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Reading List For Anyone Dealing With “Toxic” People

A few readers have emailed me asking for my personal recommendations for a reading list for dealing with the narcissists & other people who have toxic effects on those around them, so I thought I would do a post.

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Image: Pixabay: congerdesign: Creative Commons CC0

Please note that ALL of these disclaimers still apply.

1). Will I Ever Be Good Enough? by Karyl McBride (for daughters of narcissistic mothers)

2).  Will I Ever Be Free of You? by Karyl McBride (for those going through a break-up with a narcissist, particularly a high-conflict divorce)

3). If You Had Controlling Parents by Dan Neuharth (for those whose parents were controlling)

4). The Gaslight Effect: How to Spot and Survive the Hidden Manipulation Others Use to Control Your Life by Robin Stern (for anyone being gaslighted or interested in knowing more about gaslighting)

5). Positive Energy by Judith Orloff (for those who want to protect themselves from negative energy)

6). Emotional Freedom by Judith Orloff (for those who want to protect themselves from negative energy)

7). How To Stubbornly Refuse To Make Yourself Miserable About Anything by Albert Ellis (the title says it all)

8). How To Keep People From Pushing Your Buttons by Albert Ellis (the title says it all)

9). In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People by George K. Simon (the title says it all)

10). Psychopath Free: Expanded Edition by Jackson MacKenzie (the title is somewhat of a misnomer due to the word “psychopath”, but still a good book for dealing with narcissists, sociopaths, and other toxic people)

This list is not intended to be comprehensive by any means, but rather just an overview of a few of my favorites that I would personally recommend.

Please let me know if you have any other recommendations, either by commenting below or emailing me at sayebennett@gmail.com.

08/02/2017: Edited to Add: 

11). Children of the Self-Absorbed by Nina W. Brown

12). Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life by Susan Forward and Craig Buck

13). The Dance of Anger by Harriet Lerner

14). Why Is It Always About You?: The Seven Deadly Sins of Narcissism by Sandy Hotchkiss

15). Stop Walking on Eggshells: Taking Your Life Back When Someone You Care About Has Borderline Personality Disorder by Paul Mason and Randi Kreger

A Battle With A Narcissist Is A Losing Battle Indeed

Before I start discussing my topic today, I wanted to clarify something:

Most of my regular readers know that I have a Ph.D. in school psychology and that I work as a school psychologist as my day job (because, alas, nobody wants to pay me to blog).

I originally noted my Ph.D. and profession in my WordPress and Twitter bios, having added that information to my bios more out of habit than anything else ~ an automatic response to the ubiquitous “Who are you?” question.

I have now removed that information from my bios. I didn’t remove that information because I am ashamed of it in any way, nor am I trying to hide it.

Instead, the reason I removed that information from my bios was two-fold:

1). 99.9999 percent of the time, I am writing as a person/Lesbian, not as a psychologist. In the rare instance when I am writing as a psychologist, I am careful to specify that fact.

2). I’ve found that many people are unduly impressed with a Ph.D. People have a tendency to mistakenly think that because someone has an advanced degree, he/she is somehow better than others who don’t. That’s not true. I most certainly do not feel that way myself, and I decided that by saying I had a Ph.D. in my bios, I might be unintentionally perpetuating that elitist nonsense.

All of the above is to explain my decision to remove that information from my bios at this point (because I have received a few questions about it), and to reiterate to everyone to always assume I am speaking as a person/Lesbian, rather than a psychologist, unless I specify otherwise.

Today’s post is also (very) personal, not professional. Narcissism is a topic that I know a lot about, both as a person and as a psychologist; however, my focus today is solely on the personal, rather than the professional.

Much has been written about narcissism: the symptoms, definition, treatment, and so forth. For those curious about the basics, a simple Google search will garner oodles of results; to get the most reliable information, start with information from a known reputable organization such as the American Psychological Association, the Mayo Clinic, etc.

This post isn’t intended to be a lesson on narcissism or a description of narcissism, but rather a discussion of my own personal observations/reactions.

I do want to clarify that some people may display narcissistic-type features/traits/behaviors but may or may not meet the clinical criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).

Bottom line: We cannot, and should not, diagnose others on the internet anyway, so I will focus on features/traits/behaviors rather than actual or intended diagnoses.

***Therefore, for the purposes of this post, the word “narcissism” will be used as a descriptor rather than a diagnosis. Also, I am using “she” in this post because my own personal demons are with females who have narcissistic traits, but, of course, these traits can be exhibited by either males or females.***

Why do I know so much personally about narcissism?  Simple: Because I am the daughter of a narcissist. I have sort of danced around this fact in my previous posts about my mother, because I was hesitant to say the bald truth publicly. I was raised to never say anything negative about my mother, and old habits die hard. In fact, so hard that I never did speak a word about it until after she was dead.

I won’t go deeply into my personal experience with my mother and the effects on me as her daughter, at least not in this post…I am not quite ready for that yet.

But I am sharing this information to illustrate why I not only recognize narcissistic features/traits/behaviors in others, but, more importantly, to explain why I also still occasionally fall into the traps set by female covert narcissists…even now. Yes, even now. Even after getting a Ph.D. in psychology. Even though I am certainly old enough to know better. Even after years and years and years of working to understand the dynamics between narcissists and their targets. Even though I know all about narcissism…well, at least intellectually, that is. Even though I do (or should…?) actually know better than to engage.

As I said, old habits die hard, especially when you are conditioned to respond in a certain way. Sometimes, without realizing it until it is too late, I still unconsciously respond like Pavlov’s dog to the siren call of a female covert narcissist (which only happens online at this point, because I am MUCH better at recognizing and avoiding them in person).

When I do respond, I unwittingly become an active participant in a toxic pas de deux. It is a dance that I recognize all too well. It is a dance that will never end well for me, because there is no winning with a narcissist

But: A narcissist cannot perform her twisted dance without a partner, someone who is primed to dance the specified steps. It takes two to tango, as the saying goes, and I now find myself finally ready to hang up my dancing shoes permanently.

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Image: Pixabay: Jabore: Creative Commons CC0

For me, the warning signs that I have been sucked into the vortex of a narcissist are as follows:

  • an uneasy feeling of familiarity, even when I am dealing with a complete stranger on the internet;
  • a distinct difference in my response to that specific person which very far from my normally calm self;
  • queasiness, shakiness, fatigue, headache, malaise;
  • a very strong feeling of needing to defend myself and/or my point of view;
  • knowing I should pull away from the situation/argument, but feeling strangely unable to do so;
  • anger and defensiveness, usually way out of proportion to the situation;
  • a seeming inability to disengage without a LOT of conscious effort;
  • losing sleep and a general feeling of unease and restlessness;
  • unable to truly focus on anything else for the duration of the dance;
  • an obsessive, oppressive feeling that I need to fight as if my life is at stake;
  • fight or flight response (rapid heartbeat; tense muscles; etc.);
  • repeated fantasies that everyone else will somehow magically see the narcissist for who she really is;
  • feeling unreasonably threatened (while knowing that the person poses no literal physical threat);
  • strong emotions trumping my knowledge/logic…I can even consciously be aware that the individual is likely a narcissist (or that she at least exhibits some narcissistic features/traits/behaviors), but yet still feel compelled to engage anyway, despite knowing it is a fool’s game to do so.

Of course, everybody will have different ways of recognizing that they are dealing with a narcissist; the above is my own personal list only, based on my own experience.

So, you may be wondering: How can anyone win a battle with a narcissist?

Sadly, you can’t. I can’t. Nobody can.

Let me say that again, because it bears repeating:

NOBODY CAN WIN A BATTLE WITH A NARCISSIST. 

So: If I ever find myself locking horns with a covert female narcissist (my personal Achilles’ Heel) again, I vow to remember the following:

  • Recognize the above signs, preferably sooner rather than later;
  • Remember that any response whatsoever gives the narcissist fuel which she will use to burn me at the stake;
  • Walk away. No matter how hard it is, walk the hell away and keep walking (or, even better, RUN LIKE THE WIND);
  • If the situation occurs on social media, block the narcissist immediately, and block everyone who attacks on her behalf (because she will enlist others to do so);
  • Remember that narcissists are usually incredibly cunning/manipulative and extremely good at fooling people, so most others are not going to be able to see the truth about her (so give up the hope that they will);
  • Refuse to engage with the narcissist, her minions, or even random strangers offering “help”;
  • As much as I may want to defend myself, I need to remember that I don’t need to do so (and, in fact, it will even be counterproductive if I try);
  • Listen to my wife Dirt and to friends I trust ~ they will always be much more objective about the situation/person than I can possibly be at the height of the drama;
  • Remember that I could fight all the female covert narcissists in the whole world, but not only would I not win my battles with them, but, more importantly, fighting with them would certainly never heal any wounds from being the daughter of a narcissist.

Finally, to quote Vizzini from my favorite movie, The Princess Bride:

You fell victim to one of the classic blunders. The most famous is ‘Never get involved in a land war in Asia.’ But only slightly less well known is this: ‘Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line!’ Ahahahaha, ahahahaha, ahahaha—-thud”

Another classic blunder to add to Vizzini’s list is: “Never engage in battle with a narcissist”…because I have a better chance of single-handedly winning a land war in Asia than anyone does of winning a battle with a narcissist. 

A Miracle In Tampa (How The Norman Parathyroid Center Gave Me My Life Back)

I wasn’t overly concerned at first; after all, my doctors weren’t worried.

After routine blood tests, my calcium had been determined to be “a little high”: 10.7. “Don’t worry about it”, I was told. “Let’s wait and retest in about 6-8 months”, they said.

When my calcium level went up to 10.9 on retesting, I was told the same thing, by both doctors. “It’s not high enough to cause your symptoms”, they said, “It could just be a lab fluke. All your other labs are fine.”

By the time retesting revealed that my blood calcium had crept to 11.0,  I was seriously ill with the very same symptoms that were allegedly completely unrelated to this labwork anomaly: crushing fatigue so profound that just driving home from work had become an actual daily challenge; all-over pain which made even the smallest task seem overwhelming;  and, perhaps most unsettling to me, an ever-increasing distinct change in my normally easy-going, optimistic personality.

As just one example, I frequently found myself lacking both patience and empathy for blog/Facebook commenters and fellow Tweeters. I started wanting to (rudely!!) give everyone a piece of my mind at the slightest provocation. (I usually refrained from doing so, but the desire was there for the first time in my life, and this bothered me, because it just wasn’t me).

I felt as if I had aged 10++ years in a relatively short time. I probably looked it too, but, quite frankly, I simply didn’t have the energy to care. Getting through the work week became my sole goal, my Everest.

I tried to distract myself from the pain and fatigue, and Dirt was as wonderful as always at helping me in every way. I would occasionally succeed in momentary distraction, but as time went on, the good moments were becoming  increasingly fleeting, vastly surpassed by sheer misery on an everyday basis.

In desperation, I finally did what I should have done much, much, MUCH sooner, but had been too busy, tired, overwhelmed, sick, stressed, and preoccupied to do:

I googled “high calcium” and voilà! The clear and obvious answer had been there all along if I (or my doctors!) had taken the time to look…

I had a parathyroid tumor!!

The road to confirming this self-diagnosis would take several months, but, to make a long story a bit shorter, I had surgery a few days ago, which successfully removed the rogue parathyroid tumor which had hijacked my entire existence.

Please help me in passing along the word. I don’t want anyone to ever suffer needlessly as I did.

So please tell your friends, your relatives, your neighbors, your coworkers, and pretty much anybody else who will stand still long enough to listen:

1). High blood calcium (hypercalcemia) is not normal, and therefore always needs follow up. If the high calcium level persists, realize that:

“Over 99.8% of all people who have a blood test that shows too much calcium will have a parathyroid problem…

It must be fixed. It cannot be “observed”

Most adults have calcium levels somewhere between 9.4 and 9.9 mg/dl, which is why we like to say that “adults live in the 9’s”…

It is typically not normal for adults to have frequent or persistent calcium levels in the 10’s…

If you are an adult over 40 and your calcium is over 10.0 mg/dl (2.5 mmol/l) on several occasions, then you are very likely to have a parathyroid tumor

Be careful, many labs don’t give the normal range for your age–they give the normal range for teenagers to everybody! And your doctor may not be aware of this.

(Source: www.parathyroid.com)

2). The symptoms of hyperparathyroidism are generally vague and/or could be mistakenly attributed to other causes. Therefore, these symptoms are often overlooked and/or misattributed by both doctors and patients.

Please take a moment to review the typical symptoms:

“Symptoms of Parathyroid Disease (Hyperparathyroidism):

Loss of energy. Don’t feel like doing much. Tired all the time. Chronic fatigue. (#1 symptom)

Just don’t feel well; don’t quite feel normal. Hard to explain but just feel kind of bad.

Feel old. Don’t have the interest in things that you used to.

Can’t concentrate, or can’t keep your concentration like in the past.

Depression. 

Osteoporosis and Osteopenia.

Bones hurt; typically it’s bones in the legs and arms but can be most bones.

Don’t sleep like you used to. Wake up in middle of night. Trouble getting to sleep.

Tired during the day and frequently feel like you want a nap (but naps don’t help).

Spouse claims you are more irritable and harder to get along with (cranky, bitchy). 

Forget simple things that you used to remember very easily (worsening memory).

Gastric acid reflux; heartburn; GERD. 

Decrease in sex drive. 

Thinning hair (predominately in middle aged females on the front part of the scalp).

Kidney Stones (and eventually kidney failure). 

High Blood Pressure (sometimes mild, sometimes quite severe; up and down a lot).

Recurrent Headaches (usually patients under the age of 40).

Heart Palpitations (arrhythmias). Typically atrial arrhythmias.

Atrial Fibrillation (rapid heart rate, often requiring blood thinners and pacemakers).

High liver function tests (liver blood tests).

Development of MGUS and abnormal blood protein levels.

Most people with hyperparathyroidism will have 5 – 6 of these symptoms. Some will have lots of them. A few people will say they don’t have any… but after an operation they will often say otherwise. In general, the longer you have hyperparathyroidism, the more symptoms you will develop.”

(Source: www.parathyroid.com)

3). If you have a parathyroid tumor, as I did, the ONLY treatment is surgery. It needs to get OUT of your neck as soon as possible, so you can get your life back.

4). The success of parathyroid surgery will depend HUGELY on the skill and experience of the surgeon.

For that reason, I decided to fly to Tampa to have the surgery by Dr. Politz of the Norman Parathyroid Center.

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Dirt’s view from the waiting room during my surgery at Tampa General Hospital

I am 100++% thrilled with that decision, despite having to pay out-of-pocket.  (I had to pay myself simply because my insurance company is a jerk; note that other/smarter insurance companies do cover this surgery, so always check).

Dr. Politz, everyone at Tampa General Hospital, and everyone else who I have encountered through the Norman Parathyroid Center have all been consistently friendly, reassuring, professional, caring, concerned, competent, honest, and helpful.

They also didn’t flinch when I introduced Dirt as my wife; they treated us and our relationship with the same kindness and respect as they did the rest of their patients.

I felt better mere hours after surgery than I had in a very long time. Less than a week after surgery, the bone pain is gone, the fatigue is gone, the acid reflux is already significantly decreased, I am sleeping better, and I feel much more alert and interested in life.

Most importantly, I am starting to feel the presence of something I haven’t felt in a long time…the old me…the real me.

5). If you suspect a parathyroid problem, please thoroughly read the www.parathyroid.com website, run by the Norman Parathyroid Center. It is packed with a plethora of information in an accessible and easy-to-read format.

6). The moral of my story is: Trust yourself. Take charge. Doctors don’t know everything. If you feel that something is wrong with your health, listen to your body and listen to your intuition. Be your own advocate, do your own research, and don’t ever accept a casual brush-off of your concerns from your doctor. Find the right doctor.

Your life depends on it.

Lesbians Are On Our Own

I have written before about homophobia and false allies.  I have been out for a very long time and have had many disappointing experiences and have answered many offensive questions about being a Lesbian.

So: I know how people are.

Or, more accurately, I should have known.

But: every day, I find myself more disappointed and more disillusioned with my fellow humans than ever before.

The election and its aftermath have stripped off the remnants of faux acceptance from our so-called “friends” and “family“, revealing a massive gangrenous sore which had been festering,  unnoticed, underneath the surface all along:

Lesbians have no true allies. We are on our own.

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#PicsArt #FreeToEdit

My spouse, partner, and all-around sweetiepie, Dirt, recently changed her Twitter bio to say: “If you’re not us, you’re against us.”

Meaning: Unless you are actually one of us ~ a LESBIAN ~ you are against us.  I misread it the first time, thinking it said: “If you’re not WITH us, you’re against us”. But she clarified that she meant that unless you ARE one of us, you are AGAINST us.

At first, I thought, “Wow, that is really cynical, because surely we do have some allies…well…somewheretheoretically“.

You see, I wanted to believe that we have allies. And, pitifully, I still want to believe that we have allies: perhaps because I am still a four-leaf-clover-picking, peace-loving optimist underneath my current defiant exterior; perhaps because it would be easier and more pleasant to stay in denial about those who we mistakenly thought were our loved ones; perhaps simply because the truth hurts.

Sadly, however, I am now convinced that Lesbians are, in fact, on our own. More importantly, I am now convinced we always were on our own…because the appearance of support and acceptance from our alleged “allies“, “friends“, and “family” was, in reality, only a BandAid which was unceremoniously ripped off with the election of a bigoted dictator, revealing the repugnant stench of straight privilege and lesbophobia beneath.

Repeated Twitter attacks, hetsplaining, unfollowing/blocking and subtweeting by so-called straight feminist “allies“; unfriending and blocking by Facebook “friends“; and being admonished by various alleged former “friends” and “family members” to “calm down”, “be nice”, “don’t take it personally”, “get along” (etc.) have all coalesced in the last few days to irrevocably prove to me that most straight people, even seemingly well-intentioned ones, remain clueless, insensitive, unaware, and arrogant in their ignorance.

Plus: (unrelated to the election, but pertinent to this topic): Some (alleged) “lesbians” on Twitter have continued minimizing, denying, arguing, and/or even outright mocking our series about the existence of Straightbians and how Straightbians are detrimental to Lesbians.

The reasons why the truth matters to Lesbians should be stunningly obvious to anyone with an IQ higher than a Chia Pet, so the attitudes of these individuals indicates that not only are they Straightbians themselves, but furthermore, they are NOT even allies to Lesbians…and they never will be.

They don’t want to listen to Lesbians. They want to believe the false notion that any woman can magically become a lesbian, because their own pathologies are tightly tied to that illusion, and they have gained lovers, friends, attention, followers, fame, speaking engagements, and/or money from perpetuating the lie that they are Lesbians themselves, at the expense of actual Lesbians.

These individuals want to preach feminist theory about “political Lesbianism“, but they don’t want to actually deal with hearing the pesky truth from REAL Lesbians. They appear to be “inclusive” and “accepting” by promoting the untruth that a woman can “magically become a Lesbian”, and therefore, they are popular amongst the “feminist” crowd, because straight women want to keep “Lesbian” open as their backup Uber ride in case the dickmobile runs out of gas.

Furthermore, in addition to all the many traitors listed above, even our supposed “allies” who are purportedly fighting for Lesbian self-acceptance in order to to avert transitioning often show shocking covert lesbophobia. How? First, true Lesbian allies would care what happens to ALL lesbians, not just up until our 18th birthday. Second, the terms “gender non-conforming” and “gender defiant” are offensive terms to Lesbians (**See Note, below**), but despite being told this repeatedly, these purported “allies” continue to use these (and similar) inappropriate terms. Third, some  of these alleged “allies” will respond favorably to straight people’s input, while completely ignoring, or even rudely arguing with, polite Lesbian comments/questions.

Bottom line: True Lesbian allies would listen to Lesbians. They would believe Lesbians. They would fight for Lesbian issues/rights, even when it is inconvenient to do so. They would include Lesbians. They would remain in conversation with Lesbians, even when it becomes heated or uncomfortable.  They would support Lesbians. They would recognize Lesbian is a real thing….not just some choice to be made or discarded at will or whimsy. And: they would stand with Lesbians in our pain and fear about this election, without attempting to tell us how to feel or to “be nice”.

None of these things are happening.

The time for nice is over. The time for hoping that people will do the right thing is over.

It is time for Lesbians to wake up, stand up, and realize that with “friends” like these, who needs enemies? It is apparent that not only was Sappho ahead of her time poetically, it seems that she too realized that Lesbian needs to be its own island.

**Note**:  Edited to add:  After a comment, I realized that I should have clarified further why the terms gender non-conforming (GNC), gender-defiant, and similar terms (hereafter shortened to GNC for brevity) are offensive to Lesbians:

The way these terms are being presented is that the so-called “GNC” people (including the Lesbians who would fall under this description) are intentionally defying gender norms.

In other words, the idea is that GNC is some sort of conscious performance, rather than just being who people are naturally.

For the lesbians who would fall under the GNC category, this is an insult, as well as a dangerous assumption, because it implies a willful disobedience of “norms”, which, in turn, implies that it can be changed with a simple conscious decision to conform.

So the use of these terms is both dangerous and insulting to the Lesbians who are being referred to as falling under those categories.

Hope this clarifies better, and as always, if you have questions, please feel free to ask!

Getting Old(er)

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Image: #PicsArt #FreeToEdit

Aging has been a topic on my mind a lot recently, because…well…it’s happening, even as I type.

It’s happening to all of us, all the time, albeit in such incremental steps that it tends to creep up on us, unnoticed, until one day we catch a glimpse of ourselves reflected in a storefront window, and think “Who the heck is that?”

When I was younger, I naively thought I might be (at least partially) immune to being sensitive about the changes aging brings on in our looks.  I rationalized all the crap that popular culture tries to sell us: “Age is just a number”, “40 is the new 30”, “50 is the new 40”, etc. Mind over matter and all that.

And, since I have always primarily lived in my mind, rather than solely focused on my body, I thought maybe I would be spared some of the insecurity about appearance that aging often brings.

I was wrong.

Lately, I find myself bothered by the inevitable march of time.  Just this morning, I wasted an hour searching Amazon for “best anti-wrinkle cream”; a precious hour of my life that I can never recover.

Although there is some truth that we perhaps have (at least partial) control over our looks through diet, exercise, clothes, hairstyles, and the myriad anti-aging and beauty products filling the shelves vying for our money and our hope, I fully realize that the bottom line is: I am never going to look the same now as I did in my 30’s.

I could slather 10,000 ounces of the finest anti-wrinkle cream on myself, and guess what? I would still not look 30. Or ~ who am I kidding? ~ not even 40! I would look like a well-moisturized version of my current age.

I am quite obviously not at the acceptance phase of aging yet, and I strongly suspect that it will be an ongoing process with newly discovered issues cropping up on a regular basis.

But: I am in the process of accepting some facts about my age. I have accepted, for instance, that I now have to work out twice as long to get half the results. I have (almost) accepted that I will need to work my ass off (pun intended) for the rest of my life to maintain a healthy weight, particularly since I battle with hypothyroidism. I have not yet accepted the fact that I will need to eat less and drink less than everyone else at the table to maintain a healthy weight; but I now can at least acknowledge the truth in that statement, which is the first step to acceptance.

It helps me to have a supportive partner, who loves me unconditionally and who likes to eat healthy and to also work out herself.  It helps to have a partner who helps me cognitively process that everyone is bound, in varying degrees, by the societal “gender straitjacket” which, among other things, dictates our subconscious opinions of attractive/unattractive, and my partner helps me to always question and challenge all underlying beliefs.

It also helps to constantly realize that aging is certainly better than the alternative.  My friend Debra died when we were only 32 ~ long before it was time to worry about wrinkles. From many conversations with her in the couple years of her illness prior to her death, I know for a fact that if fate had given her the choice, she would have chosen wrinkles over death.

So, I am now trying to focus on the benefits of aging, while simultaneously trying to accept and make the best of the drawbacks.

The best benefit of aging, so far, is my ever-increasing willingness to say what I actually think, rather than walking on eggshells all the time, trying to mollycoddle people’s feelings.

And that is one Hell of a benefit ~ one that I would not trade for the dewy skin of youth.

Pervert(s) of the Day

Perverts of the day

Credit: Made with PicsArt #FreeToEdit

Yesterday, my spouse, partner, and all-around sweetiepie, Dirt, and I went to a Subway located inside the local Walmart where we do our grocery shopping.

I noticed a man looking at me when we walked in, but he quickly averted his gaze when I looked directly at him, so I decided to ignore him.  I didn’t say anything to Dirt about it, and we went to stand in line.

A couple of minutes later, the same guy appeared behind me in line, and asked the server if she had any soup.  It was only 9:00 a.m., so she said she did not have any soup, and he went back to sit down in his booth.  I thought the soup question was a bit odd, but not overly bizarre, so again, I decided to ignore him, even though he gave me the creeps; because, after all, we were in a public place in broad daylight.

Shortly after we sat down to eat, the female Walmart manager walked over, squatted down beside us, and whispered, “My cashier just told me that the man sitting over there has been watching you, and he took numerous pictures of your butt when he was standing behind you in line”.

The manager motioned to the cashier to come over, and the cashier confirmed it.  She said that she knows a pervert when she sees one, and said that she couldn’t stand by and watch silently.

Both women were visibly angry, and I felt immensely touched that these women, who I had never met before, were sticking up for me, and, by proxy, for women everywhere.

The Walmart manager explained that the Subway was independently leased so she was not allowed to handle the situation herself, but suggested we inform the Subway worker.

I glanced over at the guy while we were talking, and he was watching us while intently scrolling on his phone (my guess is that he was probably hastily deleting the pictures).

I could tell that Dirt really just wanted to beat the snot out of the guy, but since that is not legal (darn it!), we decided to inform the Subway worker as suggested.  I was also concerned about leaving the young female worker there alone with a pervert after we left anyway, so telling her seemed imperative, for her sake as well as ours.

The Subway worker went over to talk to the guy, with us still there too, and to my huge surprise, the guy actually admitted to doing it immediately.  He said he “loves beautiful women” and “takes LOTS of pictures every day” so he can “remember all the beautiful ladies” (or…their butts?).  (Ewww!).

So, bottom line, to make a long story a tad shorter: the Subway worker handled the situation, the pictures were deleted, we thanked all three women, and Dirt said a few things to the guy.

And we went on with our day.

Or, rather, I tried to…but I felt vaguely off, weird, yucky. I tried to shake it off.  The situation was over, and I didn’t want to give that guy the power to upset me.

After all, I thought, I should be accustomed to nonsense from men by now.  I have been fending off men for more years than I want to count. Ever since I was about 11 years old, going out in public has been akin to running an obstacle course of unwanted male attention: a leer here; a flirt there; a whistle or “hey baby!” or two; an offer of unwanted and unneeded “help”.  If I am “lucky”, that is where it stops.

Many times, however, I have not been so “lucky”; I have, at various times over the years, been patted on the butt, grabbed, groped, crudely propositioned, followed, stalked, chased, pursued, even attacked.

When I have politely, but assertively, turned men down, I have had to deal with overt anger, yelling, name-calling, persistence, and even outright threats.

When I went to the police when I was 19 about a man who was stalking me (and who had stalked another blonde lesbian before me!), I was told that “Aw, ma’am, that just means he likes you!” and “You should take it as a compliment.”  When the same stalker later mailed me a picture of him holding an assault rifle with no note, I was told by (male) police officers that the guy was just “trying to impress” me.

I wasn’t impressed.

Just this morning, I logged onto Twitter to see that a middle-aged man was following me. His bio says he has a “bi-curious wife” and “the best of both worlds threesomes cumming up” (yuck!).  BLOCKED!

In fact, I have had to block many men on Twitter and Facebook who sent me private messages offering to “spank me hard” or to “fix” my lesbianism because, really, all I need, according to them, is that allegedly-oh-so-very-magical-male-appendage. (The thought of which just makes me want to vomit).

I have often been told by straight friends that they are “jealous” of the attention I have received by men over the years, and sadly, they weren’t joking.

What I tell them (and what I wish everyone would hear) is that it is not a compliment to have to constantly fend off unwanted male attention.  It is not flattering when men don’t understand that “no” is a complete sentence. It is not romantic when men pursue someone who is assertively uninterested. In fact, it is predatory, creepy, inappropriate, undesirable, and often bordering on criminal.

Here’s the thing I want to say to every single pervert out there:  I am a lesbian, and a happily married lesbian at that.  I am not sexually/romantically interested in any man (which, yes, includes you), and I never will be.  I am not interested in your “bi-curious” wife either.  Other lesbians do not want you either. If you are confused about the term lesbian, please read this post, which explains that lesbians are not pornified fodder for the male gaze. You are barking up the wrong tree, so put your sad little tail between your legs and go home. You don’t turn me on, you gross me out.

And: straight women don’t fancy creeps either, so leave them alone too.

Just say no to being a creep.