Headphones Should Still Be a Safe Haven


Anna Letson

Headphones are a universal “don’t talk to me,” not a welcome sign.

The Modern Man’s article on how to talk to a woman wearing headphones has blown up due to being totally sexist and ridiculous. However, any woman who has walked through Washington Square Park knows that there are plenty of men out there who genuinely believe that interrupting a stranger on the street could plausibly lead to romance or sex. This is a practical guide for how to deal with strangers who ask for your number when you’re clearly not interested.

1. You’re in a rush.

“I’m late to class” is an excuse that nobody can argue with. If he shoots back with, “But I just want to talk for a minute,” assure him that there is nothing he could possibly say in 60 seconds that could make you magically fall in love with him. Even Romeo and Juliet talked for at least 20 minutes at the Capulet ball before they realized that they were into each other.

2. Make your lack of interest clear.

“I’m not interested” unfortunately leaves plenty of room for men to try to convince you that they’re a catch. “I have a boyfriend” works on men who respect other men more than they respect your autonomy, despite the heteronormativity inherent in that retort. Or, flash the three dollar ring that you bought from Claire’s and claim that it’s a mark of your celibacy.

3. Do “the face.”

In Jenna Marbles’s viral “How To Avoid Talking To People You Don’t Want To Talk To” video, she suggested making and holding a horrified (and horrifying) facial expression. Grimace widely and try to make your eyes bulge out as much as possible. Alternatively, perform any number of outrageous facial expressions or gestures, such as flailing your arms or spasmodically raising your eyebrows — a sure turnoff.

4. Ignore.

This doesn’t always work, because not everyone can take a hint. However, if you keep your eyes on the horizon and make absolutely no engagement with the person who is trying to talk to you, he’ll typically move on to the next unsuspecting woman with headphones. If he sees your headphones, assumes you can’t hear him and starts yelling, move on to step five.

5. Be hostile.

Social expectation says that women are supposed to be mild-mannered and caring creatures, so showing that you have even an ounce of hostility in your blood is sure to catch those dudes off guard! It turns out that, according to recent discoveries, women can actually display anger. Harness that emotion and tell the guy approaching you that his pick up lines would probably work better on a fish.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Sept. 6 print edition. Email Abigail Weinberg at [email protected] and Ankita Bhanot at [email protected].