I was already seeing someone, I may have risked looking like a jerk but I would have avoided the hassle and now I was going to look like a jerk anyway because now I had to reject him, via text at that.
I spent a little while thinking about how I was going to approach the situation. I told Akbar that there was a misunderstanding. That I gave him my number for class related stuff.
& he said, "I have class questions. I want to see you and get café to ask questions of my homework."
It hit me that Akbar might be tricky: that I saw him coming from class when he asked for my number; that he suspiciously did bot receive a copy of his ticket the night before; that this entire thing might just have been an elaborate excuse to get my number and that even him asking for homework help was probably just another ploy. & so, I reminded Akbar that I'm not in the master's program & so I could only help him with questions about the class we are in together & that class did not have homework.
"Okay. Do you mad when I call you anytime?"
& I told him I was because I gave him my number for school & that I have a boyfriend.
If you thought this story was about me making fun of a Saudi Arabian for smothering me, in the spirit of vanity; if you thought this post was about his poor mastery of the English language; about my "aha!" moment, or even about my incredible naïveté, you are mistaken. The real heart of this post is that, in response to my text, Akbar said,
"Ok, I see. I am sorry. I thought you did not have any friend but now I know."
& I hope that explains to you why I used Akbar's actual words--it wasn't to reduce him to a cultural stereotype but it was an important factor to this story. I have no idea whether he meant it the way he text it but the thought to me was pretty funny; he was hitting on me because he thought I was lonely.
Later, when I told this story to Solo, he joked that I really need to spend more time interacting with other people if I'm being pity stalked.
& also, if the climax of this story wasn't enough for you, know that this is a real thing. Guys are actually asking girls out in sneaky ways. It happened to me first in that date I went on after Solo & I broke up. I approached a really fit classmate about fitness tips, he invited me to gym, I said yes, then he said we should eat first because it helps with the workout, I said sure, then the day of he said we should put the gym off until the next day & just get dinner. My friend, Krusty, was invited out by a guy from her soccer team. He said the entire team was going & offered to give her a ride. He picked her up, they went to the bar, & the team was never invited. So if anything, there's that for you to take with you.