Books and Baked Goods 9

Your baked good for this week is this  Smitten Kitchen’s plum cake, for maximum convenience suggested well after all the plums have vanished from the greengrocer’s. I tried to make this cake in a toaster over, which, I was promised, worked as well as or better than what I was used to. In point of fact the oven burned the top and failed to cook the rest, so I ended up scraping the burnt crust off and cooking it for ten more minutes before serving it with ice cream as plum pudding. It was surprisingly scrumptious.

Moral of the story: when everything goes wrong, serve it as a pudding.

Chapters 60 to 69! Previous installments here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. Explanation of this ghastly drawn out Bataan death march of a book club, here.

Will is finding a little more about his family, and the plot thickens.

“[Bulstrode] was simply a man whose desires had been stronger than his theoretic beliefs, and who had gradually explained the gratifaction of his desires into satisfactory arrangement with those beliefs.”


Bulstrode’s sanctification of profit scheme does not hold up very well to the light. He and his constant terror of exposure are so pitable.

Arghh. Will and Dorothea talking past each other is driving me insane. Lesson learned, folks: if you think it’s one hundred percent certain that the object of your affections must grok the hints and allusions you are dropping….they probably don’t.

Why won’t Lydgate let Farebrother help him? But his pride can’t hold long with the vise of debt squeezing him. The thread of debt runs all through the novel–Fred’s debts, his reliance on the death of a patron to absolve him; Lydgate’s debts, and the degradation in which they immerse him; Caleb’s disinclination to be in Bulstrode’s “debt” by accepting his patronage; even Dorothea’s relation to Will is colored by what she feels she owes him and cannot render him.

“The poor thing saw only that the world was not to her liking, and that Lydgate was the world.”

Rosamund sees herself, and the world, not herself among selves. Her narcissism seems to totally lack a theory of mind.

The idea of letting her house to the man she rejected must be terribly painful for her, coinciding with the loss of Will Ladislaw’s attentions.

Lydgate can only go lower than his original picture of a passive adoring spouse, not higher. Still, his continued love for Rosamund, and more than that, his fervent desire that he might continue to love her, is deeply touching

“In marriage, the certainty, “She will never love me more,” is easier to bear than the fear “I shall love her no more.”

This is true, and not just for marriage, I think. What terrifies me about my sin is not that God will stop loving me, but that I will lose my ability to love God.

This is also why Rosamund is more pitiable than Lydgate.

The alienation of their marriage  is so painful to watch–and Lydgate, with his many real excellencies, could have had a marriage of so much tenderness, respect, and mutual support had he treated the character of a wife more seriously. And instead he ends up sobbing with her while their furniture is sold, a togetherness without unity or intimacy.

Re Fred stopping Lydgate’s gambling, it strikes me how much important action of the novel takes place in public space.

And, as usual, Farebrother is being a hero to Fred. What else is new?

Speaking of news, Raffles has returned, sick and delirious. Uh oh. Is it all over for Bulstrode? Will Bulstrode murder Raffles? Tune in for chapters 70-79 to find out!

I’ll end with this quote.

He had never liked the makeshifts of poverty and they had never before entered into his prospects for himself, but he was beginning now to imagine how two creatures who loved each other and had a stock of thoughts in common might laugh over their shabby furniture and their calculations how far they could afford butter and eggs.

Unrelated: IT’S MY BIRTHDAY. Consider this my birthday present to you, after the manner of hobbits.

Poem of the Day 7

The Gentleman of Shalott

Which eye’s his eye?

Which limb lies

next the mirror?

For neither is clearer

nor a different color

than the other,

nor meets a stranger

in this arrangement

of leg and leg and

arm and so on.

To his mind

it’s the indication

of a mirrored reflection

somewhere along the line

of what we call the spine.


He felt in modesty

his person was

half looking-glass,

for why should he be doubted?

The glass must stretch

down his middle,

or rather down the edge.

But he’sin doubt

as to which side’s in or out

of the mirror.

There’s little margin for error,

but there’s no proof, either.

And if half his head’s reflected,

thought, he thinks, might be affected.


But he’s resigned

to such economical design.

If the glass slips

he’s in a fix–

only one leg, etc. But

while it stays put he can walk and run

and his hands can clasp one

another. The uncertainty

he says he

finds exhilarating. He loves

that sense of constant re-adjustment.

He wishes to be quoted as saying at present:

“Half is enough.”


Elizabeth Bishop


Dear Phrontis: A Taxonomy of Spinsters

Dear Phrontis is our advice column, featuring the questions we imagine people would put to us were anyone batshit crazy enough to write us for advice. The questions may or may not be made up or entirely drawn from our own personal lives, and the answers may or may not be safe to apply to your own. Previously, and previously.

Dear Phrontis,

So, I’m a single guy living in a big city where it’s hard to get to know people. The other day I noticed a cat stuck in the fence. Turns out it belonged the woman who lives in the apartment just below me. When I brought it home, she invited me in and we chatted for a while. She’s really pretty and nice, and I think there was a spark there. Thing is, I have very decided tastes, aesthetics, and lifestyle preferences, and I dream of a girl who not only shares them, but to an extent embodies them. Any way to figure out if this is even worth trying before I go and get myself entangled with my neighbor?

Searching for Soulmate in San Francisco

Dear Searching,

In times past, a discreet glance was enough to ascertain a lady’s station in life. Did she travel by post, or in the barouche box? Were her hands roughened by coarsening labor, or soft and innocent as the feminine mind? How much embroidery had her reticule? [Ed. Note: We think Phrontis may be making this one up.]

Feminism, of course, set out to destroy these simple methods. Not content with turning all red-blooded American males into puling, flaccid, beta-males, the feminist flood of sharp-elbowed women into places and positions formerly reserved for men has hopelessly muddled the time-tested systems for ascertaining whether she’s the marrying sort or just some tart.

Luckily, the pernicious project has enjoyed far from universal success. You may still discover, with minimum effort, whether the apple of your eye is a young lady of genteel breeding, or the kind of hussy who unabashedly watches Jersey Shore

You mention that this siren owns a cat. Here, for your guidance and edification, is Phrontis’ Guide To Cat Names and The Ladies Who Bestow them.


The Snowball/Misty/Fluffy coterie is the baseline, the default, the 99 percent. She might be just as agreeable to you had she cats named Snowball to fill all of Cheapside, but I would advise you to proceed with caution. You will gain very little cultural status by such an alliance.

Cleo/Sam/other human name.

Perfectly respectable, take-or-leave. This is the great middle class of feline nomenclature.

Prunesquallor/Martin Chuzzlewit/Other name drawn from Victorian or Gothic literature.

This young lady’s tastes are of the over-refined sort that once would have befitted a governess; now, they grace students of English literature or aspiring arts and culture journalists. Like their governess ancestresses, these ladies forsee a long spinsterhood. It would probably not be gentlemanlike to contradict them.

Emily Dickinson/Elizabeth Bennet

A New York third wave feminist, college educated, single and pretending to be happy about it, overscheduled, undersexed, buys any magazine that says “healthy body image” on the cover. Every two years she takes up knitting for a week.


Although she seems secure enough in her classical superiority to descend to terrible puns (much like those millionaires’ daughters who wear nothing but athletic leggings and expensive riding boots), this young woman will do you no favors. Her jokes will be terrible. More importantly, her references may stray far outside the decorous limit of quirky pop culture and New Yorker approved novels established by that guiding lodestar of feminine excellence, Gilmore Girls.

Mrs. Norris

You are mooning after Argus Filch or someone who obsessively read/reads Harry Potter. The second category is, alas, far too universal to base useful caste deductions on.


If you want your firstborn daughter to struggle under the burden of a name like Tinuviel, not only on the playground, but her entire adult life, be my guest.


This woman may style herself after Holly Golightly, in which case she is probably in high school and you are a creepy predator. Or she may just consider herself above all this nonsense, under which heading I can assure you that you and your delicate sensibilities will fall.


This young person fancies herself a witch,  an avocation with the kind of cultural cachet that will increasingly diminish as you approach middle age together. One must not be short-sighted; seances in Bushwick are all very well, but can she charm a PTA meeting?


This woman actually is a witch, and if jilted will turn you into a toad.


If her cat is named Tybalt, she’s your landed gentry.  Conscientious about imbuing even the smallest details of daily life with a picturesque sophistication, she respects the taste consensus too much to ever deviate far from its center. Here, truly, is a gently cultivated lady worthy of your devotion.

Yours sincerely,


[Ed. Note: While Phrontis' hatred of single women is well documented, spinsters are possibly the most favorite and welcome demographic here at Babes. Especially when they bring gorgeously pretentious cat names to the party.]


Speaking of witches, I am pretty sure this guy is a magician. Look at his name. Look at his picture. Look at his profession. Bam.

Saturday Links

Who doesn’t want new reasons to worry about your nether regions?

I sense a trend piece in the offing.

Who knew?

Renisha McBride

I’m just going to link to this, because if I try to comment, suddenly I’ll be staring in confused horror at a 2,000 word monstrosity.

I tip my hat to you, sir.

Melissa Harris Perry, meh, but I would listen to bell hooks read the phone book.

rsgdfihncklqwefosjk YES. 

Of note.

War and obscurity

One of the most smugly moronic things I’ve read in a while

Since we’ve just been petulantly reminded that the Pope is Catholic, let me draw your attention to the barbarity of our criminal justice system.

Does anyone else remember the sinking realization that all the plots were the same?


This was lovely.

Walmart strikers

I’d argue that it behooves social conservatives to close up the casinos and back off of drugs, as the war on them is possibly the single most effective policy for separating fathers from their children.

Who ARE these people? Who does this?

Marilynne Robinson’s political allegiances are primarily to America.


Books and Baked Goods 8

Right now, my feelings about this project resemble Frodo’s towards the ring on one of the steeper trails up Mt. Doom.

I will finish this. I must.

And be you Gollums or Sams, you are welcome to plod up the summit with me. In place of Lembas, I offer you Smitten Kitchen’s cream scones. I made these once with yogurt, once with cream. The yogurt ones were more second breakfast, the cream version a decadent afternoon tea treat. I also added approximately an extra half to full tablespoon of butter, because why not? Substitute tiny pieces of chopped up apples, add a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg to the batter, and swap some of the sugar for maple syrup if you, like me, insist that all your baked goods from September to Christmas scream autumn in the most predictable of ways.

Chapters 50 to 59!

It seemed that where there was a baby, things were right enough, and that error, in general, was a mere lack of that central poising force.

I love the impersonal universality of this axiom.

Dorothea’s terrible shock at realizing someone she trusted had “hidden thoughts” from and about her is probably familiar to a lot of people; I think this discovery is one of the most agonizing blows to a friendship possible.

Dorothea also just seems to have awakened to Will’s erotic potential. Well, this should be interesting.

But Will is an Italian with white mice, and he might as well be in Rome. Dorothea is an uncomfortable and misplaced product of Victorian Protestant England, and Will is a disruptive, sensual, and suspect foreigner. But Will’s  rootless disruptiveness can be channeled politically into a useful engine of reform–what happens to Dorothea?

“But if you are to wait till we get a logical Bill, you must put yourself forward as a revolutionist, and then Middlemarch would not elect you, I fancy.”



“But as to one family, there’s creditor and debtor, I hope; they’re not going to reform that away; else I should vote for things staying as they are.”

Farebrother is finally getting his due! I’m so glad. He is so very lovable in these chapters. The scene wherein he pleads Fred Vincy’s case to the woman he himself loves, particularly.

The English evangelicalism of this period is fascinating, especially since we’re mostly used to think of revivals et al. as American phenomena.

I think the most realistic touch Eliot gives Bulstrode is his sincerity; he really does think he is a humble servant endowed by the Lord with a mission to prosper. But now he has Raffles jamming up the works! Secrets and scandal! Bulstrode’s apparent relation to Ladislaw reminds me of a Dickens story, where each character is intricately tangled up in another, sometimes by roots that remain subterranean for most of the novel.

“to sit like a model for Saint Catherine looking rapturously at Celia’s baby would not do for many hours in the day, and to remain in that momentous babe’s presence with persistent disregard was a course that could not have been tolerated in a childless sister.”

This sounds…familiar.

James and Celia’s worries over Dorothea being lonely are loving and innocuous, but we see the general determination to keep her docile in Mrs. Cadwallader’s warnings against “seeing visions.”

“But I see clearly a husband is the right thing to keep her in order.”

But it’s not as though Dorothea’s non-conformity is unambiguously valorized, either. Rather, much of it seems her poor-woman’s negative substitute for greatness of action and leadership.  Although now, it seems, she’s planning to build some kind of commune.

Will and Dorothea’s awkward fumbling around each other feels surprisingly possible and relatable, despite the ostensibly Victorian obstacles separating them.

The railroad is cutting its way through Lowick, the the disapproval of the workmen, who see only rich owners turning a profit from the disruption of their lives.

And Rosamund has suffered a miscarriage. It’s only mentioned in passing dialogue, given much less time and attention than any other events of these chapters. What does this mean to her? We get no peek into an interior world where loss and grief exist.

“…Mary always desired to be clear that she loved Fred best.”

This seems like the root of fidelity.

Lydgate’s belief in Rosamund’s innate submissiveness and adoring deference crumbling, he has no way of being married beyond alienation and sterility. He never saw her as one with real agendas and desires of her own, so he can’t ask her to give them up in loving mutual sacrifice. She can’t help and suffer with him in his struggles, because she was never to take an “unwomanly” interest in his work, never to be his partner in any real sense.

And she wouldn’t recognize the call to that kind of heroism; nor can she ask him to enter into her own projects. She has only learned how to gently thwart others’ plans for her. It’s a damning look at a dynamic that’s sometimes romanticized.

And then he compares her to Laure, with his “It is the way with all women.” I had almost forgotten about Laure; poor foolish Lydgate.

He also remembers Dorothea, and I’m still not sure the poor chump’s wrapped his around the fact that Dorothea’s absolute loyalty to her husband is not some natural feminine clinging but active, struggling virtue.

But now Will knows about the codicil! What will happen next? Tune in next time for the surprising adventures of me, Sir Digby Chicken Ceasar, I mean, uh….Middlemarch.

Poem of the Day 6

Chemin De Fer

Alone on the railroad track
I walked with pounding heart.
The ties were too close together
or maybe too far apart.

The scenery was impoverished:
scrub-pine and oak; beyond
its mingled gray-green foliage
I saw the little pond

where the dirty old hermit lives,
lie like an old tear
holding onto its injuries
lucidly year after year.

The hermit shot off his shot-gun
and the tree by his cabin shook.
Over the pond went a ripple
The pet hen went chook-chook.

“Love should be put into action!”
screamed the old hermit.
Across the pond an echo
tried and tried to confirm it.


Elizabeth Bishop

Time for Links

Who has seen this?

Earths! Everywhere!

Austerity in Kentucky


More reasons to move to Iceland, etc

This confirms all my suspicions

As does this

Emotional labor

Aw swell

5 billion in food stamp cuts over the next year. This is atrocious and terrifying, and it’s not just on Republicans, either. On the off chance you live in the Philadelphia area, Philabundance does great work and always needs help meeting demand for food.

Pregnant workers. Pregnant working women are contributing in two ways–the one the labor market rewards, and the bearing and birthing of workers on whom the economy depends. Something to keep in mind when we talk about “accommodations,” rather than “not punishing women for doing what keeps life, civilization, and your workforce moving along, at great personal cost.”

Hey Philly, let’s not screw this one up, ok?

I give the sexual revolution five more years. Childbirth also sounds increasingly terrifying.

Dinosaur sex. The evangelicals have purity bear–maybe we could have an NFP stegosaurus?


Nancy Wake, via The Toast, who,  by the way, whatever else you may say about them, pay their writers.

New Inquiry is all about the witches right now.

And finally

Ghosty and Fragmented Bullet Points on Death and Exile

1. Maureen Mullarkey discusses death and the jolly skeleton.

2. The entire month, of November, as she points out,  belongs to the dead. It’s my favorite month, not least because I was born into it.

3. This is the first November of my life I’ve spent entirely away from home, and it’s very strange to never pass the cemeteries where my grandparents, aunts, sister lie.

4. The threat of unburial is frequent in the Illiad and Odyssey. Priam kisses the hand of his son’s murderer in order to regain the body, and Odysseus tells an enemy that the crows will peck at his rotting flesh, or something like that, I can’t find my books.

5. Unburial is horror for the dead, but what about the living? When we bury the dead we claim them. We claim the dead just because they are ours, and we love them, not because they are productive citizens or because they can feel bodily pain.

6. This seems to me the terror of exile–to be so far from one’s beloved dead. Not the struggle to build a new life, but its formless rawness, the weight of being only oneself and for oneself, existing only in the present. Home is where the burial ground is.

7. Zombie movies are comforting in their action adventure format. They can’t be real if they don’t show the suffocating grief of your dead refusing to recognize you, turning against you. There’s no peace in life or death when that happens, which I suppose is the premise of Zombie-hood. No one ever asks if the world is worth saving, though, and so the films reassure.

8. An unburied corpse is horrible, because he has not been claimed, and might turn against us. The peaceful solidarity of our present moment with our inherited past and inevitable future, of living and dead, depends on our tethering the dead to ourselves. Without the dead we have no “ours.”

7. Emily Bronte calls her ghosty menage “sleepers in the quiet earth,” and we refer to departed Christians as “those who sleep in Christ.” Christ will come to wake them all from sleep, but there’s an interesting range of possibility suggested in dormition. If you wake a sleeper too early, will she sleepwalk? Can you guide her gently back to bed, or will she become angry in her confused dreams?

I understand why atheists reject the existence of ghosts as a matter of dogma, but not why Christians would.

” Yes, in an objective sense, some rape victims may be culpable in a limited sense — in the same way that a mother may have limited culpability for her child’s death if she forgets to remind him to put on his bicycle helmet the day that he is hit by a car — “

This is from a comment by Melina Selmys. Melinda’s comment in context is about the importance of not blaming or shaming rape victims, but I think there’s something wrong, in an important way, with what she’s conceding.

She compares rape to getting hit by a car. That is, rape is a pre-existing, natural, impersonal violent event. But this is not true. Rape is a perverse and deliberately willed act of violence another person chooses to commit.

The normal obligations we have to ward off evils like disease, accidents, and disasters cannot be applied to to the victims of a violent crime. The two cases are totally different.

Two sets people bear the blame in the case of a violent crime: the criminal, and those charged with curtailing the activities of evildoers. The state is responsible for protecting its citizens, institutions and communities are to a degree responsible for the conduct of their members, and as Christians we are all responsible for protecting and supporting our brothers and sisters.

The “limited culpability” in the case of rape belongs not the victim, but, in the case of rape as it is practiced in America, to the collective whose silence or compliance enabled the rapist.

If we could be “culpable” in some way, for failing to prevent our own deliberate victimization by other people, the culpability for Christ’s death would lie on his own head, not only on ours.

Moreover, his injunction in the Gospel

But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.

would be an invitation to wrong-doing. The Gospel’s ethic is one of perfect love, and may not be immediately possible for everyone, or proper to enforce at the level of government, but its tenets certainly do not represent moral failure even in the smallest sense.

Poem of the Day 5

Wading at Wellfleet

In one of the Assyrian wars

a chariot first saw the light

that bore the sharp blades around its wheels.


That Chariot from Assyria

went rolling down mechanically

to take the warriors by the heels.


A thousand warriors in the sea

could not consider such a war

as that the sea itself contrives


but hasn’t put in action yet.

This mornings glitterings reveal

the sea is “all a case of knives.”


Lying so close, they catch the sun,

the spokes directed at the shin.

The chariot front is blue and great.

The war rests wholly with the waves:

they try revolving, but the wheels

give way; they will not bear the weight.


–Elizabeth Bishop


I hope you are reading these out loud.

How to Deal with Pick-Up Artists

Bars have always seemed safe, happy, warm places to me, probably because several beloved family members have worked in them over the years*. I know many women feel uncomfortable in a pub, especially alone, but it’s the first place I go to regroup when I alight from the bus.

Consequently, I have run across a strange and motley array of aspiring pick-up artists and other social vultures. You sit, alone with your book and your whiskey, enjoying the pleasant hum of noise around you, perhaps making small talk with your bartender, then BAM. He’s at your elbow, asking what you’re reading in that slightly-too-aggressive tone, or wondering why a pretty girl couldn’t find anyone to go out with her.

The “neg,” the back-handed compliment designed to disorient and weaken self-confidence, seems the favored opener for men who operate in a predatory way. Its popularity may result from its romanticization on the page and silver screen, or from its resemblance to the genuinely pleasant banter that many people enjoy.

Most people, though, defuse the potentially aggressive connotations of banter either by limiting it to well-established friendships and flirtations, or by keeping it gentle and light at the beginning. A well-intentioned charmer may open by banter, but he won’t touch on any personal subjects, he’ll shy away from backhanded compliments, he’ll look for reciprocity, and he’ll accompany his remarks with lots of personal space and a big smile.

In other words, the charmer is openly teasing, and trying to signal non-aggression in the process. The neg masquerades as compliment, but in such a way that you’ll be knocked off balance, doubting your social perception or wavering in self-confidence.

The neg also works as a verbal breach of propriety, a violation of verbal boundaries to lay the groundwork for the violation of physical or spatial ones. Most well-socialized people, for instance, do not criticize the personal appearances or clothing choices of complete strangers. This is weird and intrusive. A pick-up artist might, though, and by framing it as a compliment or positive attention, tries to trick you into accepting it.

The most important step to dealing with these pests is going with your gut, because your gut is precisely what the PUA is trying to alienate you from. If you feel something is creepy or sketchy or just….something, it probably is. If you are getting an adrenaline rush, and you’re not aroused, your body probably thinks you’re in danger. On the other hand, if you’re feeling happy, relaxed, and open, if you feel in control of the situation, if you want to keep talking to this guy, go with it until something changes.

That second point is as important as the first, and less touted. If your response to all male attention is dictated by anxiety, you’re going to have no frame of reference with which to compare genuinely alarm-triggering interactions.  Rules-based safety advice (don’t go to bars, if you must go to bars don’t drink too much, don’t flirt, avoid men of this race or this class) harms women by shifting their attention from the validity and importance of their own instincts and desires to an abstract behavioral checklist.

So, the guy’s neg worked, and now you’re feeling disoriented and uncomfortable. Say so.

“Wow, what a personal remark.”

“Do you think being rude is going to help make my acquaintance?”

“I really don’t know how to reply to that.”

“That made me feel uncomfortable.”

Bland bluntness is good. Do you remember A Wrinkle in Time, how Meg resists It by reciting the periodic table? Or in the Silver Chair, how Puddleglum thrusts his foot in the fire to break the spell of the witch’s voice? The principle is the same here.

The pick-up artist wants to draw you into a little world of his own creating, just for the two of you, where he gets to determine all the boundaries and all the norms. Maybe he’s trying to cast you in a role–if you’re bookish or noticeably religious, you’re the shy ingenue, he’s the sophisticate who’s going to seduce and liberate you in spite of yourself.

By reacting with mild, disdainful surprise, you are drawing the curtain on Oz the Great and Powerful. You are resisting his attempts to immerse you both in a smoke-world where it’s sexy and exciting to be put down by strange men. You belong to the ordinary world, where people are polite to strangers, his behavior is bizarre, and his pathetic scripts and roles have nothing to with you and your life. You are Puddleglum, and you remember the sun.

If someone violates your personal space, same unapologetic vocalization of your desires: “Can you please give me a little more space? I feel uncomfortable with your hand on my back.”

Of course sometimes we want to be touched, because we’re enjoying the flirtation and want it to progress. Humans are pretty good about signalling their receptiveness to mild levels of contact; the honest flirt will be paying attention to your signals and trying to figure out if you would appreciate a light touch on the arm. The pick-up artist is trying to move the flirtation along unilaterally–he wants to make you accept his touch, thereby convincing you that you wanted it, rather than the other way around. There’s no clear-cut way to differentiate the two in the moment, so again, pay attention to your desires and listen to your gut.

If he backs off or apologizes when you call attention to a crossed line, then he’s probably more socially inept than predatory. Manipulators will try to punish you for enforcing basic social boundaries; they might call you stuck up, touchy, a princess; they might make a great performance of offense and hurt; they might try a sad sack I-should-have-known-you’d-never-talk-to-a-guy-like-me. They might argue with you about the legitimacy of your reaction, or try to re-eroticize the conversation by calling you “feisty.”

Engaging their arguments or outrage won’t work, and moreover, why should you? You are not Fanny Price, whose every free moment belongs to the nearest asshole in her proximity.  You are at your leisure, entirely the mistress of your own time. When you walk into that bar, you’re Emma Woodhouse, and you owe no one anything**.

So when he dials up the manipulation, you don’t have to prove your right to end the conversation. Just assert. Repeat yourself, because you were perfectly understandable the first time, and why waste brainpower on this fool?

“I did not like what you said to me. It was intrusive.”

“I’m not enjoying this, and this conversation is over now, thanks.”

“I’m going back to my book/drink/people-watching now. Have a good night.”

Declarative, polite rejection is death to PUAs, because their schtick depends on smoke, mirrors, and the creation of insecurity. At this point, most will leave with an eyeroll, huff, or muttered “bitch.” Some, however, will stay to wheedle, verbally abuse, or physically intimidate. Now all civility is at an end. Say loudly, calmly, and firmly that you want him to leave, that you have asked him to leave, that he is making you feel unsafe. If people hear you, so much the better. Arguing with him, reasoning with him, trying to win him over will all be totally fruitless. The only thing you can do is reject his White Queen logic, and make him look like an asshole in the normal world to which you have asserted your allegiance.

Don’t be afraid to get the bartenders involved. Most of them, especially in quiet local Irish pubs, have absolutely no interest in anyone harassing their female patrons***. All you have to do is catch his eye, and quietly tell him that you’ve unsuccessfully asked this this gentleman to leave you alone. 

If you’ve got the righteous wrath in you for something like this, go ahead. They may escalate more quickly to verbal abuse; but I’ve reacted this way once, having a drink after twelve hours waiting tables, where accommodating entitled asshats is part of the job. I think it was the quiet, near-unhinged fury in my voice that made him reconsider.

Eventually, if you can avoid ensnarement in his illusory world, the urge to dominate won’t be worth the social cost and negative attention for him. He won’t leave gracefully, but he will leave, at which point I suggest you reward yourself for your dragon slaying with a quick trip to the jukebox.

*Get me to tell you about the time my dad had Chase Utley as a barback.

**Except the bartender. You owe him a decent tip.

***And if you see someone being harassed, support them. Move physically close to them and make it clear you’re listening. Ask the harassee if she wants you to get security, if he’s bothering her, if she wants to come sit by you. It doesn’t matter if you’re big or strong. The main point is signalling that a) you are watching closely, and b) you do not think this behavior is ok.


 Captain Awkward is the queen of boundaries.