He’s kinda creepy.
I’ve heard it countless times used to describe countless guys— as if calling them rude or inconsiderate or dumb or arrogant except not— “creepy” is another level of criticism. It’s a branding. A tattoo on a reputation. When a girl hears a guy described as creepy there’s pretty much no way she will ever give him a chance.
And why should she? Creepy denotes a person who creeps. And why would someone creep? Because they’ve got some vile motives. They want to steal or hurt and they have to creep to not have such motives discovered. A creepy guy is a guy who is twisted or sadistic and knows it. A creepy guy is a guy who wants to do something very bad but wants to keep it hidden. So he creeps.
And there are real guys like this. Guys with whom most women, children, and other guys should not associate. Guys who should be locked away from the world they seek to harm. Creepy guys exist.
But many of the guys I have heard described as creepy are not actually so. They are not twisted or sadistic. They may express the occasional selfish motive, but in reality, no more than the average person. The problem is that they are awkward. They are awkward about expressing their desires and feelings. They don’t know how to be subtle. They don’t know the mechanics of the strange interchange between revealing and hiding, chasing and being chased. They don’t know how to figuratively (and often, literally) dance. They don’t know to translate their motives into the language of flirting and dating. So, like little boys, they blurt out their feelings too soon or in a strange way or nervously and it turns a woman off.
And that’s when she gives him that look— that heartbreakingly disgusted look. And she walks away and whispers to her friends about how “creepy” he is.
But he is not creepy. He just needs some help.
There are some guys for whom social graces, sexuality, and romance come naturally. But like every skill, not everyone is born with it. And yet, we do not treat such things as skills. We do not treat flirting like we treat cooking. Perhaps it is because we are so enchanted by its natural progression and it’s unpredictability that the thought of flirting being a teachable skill annoys us. We want to believe that, if we are good at it, it is simply because of our own nature or the nature of the one we are attracted to. We prefer to think of anything related to erotic love as always spontaneous and directed by fate.
But this is not reality. The ladies’ man wasn’t born with it anymore than the nerdy kid. He just learned much earlier. He learned unconventionally and without even knowing he was being taught. But he still learned— on the playground, at home with an older brother or his dad. At some point, the impulsive, emotional, needy toddler in diapers must be taught how to be suave and charming.
So what about the person who doesn’t learn until they are seventeen, or thirty, or never learns at all? Well, once it’s at that point we are often too afraid to help them. Awkwardness, in many ways, is the leprosy of our time. We see it and we run from it. We don’t know what to do with it. We don’t want to be seen mingling with it.
And so, it becomes easy to flippantly brand them. Creepy. Because he called twice in a row. Creepy. Because he said “I love you” too soon. Creepy. Because he wrote a letter that was overly romantic. Creepy. Because he told all his friends about you already.
And what happens to him? His confidence only plummets further. I can’t count the number of times a guy has told me “girls don’t like good guys.” What he really means is, “I’m trying to be good and sweet and I just keep getting called creepy.” Many of them take it as a sign they ought to learn something else– not social graces– but badness. When they should be seeking advice on how to be confident and subtle and charming, they seek advice on how to be sexually forward and aggressive. In expressing their cares clumsily, they assume they must just learn to suppress their cares entirely. They try to be bad. And if that doesn’t work they often give up on love entirely.
And I’m not solely blaming women for this general cultural problem and I’m not saying women are solely responsible for fixing it. In a world where there are real bad men and real bad people women are necessarily protective of themselves. A woman cannot be expected to “save” the good awkward guy, nor can she be expected to just “get over” the things that she finds unattractive in a potential date. That would be ridiculous. But, as a culture in general, we can be more aware of and careful with our responses and attitudes towards the people who initially turn us off— especially in the dating scene. We can be more forgiving of awkwardness, realizing it as a mere lack of skill, and, if we are in the right position, we can help the person acquire the skill they lack. Most and easiest of all, we can be gentler with the words we use, recognizing that they may brand a person forever. Calling a guy a “creep” says we know something about his motives— we know something about his heart. Calling a guy a “creep” says that his heart is rotten. That’s a pretty big thing to say and we should be pretty sure we know it if we are going to claim it.