Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Still not talking about pizza!

Who cares? I was never really talking about pizza in the first place, that was just how I tricked all of you into caring what I had to say about other stuff, like Wyclef and making music. Today I want to address all the straight men in the audience. To my other readers, read this over and see if it's worth passing on to a straight man in your life. I am not trying to exclude any of you, but I think we need to have a collective "Dude, seriously."

Recently my father and I went to go see his father and take him to a doctor's appointment, take him out out to lunch, get him some groceries, etc. (Status report: the old man is doing just fine.) We went to Whole Foods to buy him some cheese blintzes and ruggelah, and in the car driving over to his house, my dad said, "if I was a single guy I would go to Whole Foods to meet women."
"And why is that?"
"Didn't you notice," he said, "the place was full of single women. Well, maybe not single women, but it was full of women. Some of them had to be single." I hadn't noticed.
"Okay, so, how would you go about meeting these single women, or determining if they're single?" I was only half involved in the conversation because I was reading a NY Times article on my phone.
He shrugged. "I dunno... I would bump carts by accidentally or something." As you can tell, it's been a long time since my dad's been single.
"Don't you think they'd see right through that?" I asked.
"Sure, but if they were interested they'd see through it and know that I was interested and if not they would go about their day and I would go about mine and nothing would really be that different."
 "You don't think or care that they might be annoyed by the intrusion?"
"What are you supposed to do, never talk to a stranger because they might be annoyed by the intrusion? I am intruded upon 500 times a day, it happens. We live in a world with other people. Sometimes we have to interact with them."
And so on.

I don't recall exactly how it happened, but somehow we got onto the subject of winking. More specifically whether or not it is inappropriate for a man who is shopping at Whole Foods to wink at a woman he has never met who is shopping at Whole Foods. I posited that yes, it is categorically inappropriate. My father was outraged. "So you're saying that winking at a woman is an aggressive, inappropriate act? You're over-reacting. You're so concerned about fighting sexism that you see it in places where it isn't even there. Winking is benign and if you put it on the same category as saying 'hey baby, nice gams' and whistling like a Looney Tunes wolf, it diminishes the seriousness of those acts by comparing them to something relatively innocuous."
"Look," I began, at this point my phone was away and I was totally paying attention, "I just don't think it's innocuous. Everything has a context, and your hypothetical wink at Whole Foods falls squarely into a continuum of shitty behavior perpetrated by men towards women from the time they reach puberty. It may not be the same thing but it is all interrelated."
"That's ridiculous and you're inventing context that isn't there. A wink is just a wink."
"I just disagree with you there. And I might as well tell you now, you're never going to convince me. I don't think you are a bad person or have any malicious intent, and I appreciate that this conversation is all hypothetical and we're not discussing the fact that you DID wink at a woman in Whole Foods because I don't think you would do that. But the fact of the matter is, I have had conversations with many of the women in my life about being winked at and I know how they feel about it, so no matter how compelling an argument you craft in defense of men's Right to Wink, I am not going to be swayed because it is just conjecture by a man and is meaningless compared to the shared experience and testimony of the countless women I have talked to about this." I should note that I've been paraphrasing this whole time and I most assuredly was NOT that articulate in real life. Luckily, I'm the one recounting the discussion.
"That is crazy." He was shaking his head. "So you're saying that men aren't allowed to have opinions?"
"Of course not! I'm just saying that in this instance we're discussing something that affects women more than men and I'm going to side with the opinion of the people that are affected over someone on the outside conjecturing. Look, I know this isn't an issue because you don't actually go around winking at ladies, but have you ever had a discussion with any women in your life about how they feel when men wink at them?"
He shook his head no. I dialed my mom on speakerphone.

Ring ring ring ring ring "Hello?"
"Hey Ma, I got a a hypothetical situation for you. You're in a Whole Foods shopping for groceries..."
"What am I doing in a Whole Foods, I hate Whole Foods!"
"Ma, come on, lemme finish. You're in a Whole Foods shopping for groceries and you're walking down an aisle and a guy you've never seen before is walking the other way down the aisle and as you pass by he winks at you. How does that make you feel?"
"I would shout 'FUCK YOU!' at the guy" she said, without missing a beat. "I would yell, 'WHO THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU'RE WINKING AT?'"
I looked over and my dad was chuckling. I asked my mom, "Why?"
And she said, "Because a wink is too intimate a gesture to share with a stranger and the implications of a stranger winking at me in a Whole Foods are totally pervy. You wink at your friends. You wink when you're sharing a confidence, when you're both in on a secret. It's just not appropriate to wink at a stranger."

I texted my kid sister the same question. I said, "if you are in a Whole Foods and a man you don't know winks at you, how does that make you feel?"
"Gross," she wrote back almost immediately, followed a few moments later by, "and disgusting."
I showed the texts to my dad and he said, "well I guess I have to reconsider."

The point of all this is not that my dad is some skeezy jerkoff. He's a really nice and respectful guy and I think I got a lot of pretty awesome traits from him. But he is a Male Dude who was raised in America and he had a Male Dude for a father and his brother was a Male Dude and all his friends growing up were other Male Dudes and they were predominantly, maybe almost entirely Straight Male Dudes and they weren't scumbags or anything any more or any less than all Male Dudes in the world are trained to be scumbags from like, the second they hit puberty, a process which is possibly equally (but definitely differently) traumatic to being sexually objectified from the moment one hits puberty, although we'll never really know conclusively since part of that training is to cut ourselves off from our emotions and NEVER EVER EVER NEVER NERVER admit that anything could possibly be traumatizing to us.

The night before going to visit my grandfather I spent the night at my folks' house and I was sitting around eating defrosted pizza and watching cable on their TV at like, 2am, and I saw this show on MTV called "Guy Code" or something which was like, all these shitty comedians talking about why it is imperative that men fuck all the women. Here are some real quotes. I wish I could attribute them to the actual dudes that said them and then we could all get together and crush their nuts with a big piece of wood like Charlotte Gainsbourg does to Willem Defoe in Anti-Christ. (For all the defensive babies out there, I am joking around and I don't actually advocate crushing men's nutsacks because they say idiot shit.) This is on the subject of having friendships with women:
"The only time I'll keep a girl as a friend is if she has a lot of hot friends for me to hook up with."
"You're giving her all the things she's used to giving sex to get, so what the fuck is she gonna fuck you for?"
This is fucked, right? This is on MTV, which is like, the channel that is supposed to be for teenagers. I don't think MTV is actually teaching kids anything substantial or is to blame for shitty Dude Behavior, but I do think that it is certainly reflective of where we are at as a culture, and if nothing else, serves to reinforce shithead belief systems that are learned and taught everywhere else in the culture.

But the point is this: it is really easy for those of us who identify as Male Dudes to sit around and conjecture all day long about what it's like to be a lady and what behavior is appropriate and what behavior isn't but the only way to really figure that out is to just talk to women we know. And that part is easy, but here is the hard part: listen to what they have to say non-judgmentally and internalize it and think about it. Ask your moms and sisters how they feel. Ask your girlfriends or friends, because despite what "the Guy Code" says, I'm am pretty sure most straight dudes still have at least one female friend. And then do some research on your own. The internet is huge! Read a few things on Shakesville or Tiger Beatdown. And when you feel attacked or defensive, instead of getting your back up, take a step back and thinking about what it is you are feeling attacked by? What is it you are defending? Is winking at ladies an integral part of your personality, a kernel of truth at the very core of your being, that you could never give up? Is it your right to continue to be unaware of the weight of the patriarchy on the women in your life and the ways that you are complicit? Just be thoughtful and be open-minded. These are hard things to do, and the ladies in your life may not want to hold your hand all the time, but if you are actually a caring person and you actually want to know, you can educate yourself and these things and people will be willing to talk to you.

And now I have to go because I'm going to be late for work.


  1. you should definitely make yr dad read this article:

    I can't express how many times while reading that I said to myself - this, this is why it's so hard to leave the house some days.

  2. I agree with this, but it also brings up a lot of questions I have difficulty answering, and I don't know if they even have legitimate answers.

    I am a straight male. I've spent most of my life trying to treat people fairly, respect their personal space, be thoughtful of who they are/where they're coming from/etc. I would never wink at a girl because I'd hate to be the person who ruins another person's day with an inappropriate gesture.

    I think the problem I have is how one defines something as "inappropriate." While having an open conversation with the opposite sex does help a straight male understand what is or is not the right way to generally interact, and can help provide a guideline regarding what is ok and not ok to do, this does not eliminate the ulterior motive of the straight male's actions. The only difference between man1 winking at a lady and man2 smiling or striking up a conversation with a lady is that man1 is a little more boorish at face value, whereas both are equally boorish in their underlying desires. Both men have looked at the lady and made a decision to talk to her based entirely on superficial/physical appearance. Man2 is better than man1 because man2 is better at masking his intent? This is what this argument feels like to me. This is why I never talk to the lady at the bar whom I think is pretty; this is why I never talk to the lady at the show whom I think is pretty; this is why I almost never talk to any lady I don't know whom I think is pretty. If the reasons for talking to a person has to do with such shallow stuff, it is base of me, it is deceitful to the lady, and I cannot think of it any other way.

    So I guess what I'm asking is how do you gauge when talking to a lady is ok? How do you talk to someone you find attractive because you find them attractive and act like it's not because you find them attractive? Or are we supposed to only find female companionship through our friends? The only answer I've heard thus far is "lighten up," but Idunno, I'd like to think I respect myself and others more than that.

    Hope things are treating you well!


  3. I think that, often, approach gives some indication as to intention. I think a gesture such as winking, or a silly pick-up line, indicates a strictly physical desire. Talking to someone, on the other hand, indicates that you are interested in what they have to say, and therefore, what kind of person they are.

    I think it's totally ok to send a message, verbally or otherwise, that you find someone attractive. We all find people to be attractive, and that's ok. It's in our damn DNA and it's weird and dishonest to try and deny it. The tricky part is figuring out how to approach someone without making them feel threatened or uncomfortable.

    As a lady, I have dealt with my share of unwelcome advances and general creepiness with guys. They have usually been in the form of a whistle, a creepy stare, an obnoxious cat-call, or some other over-zealous, obviously creepy gesture. What I don't consider creepy, however, is when someone just tries to talk to me as a human being. Even if I realize that someone is romantically interested, and even if I'm not, I don't fault someone for trying. Hell, I've tried with guys and been both successful and unsuccessful myself. It need not become awkward if you're honest and humble about it.

    I don't think it's about who is better at "masking intent." I think approach is a bit of an indicator. Would you talk to an attractive girl only because you might want to fuck her? Or would you talk to an attractive girl because you hope that she might also be really cool, and it might be really fun to hang out with someone who is both attractive and cool?

    I guess all I'm saying is: talk to that lady next time you see her! Just treat her like a human and talk to her like you would talk to a friend or someone worth listening to and learning about. I think you would be hard-pressed to find a lady who disapproves of a humble, human effort.

  4. Thanks for the thoughtful response, anonymous! It is certainly something to keep in mind next time I try talking to a lady.

  5. Tom,

    Anonymous said pretty much everything I was going to, and better than I could have. The thing about human interactions is that there aren't a firm set of rules and guidelines.

    I think one problem you are facing is the notion that there is something shameful about being attracted to another person, and that it needs to be hidden. It's how you go about acknowledging that attraction, (and how you eventually deal with realizing that it is or isn't reciprocal), that fosters an atmosphere of non-creepiness.

    It's not boorish to be attracted to someone! Almost everyone is attracted to SOMEONE. It's how you act on it. I think you should try taking some of anonymous' advice re: what to keep in mind when talking to a lady, and see how you feel. The solution is definitely NOT to never talk to anyone. Maybe we live in hyper-self conscious times, but it is really hard to be a human and interact with other humans and I think it probably alway has been. Learning how to lead an earnest and fulfilling life, especially in our Sick Fucking Society where there is so much money to be made off of shaming and alienating people, is a struggle.

    But you seem like a thoughtful and kind person and I think that is what will show if you are willing to be open and honest when you meet someone.


  6. About 19 out of 20 winks give me the jeeblies. Every so often there is a friendly natured wink that's not too offensive.

    Something happened yesterday when I was walking. A guy rolled past me on my bicycle. He was looking at the sidewalk, then as he rolled past he looked at me, his face brightened with a smile and then he said "Wow.". He didn't shout "WOW!" at me, he just casually said it and went on by and said nothing else. I walked away thinking that it was such a polite way of letting me know he thought I was attractive, but unobtrusive and not fully directed at me. He was more saying it to himself. If he'd stopped and tried to pursue me I would have felt differently, but as it was it was just a nice compliment from a stranger and it made me smile.

  7. You're being ridiculous, but your old man seems like a good bloke!

  8. Who winks at anyone these days anyway? What is this, 1955? When I see an attractive girl I establish eye contact and slowly drag my tongue across my upper lip whilst I pinch one of my nipples.

  9. Colin, FWIW (and in the spirit of your request in the last paragraph of this post) I asked both my girlfriend and my sister how they felt re: men (strangers) winking at them. Their replies were the same - neither felt it was unacceptable (as a general rule...although both acknowledged there were circumstances where it could be creepy).

  10. ...since when did listening to women's advice on how to pick-up women actually work? That's a sucker's game.

  11. Wow, that's a leap Slice Harvester!

    Maybe you should ask your lady friends the following question:

    #1: Have you ever fell for a guy that you were originally repulsed by?

    The reality is that your dad could pick up some serious tail if he so chooses. The reason? Because the ladies will perceive him, not as a predator, but as confident.

  12. "Pick up some serious tail."

    You still sound like a predator to me.

  13. dude, I agree with your thoughts, just I went to a liberal arts college and took feminist theory courses and I can say that you all have no idea about what femminism (sp) is. This is typical overly examining details and putting out of context. Hate to tell you this, but if a woman is interested in you she will talk/flirt back, sexuality predates feminist theory and all cultural learning be it bad or good. If you winked she would be more likely to be interested rather then some weird long pick conversation about patriarchy and weather or not your offending her making her think your insane. Also who shops at Whole Foods during a recession, rich people.

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  15. Can anyone translate any of this for me?

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  17. I first want to say that I enjoy your blog and I did a crap job in my post.. Too put it simply in your initial post, you seemed to really over exaggerate “winking” as a form of Patriarchy and sexism. Granted you seem to be informed about topics and the history of feminism, how ever you also appear to be misinformed about what feminism is. Feminism is about equal rights, financial, social, etc. for women. And yes it also has to do with cultural norms and standards that are sexists, i.e. Pigheaded, lude and demeaning behavior toward females. The current opinions on what feminism or pigheaded behavior usually doesn’t come from scholars or individuals with a strong grasp on the topic and things such as claiming winking, trying to talk to women, anything that involves expressing an interest in another person can be considered sexists. As a person, It really is upsetting to see society consistently go past the point what initially makes a lot of sense to misrepresenting those important ideals. It makes for a repressive and conservative society on all though and expression, almost puritan in ways. Also I kind of have a chip on my shoulder because I went to a good Liberal Arts college and 2/3 of the woman I knew that did woman’s/gender/feminist studies, usually had rich parents, and would ridicule men, but they could take money from their fathers, now they all live in Brooklyn and Harlem , are part of the process of gentrification and make it harder for low income families to pay rent and lets say send their kids to school. So in my opinion, the really valid ideas by Women like Betty Fiedan, Bell Hooks, ETC. have been lost on this generation and is now a form of social sophistry and that seems to be what your trying to suggest.

  18. You're a douche.

    Winking is fine.

    Especially at the grocery store.

  19. I came across this after seeing another article about the completion of your pizza quest (congrats) and was pleasantly surprised to find this anecdote as well - thanks for posting it.

    Getting winked at is so rare that I think that's why it comes off as creepy. And while discussing the merits of winking isn't part of the grand schema of intellectual feminism, it does reflect how feminism should be a part of our daily lives. Give women the same respect you would give to men (no matter which gender you're attracted to). Your blog post may not be a Betty Friedan philosophical masterpiece, but there's no better advice than asking people how they like to be treated, and then using that as a basis for how you interact with them and others. So simple - and yet people get worked up about it.

  20. Thanks Allison.

    I think I regret focusing so heavily on the conversation I had with my father because it seems to have left a lot of people fixated on this very specific thing-whether or not it is ever okay to wink at anyone (answer: WHO CARES?) when my intent was to open up a conversation about how people interact and the oftentimes very unhealthy ways people are conditioned to behave, and specifically how many straight men seem to interact AT women rather than interact WITH women.

    The point of writing all this was not to say "DON'T EVER WINK AT ANYONE EVER" so much as "please consider that things you take for granted as okay might not be okay to some other people and when you learn that those things are not okay to those people, instead of becoming totally defensive, listen to them and genuinely consider their feelings," which SHOULDN'T be that radical a concept, but sadly, it is.

    I think it's telling that so many people are so up in arms about their right to wink at strangers, too. Like, is that really such an integral part of anyone's personality that they can't bear to let it go?

  21. How about me and you conduct an experiment, a social experiment and Wink at women in Whole Foods and see who they think is Creepier, come on man, please come. I'll be at the Whole Foods on Houston St this Saturday at 4 pm, here's a image link.,r:0,s:0&biw=1680&bih=851


    No thanks!

    Un/related question: do you have a goatee?

  23. This made my morning! Saw you on the morning news and decided to check out your site. You are a great writer and I'm looking forward to taking my husband over to Pizza Supremo. We live in NYC and LOVE pizza, but there is a lot of crap out. Thanks for narrowing it down. I'll be sharing your link on my new blog.

  24. To Slice Harvester: Of Course I have a Goatee, I'm clearly satan.

    You don't know what your miss out on, there going to be announcing it over the P.A at whole foods, " Pick up on aisle 9" " Mop on aisle 5, its getting wet" It's going to be all winking and critiques on modern day feminism, then I'm taking them out for Pizza.

    on related note, where do you think the first Ray's pizza was located and 2 bros, best thing or worst thing ever.

  25. Slice Harvester,
    On Match, the dating site, if you are interested in someone and perhaps are too shy to write an email, you wink. I get "winks" all the time from women. Seems innocuous to me. And I think that it really depends on whether the person being winked at is attracted to the person winking. I doubt many women would be bothered if Brad Pitt winked at them. Also, I think there is an assumption when you talk about winking that there is some sexual context associated with it. Sometimes people wink to communicate that they understand the funny/ridiculousness of some moment or to privately acknowledge "hey good job".

  26. It's funny enough you have a pizza slice review website. You don't need to annoy us with your political correctness about gender relations! I wink at mad bitches all the time. And I gets the drawers. So whatever you have to say about it, only applies to you!

  27. Oh cool Hugo thanks for your input I'll take that all into consideration next time I am deliberating whether or not I want to start being a totally vile shithead instead of a decent human.

  28. Colin,

    I really appreciate this article. I appreciate most things you write, in fact. I was going to suggest that maybe you could amend the article to say what you did a few comments up, about the point of this article. Good shit. Keep it up.

    I wrote a few sentences in reply to filmtime, that I was gonna leave out, but I can't help myself. I really want filmtime to know that a liberal arts college is not a license to claim knowledge of all things feminism, and actually, dude, makes you sound profoundly weak. Your diatribe against those girls in your program with the rich dads was not only inherently sexist, but is in fact the epitome of bell hooks' white supremacist racist patriarchy theory, which she espouses every chance she gets. In a few lines, you blamed gentrification (ne capitalism) on the girls in your feminist studies program and not at all on the men who created the patriarchal system of capitalism which allows gentrification to flourish! Apalling!

    I would also caution you, filmtime, to avoid the trap that because you took some courses you're now well versed on feminist thought and theory, and to know which schools you're cribbing your notes from (1st, 2nd, 3rd wave? Marxist-feminism? Anarcha-feminsim? Liberal feminism? Capitalist-feminism? Anne Coulter? Rosey O'Donnell?) You've got a long way to climb before you hit the feminist peak, bro.

    Thanks again, Colin. You're a gem!


  29. And let's put an end to all the smiling too! So disgusting! I'd like to just go one day without having to endure someone smiling at me! Go smile at your mother, you pervs!

  30. i send this to my sistre and she responds "i love this man"

    you are doing the right thing brother

  31. You rock Colin.