Sorry, the Cat Ate My Cell Phone.

“Can I have your number?” someone asks.

“Sure,” I reply after a moment of hesitation, reluctantly listing it out while I wish there was some way I could just say no.

I can’t tell you how many times this has happened to me in the last few years, and how many awkward text and phone conversations this has lead to. This is frustrating to me, made even moreso by the fact that my partner doesn’t understand, he just asks me why I give my number out to people who I clearly have no interest in talking to.

“What am I supposed to say? No?” I ask, trying to point out my lack of options.

“Exactly, just say no.” He responds, and I look at him as if he has just sprouted an extra head.

Typing in my number, but one digit off. Claiming that my cell phone service is about to change, and I’m getting a new number anyways. Claiming that my phone is only for emergencies. Why do all of these options seem more reasonable to me than a simple no?

Lately I have been feeling a familiar tinge on anxiety creeping back into my life – partially because of a barrage of unwanted comments and prying questions coming from people that I really just don’t feel comfortable talking to.  People who I would never be rude to (treating anyone without respect is not in my nature) but, at the same time, I have no interest in being as close with them as they seem to assume I already am.

Frankly, I feel incredibly rude and strangely exposed even writing this. Somehow, admitting that there are people out there who I don’t want to be close with seems wrong to me. Though I know it’s something that everyone feels.

In a heterosexist gender-binary society this issue is particularly gendered. Traditionally men are the ones who go out and collect the phone numbers, and women the ones who passively give them out. To refuse to give your number out is to shake up the system, and run the risk of being labeled a “bitch” or something similar in the process.

This might explain why my female-identified friends seem better equipped to understand my predicament… they don’t question why I didn’t just say no. In fact, all of the excuses above have been suggested by various female identified friends over the years. It really is no wonder that this double-standard exists, with all of the awful advice out there directed at men looking for phone numbers. For instance:

You should get into the habit of asking for numbers every time you approach a woman — even if you don’t plan on calling her. The more you do this, the more it’ll become second nature to you. Further, you will be creating a list of backups that you can later call on. This is just gross to me; it’s one thing to ask for a number after a pleasant conversation with someone who you’d like to see again. It’s another thing to just start collecting women’s numbers just for the sake of getting as many as possible. You’re not a pokemon trainer, there is no need to catch ’em all.

When you ask for email, it’s very low risk for a woman, so she’ll think “Fine, I’ll do that.” Most women will give out an email address without thinking about it, because they know that they can choose later to just not answer.

The magic of asking them to write their phone number down WHILE they’re in the middle of writing down their email is all about the psychology of human behavior. She’s already mentally said “OK, I’ll give you my email address”… and she’s in the middle of writing it down. When you say “And just write your number down there too” it’s only NATURAL to just write it. Just one of the many techniques I found for manipulating a number out of a woman. This guy also boasted that he could get a number in just two minutes if he was “in a hurry.” Charming.

The most effective way to get a girl’s phone number is to just tell her to give it to you. That’s right. It’s that straightforward. Simply say something like, “Hey, I really enjoyed talking to you. Give me your phone number and let’s get together sometime.” Please note: This is not the same as asking for it. the difference is sophisticated. When you ask the woman for the woman phone number she has an opportunity to tell you “no.” Whenever you tell her to give you the girl phone number, she’s more likely to do it. People, and especially girls, will merely follow along if you take the lead of things. In truth, they tend to like it. Telling a girl to give you her number is an instance of taking charge. There is nothing I can even say to make this “advice” more fucked up than it already is.

I know that I deserve better than this, I deserve every right to declare my boundaries and stick to them without guilt… but somehow, in the real world, when someone is asking me for my number and I know I don’t want to give it to them… its just not that simple. For the first time in a long time, I don’t even really know where I’m going with this. All I know is that giving out my number to people I hardly know makes me feel vulnerable and uncomfortable, but so does refusing to give it out. So I’m going to ask you some questions instead:

  • When is it okay to decide you simply do not want to be friends with someone?
  • Is there a polite way to refuse to give out a phone number/information/whatever?
  • How do you deal with another person’s reaction to your rejection?

(This may be the worst post I have ever written, but I felt like I needed to get this out there. My apologies for the sub-par writing and lack of any real conclusion! Better posts are coming soon.)

16 thoughts on “Sorry, the Cat Ate My Cell Phone.

  1. Pingback: If I Had a Tumblr, I’d Reblog These Posts… « Imagine Today

  2. I hear you.

    If the asker is a man, I will either say, “No, I don’t give my phone number out,” or I do the easier “I prefer to communicate via email” thing. The response to option 1 can be difficult to handle if I’m not up for it. Some dudes just say “Oh, okay” and get over it, but some get outraged by your lack of compliance. If I do option 2, and unwanted communication results, I can always block the sender.

    If the asker is a woman, and I’m not interested in dating OR in friendship, I begrudgingly give my number because it’s the easiest thing to do and I feel less fear of future inappropriate behavior (like stalking, etc).

    However, I wish I was better about just saying ‘no’.

  3. Oh, how do you feel about the trend where the person to whom you’ve grudgingly given a number immediately calls it in your presence to make sure it’s “real”?

    That’s some red flag behavior right there.

  4. Thanks for the tips :) More than anything else it just makes me feel so much better to know I’m not the only one who feels awkward in these situations… and the dialing it right there move is the worst Havlová! That’s why I’ve never tried to use the fake number trick some of my friends suggested.

  5. i dealt with this a lot at my last job. a few co-workers and i would spend a lot of time chatting on our breaks. i’m not a particularly social person. i like to keep to myself, and even on breaks i would choose a book at an empty table over joining someone i was acquainted with. eventually though, those acquaintances would ask for my number. i gave it to them with the strict warning “i’m not a phone person. i forget i even have a phone, so don’t get pissed when i don’t answer a call or text.” i then informed them that i was on facebook, and that’s a better way to communicate with me (i have strict privacy settings, where all co-workers are sorted into one list and i heavily limit who can view what). although there were minor instances when the facebook thing backfired on me, but nonetheless i prefer that over phone anyway. i don’t like certain people being able to reach me wherever i am. i like to answer communications on my own time and on my terms, which is why i prefer it to be electronic.

    it doesn’t happen often that i go out, and when i do it’s mostly with my boyfriend, so i rarely if ever get the random dude demanding my number. the few times it’s happened though i say that i have a rule that i don’t give out my number, and accept theirs, even putting it in my phone with them watching. afterward i promptly delete it. i guess i just like being in control of my own information, and being in control of the whole numbers game.

  6. I struggle with this too. If it’s a woman, I usually don’t mind, but I really don’t like giving my number out to men I don’t know. (I think this has less to do with gender than with the situations in which phone numbers are exchanged. Women I’m giving my number to are usually coworkers or friends of friends. Men who ask for my number are usually hitting on me.) I also just hate using the phone in general and really only use it to talk to my parents, who aren’t very good at the Internet.

    I always just give out my number and then don’t answer my phone if they call. I don’t think I could ever say, “No, you can’t have my number.” I would feel way too awkward. My social brainwashing is too strong!

  7. Thanks for righting this up, it’s been a ongoing discomfort for me that I haven’t really articulated. I’m bothered by my own tendency to give in to pressure and hand over my contact info to someone I wouldn’t volunteer it to. It’s probably the second biggest reason (beyond safety concerns) that I’ll volunteer to pass on contact info to a mutual friend, call/email them for someone, or otherwise communicate with them instead of handing out their contact info unless I have specific permission for that individual in that case. I find it oddly easier to set that boundary when it comes to other people’s contact info and I’ve noticed that others are more understanding of my stance (though that could be a selection factor of mutual acquaintance).

    My skin has gotten slightly thicker after being repeatedly being exposed to negative consequences for giving out my own info under pressure including the joy of unfriending a Facebook acquitance after they loudly outed me in a coffeehouse to a complete stranger, but I find myself responding much the way you describe.

    I’m not sure how viable it is for everyone (and I object to some of Google’s practices), but now that Google Voice is an open beta it does offer some more options. You get a separate number with working Caller ID for outbound and texts that defaults to forwarding to your regular one, but with the ability to send certain incoming numbers to voicemail, give them a custom greeting, or have them receive a standard “not in service” message. That plus being able to listen in & decide to answer while a voicemail is being left and change your number at will for $10 (the rest is free) makes me much less reluctant to give out my number and if you’ve got the default forwarding skipping their voicemail turned on it’ll even pass the slimy “checking if it’s real” test Havlová mentions above. I don’t give out my direct cell number to anyone if I can avoid it now.

  8. Sorry about the overly-huge infodump, but I should probably point out that most of those features are only available if you get a Google Voice number in addition to your regular one.

  9. “Hey, I really enjoyed talking to you. Give me your phone number and let’s get together sometime.”

    Dude, one guy used almost that exact line on me once! At first, it just went something like, “…my number?” “Yeah, just write it down on my hand *pulls out pen*” “Whoa, I just met you.” “C’mon, give me your number.”

    As soon as he made the second demand, out came the profanity (on my end, then his), and it got very confrontational very fast. He was getting unbelievably pissed that things weren’t going his way, and I admit my own aggressive attitude didn’t help prevent escalation.

    Sorry, this isn’t too helpful if you’re not inherently prone to snapping at pushy assholes. I’m just enraged that that sort of advice is being so casually distributed. I generally hang with enlightened guys, so I thought the man in my anecdote was a rare bad apple. *seethe*

  10. Male here.

    Just say “no.”

    STOP. Yes, I did read what you wrote. Just say “no.”

    Wait wait WAIT. I understand your objection. You are literally not listening when men instruct you to just say no.

    “This is frustrating to me, made even moreso by the fact that my partner doesn’t understand”

    This is the most amusing. I’ll try to make it as simple as I can.

    Just say “no.”

    More complex? Okay, if you insist. Are women asking you for your number? Or men?

    Men! Okay.

    Is your partner male? Are other males suggesting the same thing?

    (Do you see where I am going with this?)

    I am taking this tone because you are perpetuating something that men hate: playing games. You’re dealing with MEN asking you for a number. Can you reply in a way that acknowledges that? SO WHAT if a guy mutters “bitch” under his breath? Is it REALLY so cringe-inducing to you? Any guy over the age of 18 has had his share of getting turned down — it’s funny that you write this as if you had the hard part.

    “In a heterosexist gender-binary society this issue is particularly gendered.”

    I went to Skidmore, so I can actually decode this(!) but it’s a simple observation of fact, not an observation of difficulty. Of course it’s a gendered issue. Here’s how to deal with it:

    Just say “no.”

    Can you get your male friends to read and evaluate this too? They’ll back me up. An emerging trend — you’re right — is for some of the ‘seduction’ class guys to ask women for their numbers (sometimes, they throw them away, it’s the act of asking that is literally practice. No, I’m not kidding).

  11. Roger:

    First of all, I’m not five years old. Talking to me like you’re writing an episode of Dora the Explorer is just fucking unnecessary.

    As the post says, people HAVE suggested that I just say no. I listened to them. I even tried just saying no; obviously it didn’t work, obviously it’s not that simple, or else there’d be no need for this post.

    You don’t seem to understand the situation fully – which makes sense considering the fact that you likely have not lived it.

    Here’s the first shocker: I’m not dealing with just MEN asking me for my number I am dealing with people of all different genders. That said, it’s typically the men who are more insistent/intimidating, and I am typically more reluctant to give my number out to men because I find that they ask for it much sooner after we’ve met and they tend to persist more often, even after it’s clear we have nothing in common/I’m not interested in talking to them.

    The second shock: I’m not one for playing games. All of the people who have asked me for my number have done so with the full knowledge that I have a partner who I have no intention of cheating on. I don’t know how to make it clearer that I have NO INTENTION of doing them beyond, I don’t know, chaining myself to my partner.

    Third surprise: it tends to get a lot more hostile than you are assuming. If it was just a simple “bitch” under their breath I wouldn’t care, to be honest. The problem is, that’s typically not where it stops. The one time I actually managed to just say sorry, but no the guy just continued talking to me as if I hadn’t said a thing; he took out his phone and insisted I entered my number over and over and over again (while I repeated some variation of I’m sorry I can’t) until I broke down and did. Yes, I am aware that by doing this I positively reinforced his behavior but to be honest, at that point, all I wanted was to get away.

    Another time, the guy fucking turned around and got my number off of a friend. Later that night I got a text that just said “Surprise! I found you.”

    I think part of the problem is that women are taught to play games, and men are taught to try and master those games – when I said no the assumption was that I was really telling him to try harder.

    “It’s funny that you write this as if you had the hard part.” Statements like these make it clear that you’re not looking to empathize or give advice, you just want to criticize. Have you ever been harassed & followed by someone demanding your number, regardless of what you say? I’m guessing not, because if this had happened to you – and saying no had gotten you into a situation where you felt actually threatened – you probably wouldn’t be treating me like such a moron.

    Look through the comments here, check out the responses on reddit- I’m not the only one who has this problem, and not the only one who has been harassed as a result of simply refusing.

    And just FYI: My partner read through this and the comments, and apologized for his advice…. because he realized that it wasn’t as simple as you make it out to be.

  12. Hi J. My normal reaction to a stranger (or at least someone whose number I don’t want!) asking me for my phone number, is “Why??”

    Said in total confusion. (Total confusion was actually real the first few times. These days I just find it easier.)

    IDK if anything really “works” when someone’s determined, you end up either having to give a wrong number or just walk away, but persistent “Why?” maybe deflects the Pokemon attitude?

  13. @Roger–

    that’s quite the condescending tone you’ve adopted there. and i’m with J on her response to that tone. i’m guessing you haven’t lived this situation, and have no clue how quickly a “no” can turn a rejected man into a hostile one. this is the makings of a victim-blaming stance on your part, and you will quickly find it’s not welcome in feminist circles.

  14. Another male-identified person here.

    Like many men, my immediate reaction was “just say ‘no’!” and thinking it strange that any other course of action would occur to anyone.

    Then I read the post and it dawned on me – “oh yeah – guys can be threatening.” I think a lot of guys extrapolate from their own self-perception and assume that all other guys are like them, and totally cool and can cope with rejection calmly and stuff. Which if we WATCHED what other guys are like, we might realise isn’t true (if we thought about why we don’t front up to certain guys, we’d probably get the point quicker).

    The best suggestion I have is to try to let the guy down gently: e.g. “I’ve really enjoyed talking to you, but I really don’t think you’re my type, probably best to leave it?” But I imagine the more persistent types will just demand ‘what is your type then?” so I don’t know how much help that is.

  15. Late to the discussion, but wanted to add–most of the time when approached by those hitting on me who I’m not interested in, I have no problem saying “no”. With possible friendship situations it’s harder because I usually do feel lonely and looking for new friends, and can definitely understand that in others–although I’ve given my phone number to guys who said they wanted friendship and then tried hitting on me and then backed off when I said I wasn’t interested only to hit on me again a little later–so, maybe I shouldn’t have given my number out.

    But one time, I remember, I took down a guy’s phone number who wanted to exchange contact info. Didn’t give him mine, but I think even taking down his was a mistake, because he didn’t hit on me before I took it down but immediately afterwards he told me he wanted to “explore my body”, and I left because I wanted to get the hell out of there and had something to go to besides, but what I should have done was torn the number up in front of his face and yelled “I’m not interested in you that way” at him, because now if we meet again he’ll probably think he has a chance with me, and that just opens the door to further harassment and worse.

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