I was out recently, minding my own business, chatting with my friends at the bar as we charmingly broke early-twenties kids are wont to do. It was sometime after midnight that I was approached by a man. He was older, very bearded, and had been seen skulking around awkwardly between the clumps of people all night. There is nothing wrong with that; some people aren't good at just shoehorning their way into peoples' lives (like me). There is also nothing wrong with using an ice-breaking question to start a conversation. I am very patient with people's attempts to be social.
Unless they open with this:
"Can I ask you a creepy question?"
Living is a learning process, and he's never going to learn unless someone points out his errors. Seeing as he was almost twice my age, he probably should have learned that this approach was quite wrong in any social setting, but maybe no one had told him before. I was happy to be that someone. That said, there may have been a more tactful way to go about it than my mildly-drunken way of saying, "That was a terrible opener. Never introduce yourself that way again. Seriously."
He was not discouraged or apologetic. He kept staring at me with those big beardy eyes and said, "Well...can I?"
I really didn't want him to. I don't condone that type of behavior and allowing him to answer is only rewarding shitty social skills. But, as any lady who's ever been to a bar will tell you, resistance to dumb male comments often just acts to elongate the interaction and it's usually better to just get it over with. It's a sad world, but it's the world we drunkenly stumble through.
So I said, "If you have to."
I was not expecting this to be his question: "Are you an empath?"
For those of you who don't know what an "empath" is, don't try to look it up in a dictionary because it's technically not a word. But a Google search came up with the following definition:
noun: empath; plural noun: empaths
1. (chiefly in science fiction) a person with the paranormal ability to apprehend the mental or emotional state of another individual.
I was too dumbfounded for a moment to respond.
"Um...what?" I said, partly hoping I'd misheard him and partly hoping that I didn't because I have a vast appreciation for the WTF moments of the universe, and mama, this one's a doozy.
"An empath, it's like--"
I was actually already familiar with the term "empath," but I didn't realize it was mostly a sci-fi thing till I looked it up. That makes it far more absurd. I stopped him before he could explain--or, with a hindsighted guess, describe a character in a book he read that takes place in space--and asked him, "Why do you think that? What would make you ask me that?"
He looked a little awkward, and my super Empath skills were telling me that he was finally realizing how stupid he sounded. But now I was invested. Some creepy beardo at the grimiest hole-in-the-wall bar ever comes up and asks with all seriousness if I have emotional super powers? I must know more.
"Well..." he began, a little hesitantly, "you're dressed kind of...like a gypsy, and...um..."
(I should point out that was not the first time I was called a gypsy that night. It was the third.)
He mumbled something, his confidence waning. But after a few awkward seconds, he regained himself, looking at me with almost angry determination, and commandingly said, "Explain your necklace."
I looked down to see the necklace in question. I had on a long hemp necklace that I made with a silver peace sign, and another necklace with a pink stone hanging from a black cord. Writing this out is making me realize that there is no way to describe my outfits without describing a gypsy.
Before he could ask which one I was talking about, he clarified with, "Explain the stone."
I do not respond well to demanding tones like that, one of many reasons why I would not last in the army. My patience with the conversation had just run out, and I was certainly not about to get into the nuances of crystology with this creep, for a creep he most decidedly was.
"It's a rose quartz," I said, "and fuck, I don't know. I like it."
"Oh. Good," he said.
And then he walked away.
Thus is the occasion that I was approached by someone who learned their social skills from episodes of Battlestar Galactica. I can only hope that he's actually a mystical soldier fighting against those with secret supernatural abilities who would use their power for evil. Thank goodness I was able to convince him of my benevolence--unless...what if he's been tracking me? What if he's been monitoring my behavior, waiting diligently by my window on the off chance that he has to thwart my plans for global domination with his mighty boozy beard powers?
...Excuse me, I'm going to go double check my closet for spies. Just in case.