There is a family I see all the time at the gym. Mother and father work out there (I now know both of them by name). Their daughter is a lifeguard at the pool. A high school girl.
I always found her quite attractive. But from a distance. I felt like a creep for this. As though my sexuality is supposed to know to ignore a woman with a great figure because she’s 17.
I was dimly aware of her age, so I always kept my distance from her. Unfortunately, when I had shame, distance meant I noticed. So I had to keep my distance. Even worse, I was curious about her life. Mundane curiosity, like what is she interested in? Do the boys at school find her pretty or is she a late bloomer? Creepy.
* * * *
A few weeks back, I introduced myself separately to both of her parents as part of my overall shame-eradication effort. They seem like a nice family.
Thanks to this effort, I don’t think much of Lifeguard. I notice her figure, but I don’t fixate or wonder. My mission of crushing my social anxiety and toxic attachments doesn’t leave much room to contemplate the life of a teenager.
This morning, I happened to pass through the pool to talk to a friend and saw her sitting at her lifeguard chair. I approached. Time to have fun.
“I have a new year’s resolution,” I said with calm energy and a small smirk.
“What’s that,” she said.
“To learn everyone’s name here. I’m Nixon.”
“Nice to meet you Nixon, I’m Lifeguard.”
“Your parents are Stan and Denise Lifeguard, right?”
“Yeah. They’re here all the time.”
“Yes, I met them recently too. Nice to know all of you now. Take care.”
That was it. I delivered my interaction with the calm confidence of practice and a touch of mischief. The same mild mischief I bring to almost all these interactions. Everyone is unique, but my approach is the same. Why? Because the interaction is about me, and dealing with my shame. It’s not about her, whoever her is, and whether she’s beautiful or sexy or plain or nice or a bitch.
Old Nixon: You can’t possibly go up to a 17-year-old girl and ask her name, that’s a creepy move. Just think about her from 90 feet away.
New Nixon: Tell that woman who you are. Do not be ashamed of who you are. Quit fixating on her sexuality. She is a member of the community, like you.
* * * *
As a grown adult, I must conform to ordinary behavior norms around underage women. That requires a state of indifference. If a girl is underage, I must not go out of my way to pay attention to, or ignore her.
A man is not a creep because he approaches a woman he shouldn’t. A man is a creep because he treats a woman differently because of her sexuality (whatever form it takes). He is a creepy old man if he believes in treating her differently because of her age (via approaching or distancing).
The only different treatment this girl deserves because of her age is that I do not speak to her in any way that implies legitimate sexual interest. That is easy to accomplish if you’re not giving her unmerited attention (by talking to her or thinking about her).
I believe that to specifically distance yourself from a girl because of her age improperly sexualizes her in the same way as paying too much attention to her. Though if the man can only do one or the other, distance is better. To keep my distance from a girl for this reason is to deliberately think about her. And the thought that goes into maintaining this distance invariably leads to more thinking.
An object deliberately kept at a distance becomes an object of worship and curiosity because of that distance. The more I nuked social anxiety by treating everyone equally, the more indifferent I became, and the less curious I became about her (or any number of other women I used to fixate on).
What about what others might think of you for talking to an underage girl?
This thought fades along with shame. Others don’t care. People on the internet oblivious to their scapegoating impulses care. Shame-free indifference is itself a healthy boundary with a young woman. Extreme distance is a toxic boundary.
The only valid distance boundary would be talking to her parents about their daughter. That would be creepy. But thanks to my healthy indifference about her: I have nothing to say about her to her parents. I know her name, I might say hello or engage in small talk if the situation required it. That’s all.
Other than writing about this interaction, I’ve thought about her very little.
A man with a strong frame does not let another person’s sexuality dictate his ability to maintain ordinary communal relationships that are overwhelmingly asexual.
A creep is a man tries to extract sexuality from a situation where desire doesn’t exist. The attempt to extract what isn’t there is proof of a lack of frame. This is why he exercises caution around “improper” targets, to avoid the temptation to try to extract something he shouldn’t.
For a man with a strong, conventionally masculine frame, sexuality extracts itself from interactions because his character creates desire in women. Overwhelmingly, that sexuality only surfaces in appropriate situations.