No man brings up his penis as a punchline. At least, in my–albeit limited–experience. Most men seem to take their penises quite seriously! Which is why, when a complete stranger tries to tell me about his, I take a dim view of his inevitable excuse that he’s “just joking.”
But when this happens at work, I have to be polite. Instead of “bring it up again, we’ll vote on it,” I have to say something lame. Like, for example, “I don’t think I’m the right artist for this commission.” My husband has a hard time conceptualizing just how gross other men are, so I occasionally amuse him by sharing these messages. Like the one I got this morning. Someone I hadn’t spoken to since about ’14 reached out to me, a few weeks ago, wanting me to design a cover for him. Or, failing that, somehow divine for him how much another artist might charge in my place. I don’t do graphic design, so I let him down gently. Imagine my surprise when, instead of taking the hint (which was, literally, me saying “I’m not interested”) he decided that I…must be interested in something else.
He messaged me a…picture, of another man, this one wearing shorts. And asked me what I’d do to him once his pants were off. Considering that a) this is a complete stranger, b) I’m married and, c), I was getting my child on the bus I was a little taken aback.
Eventually I replied, by pointing out the obvious: his message was super, super inappropriate. Natch, he took this opportunity to explain to me how I was wrong! Which I really appreciated; I always seek out total strangers’ permission to feel my feelings, especially when they’re negging me! How could I, all on my own, possibly know what I didn’t like?
Somehow, his having viewed my Facebook meant he “thought we could joke” about, again, penises. Without, you know, actually using humor. Because anyone who’s this fragile in the masculinity department probably doesn’t want to hear that I’ve seen better. On the squirrels, outside. And on my dog, who is neutered. Moreover, even were I not married and even if he were not married, I’m pretty sure that sliding into any stranger’s DM’s is a desperate cry for help. Detachable Penis isn’t a stoner’s meditation on life in the Mission District; the horrors depicted in the lyrics are real and this man needs help.
I know a lot of struggling writers, most of whom really like to stress the fact that they’re struggling. If they write like they talk, then, man I know why. Even less thrilling than being hit on by one of these ogres is reading their idea of a joke. With or without a thinly disguised retelling of the tragedy that was their collective high school experience. Which, decades later, still represents the apex of their ambition–and maturity.