If you didn’t know (but really, how could you not?), I am on Twitter. Twitter, for the uninformed, is a social media website where you can share your thoughts within a set parameter of characters. It gives people the opportunity to share their brief insights and jokes with a wider audience and is home to a great community of writers, many of whom I genuinely like.
It is also home to many, many, creepy middle-aged men.
Now, I don’t hate middle-aged men. In fact, I love and admire many middle-aged men. Many of my closest friends are middle-aged men (that’s untrue, but wouldn’t it be swell if it was?). The problem is that these men don’t view me as a peer. To them, I am not a fellow writer but a potential partner, and the number of ‘hello, dear’ messages I receive on a daily basis is so great that I should probably consider changing my name to Bambi.
“But Charlotte,” the middle-aged man in my mind’s-eye complains, “they’re just being friendly. Of course they see you as an equal in this community.”
Why, then, do they insist on reducing their praise of me to physical attributes? Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it’s nice when people say that you’re pretty, but no one is out there telling Stephen King that he’s got lovely eyes. No one is telling Neil Gaiman to ‘smile more’. I would be very surprised if David Mitchell’s Twitter inbox is filled with middle-aged women telling him that they just want someone to spend the rest of their life with.
In short, the fact that you like my face is irrelevant to me. I would much rather you complimented my characterisation than the ‘youthful plumpness of [my cheeks]’ – because, let’s be real, in fifty years, my plumpness will be far less youthful and you will be dead. Moreover, in honour of Pride Month, let’s make this very clear: I am a lesbian. I am a violet-bearer, a daughter of Sappho, a gay woman. I am also nineteen years old. What makes random strangers on the internet think that I want to date them when I would have a much better chance with their daughters?
Hubris, I suppose, but that makes it clear that they are not half as well read as they say they are. Such pride never ends well for the perpetrator. Also, it makes you look like a dick on the internet and, if you are unfortunate enough to come across someone as petty as me, they will screenshot your creepy messages and put them on their blog. Like this.
Now, if you still fancy sliding into my DMs, here’s a simple way to become my friend and writing colleague:
- Are you planning on opening with a comment about my looks? If so, change this to a comment about my works, maybe a receipt showing that you bought my book.
- Are you going to ask if I am single? If so, then don’t. Funnily enough, this is not a meet-cute from a romantic comedy and instead makes you look like the stalker from the hit Netflix series ‘You’.
- Are you going to ask me to specify where I live? Please do not – London is way too specific as it is, and I would much rather not share my postcode with strangers on the internet.
- Are you going to engage me in interesting conversation about books and/or writing? If so, then please do! I love chatting with people on the internet, as long as conversation stays trivial and fun.
Charlotte Bowyer (author, activist, and full-time internet woman)