I’m in downtown Lisbon, wandering with my camera, taking photos in Restauradores and Rossio, the beautiful light and the perfect cobblestones in contrasting colors. I’m starting to get hungry, and I spot some roasted chestnuts and slow down to get some. A wizened man with two missing front teeth falls into step with me and shows me cellophane-wrapped weed flourettes behind his hand. “Marijuana?” he asks “good price, good price.”
“No,” I say, waving it away, but I stop because I want the chestnuts.
“It’s legal, ten grams,” the man tells me eagerly.
“No, no,” I say, still shooing at him.
“You want cocaine?” he queries. I bust out laughing at this: I’ve literally never been offered cocaine before. “It’s legal in Portugal,” he tells me, encouraged. I pause: this is actually true; sort of, or at least you won’t get in trouble if you’re caught with a small amount of it. According to the locals, Portugal significantly cut down on its junkie population by decriminalizing drugs and treating junkies like they were sick.
“No,” I say, shaking my head.
“You have five euros for me?” he asks.
“No, no, I don’t want it,” I persist. But he corrects me: he’s not asking me to buy anything, he just wants me to give him money.
“No,” I tell him. I’m beginning to feel like a broken record. Then he says something that contains both Portuguese and English. I make a face and say I don’t understand.
He leans towards my ear. “Sssssssexxxxx?” he enunciates in question form. I stare at him, his gap-toothed grin, his dirty gray stubble, his upraised hand still flaunting the weed, trying to figure out if he’s offering his services for purchase or for free, and either way I shoo at him again, “no, no,” laughing a bit and rolling my eyes because I’m not sure what else to do. Then I have the great idea of pulling out my camera, and he disappears.
I think of better comebacks, comebacks designed to let him know how creepy he is. I remember that only yesterday, I was researching the philosophy of pick-up artist Julien Blanc, where Blanc claimed that when he said something outrageous to women he didn’t know, none of them were offended. He said on the contrary, many of them would bust out laughing at what he’d say. And I realized those women were probably actually highly offended and uncomfortable, and were just reacting in the safest way possible: by laughing it off, by making a joke out of it.
Pick-up artists of the world, take note. Even toothless drug dealer-beggars have the guts to ask strange women outrageous questions. And even in those circumstances, the women laugh. It’s not intended as encouragement, and it’s certainly not intended as a compliment.
It’s intended to let you know how absurd you are, camouflaged so you don’t get too mad and start breaking things.
2 thoughts on “Spurning a drug dealer-beggar in Lisbon”
How bizarre! I’m glad he finally left you alone.
About that awful Julien Blanc and his ilk: I’d love it if you ever find time to post about this whole PUA (pickup artist) theme that seems to very viral among certain groups on the Internet these days, with lots of talk about alphas, betas, omegas, and so on.
On the one hand, it seems true that many women are much more instantaneously attracted to men who aren’t all that nice to them. But I’ve also observed that men seem much more interested in women whom it takes some time and effort for them to woo. With this in mind, we ALL seem a bit put off by gushingly-nice people who fall totally in love with us at first sight.
Then there are the romances many women devour that involve some degree of coercion by the male. As I mention this, I’m reminded of Laci Green, a sex positive activist whose YouTube videos my teen daughter enjoys watching. She’s an awesome young woman with a lot of really good information posted in a very interesting way — but I must confess that I’d have found it rather boring as a young single woman if every man I’d dated had followed her advice about asking permission before kissing or touching me in any way.
And I’m not saying that I’d go for being forced into it — just that in my experience, it was always easy enough to stop any kiss that I didn’t want to happen. Does this make sense? As they’re leaning in for a kiss, you either lean in to kiss them back, or pull back or possibly turn your cheek if you really DON’T want to kiss them on the mouth. California’s affirmative consent law doesn’t seem very fun for relationships, but maybe that’s because my only experience has been with men who actually cared about whether I consented or not.
I know what you mean, and I think it has to do with the aura of suspense more than anything consent-related. I mean, if I guy asks “may I kiss you?” you totally lose the in-the-moment collision, the tension, everything. I wrote about another pick-up artist awhile back, which doesn’t totally address your point but which you may like anyway: https://kbotkin.com/2012/11/27/adventures-in-online-dating-the-power-of-anti-flirting/