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March 27, 2008 / Brittany Hendrick

I am half sick of shadows: shedding light on ‘hints’

I read Creative Loafing maybe twice a year.  And by “read” I mean just “News of the Weird” and “The Blotter” columns for their fucked-up-ness. CL is not one of my favorite publications.  I can’t dedicate myself to it every week anyway.  It’s not convenient for me to track down a copy.  More often than not, I forget to grab one.  When I do remember, there are no copies left in the bin.  Creative Loafing and I were not meant to be together.

Gee.  You’d think I’d be able to take a hint.

Oh, I can take a hint.  I don’t need Captain Obvious to come to my rescue.  I happen to be extremely perceptive.  But sometimes, I ignore hints on purpose.  Because some hints deserve to be ignored.

Today, it was meant for me to read CL, and more of it than I usual.  I literally was about to sit down with my lunch and Shape magazine with Carrie Underwood on the cover when I remembered that I had a copy of CL in my office.  It was actually an old copy from a month ago, and I hadn’t even flipped the first page (see what I mean?).  Well, Carrie Underwood is a pretty fucking boring person.  And it was time for me to read CL so I could finally get it off my desk for good.

I blew through the ole reliables.  I still had half a burrito left to eat, so I had no choice but to continue along with the CL.  It was at that moment I was drawn to the column “Moodswing,” by Hollis Gillespie.

Now, I’ve known who Hollis Gillespie is.  I don’t know much about her, but I know she’s had her column running in CL for a number of years.

What drew me to Hollis’s column initially was that I noticed her headshot was different.  It probably had changed five years ago, but I wouldn’t know.  Who is this smiling lady?  And where are her glasses?  I was disappointed.  I wanted the old, bespectacled Hollis snarkily sticking out her tongue squarely to the camera.  It was a streamlined look that said “Fuck You!” and “I don’t give a shit!” and “I can kill you!”


Naturally, I had to find out: has Hollis gone soft?  I read on.  The article was actually about her “surviving” a bombing in France, but it also included this bit about a guy she met while visiting there:

Looking back, I have a feeling he was too nice to reject me outright, so instead he treated me with lavish respect, repackaging his lack of enthusiasm into a reluctance to sully my new loveliness. It was literally the most tender rebuff I would ever experience… without so much as even the attempt to impregnate me beforehand, which constituted unfinished business as far as I was concerned…

Ah, the passive-aggressive rejectionist.  And so it begins.

Like I’ve said, I can handle rejection and get over it.  But what chafes me is when rejection is disguised in the form of “hints” that I am expected to “get” so that I eventually “go away.”   All of this entirely disallowing protest from me, of course; hints conveniently do not invite real dialogue.

Even those notes we got in middle school– “do you like me, check the box, yes or no”– were more forward and truthful communication.  Later, we learned about subtext, irony and other tools of implicity– all of which we use as adults to craft hints.  Bah!  Who knew that puberty would have an easy part thrown in there.

The situation Hollis described hit sharply because it contains similar elements of a rather “hint-full” encounter I had– which also happens to be the most confounding.  But I’ll get back to that in a moment.

There is a double standard between genders when it comes to hintgiving.  Women are allowed to give hints to men because it’s not like men’s brains process them anyway, even with explicit explanation after-the-fact.  They’re like Tesman from Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler: “What!”

Men are not allowed to give hints to women because women’s brains fill in the blanks with 18 million definitions and rhetorical questions about each hint’s “meaning.”  Come to think of it, that applies to all non-hints statements, too.

I’m not saying that I don’t express hints when necessary (I’m allowed, remember).  But there seems to be a preponderance of my hints received over my hints given.  Oh, and I “got” the hints every time, and each resulted in me walking away for good– which counters the whole point of hints.  I mean, isn’t it true that hints are given to preserve the other party’s feelings?  Then it should be assumed that the hintgiver wants to remain friends, or at least doesn’t want you to go away mad.  But if you’re going away, what difference does it make if you’re mad?  YOU’RE NOT GOING TO SEE EACH OTHER AGAIN!  I do not give a flagrant hinter the satisfaction of “getting” his hints and remaining friends with him just so his self-serving superego can think it did the right thing regarding my feelings.

Like the guy who told me he didn’t want a “relationship” (Um, when did I say I wanted one?).  OK, that’s cool.  A few weeks later, he came into the sporting goods store where I worked at the time, as he did on occasion.  But this time he came with a girl, after a mountainbiking ride.  He introduced his riding partner to me.  I thought nothing of it during our chat… until he called her “babe.”  I never saw him again.

Or like the guy (a boyfriend, but I kind of discount him) who oddly didn’t seem too motivated to find a pen and paper when I’d phoned to give him my mailing address after moving into a new place.  He instructed me to call him the next day.  I didn’t.  I never saw him again.

Or like the guy who gave me an unnecessarily immeasurable amount of hints– and yet was so gag-worthy nice and respectful to me (Hollis’s piece finally comes full-circle).  We’d traded direct-yet-ultimately-benign dialogue over our initial attraction to each other.  It was all it could mean, all it could be, and all it was.  I couldn’t seriously pursue this guy.  How could I?  I know better than that.  I’m realistic.  But still, there was this mutual admiration– I wouldn’t have wasted my time otherwise if it were one-sided.

When I saw him again, I had no expectations other than to shoot the shit.  I made sure to conduct myself properly: no relationship talk, no flirting, no inadvertent touching, no revealing clothing, etc.  It was a perfectly innocuous scenario.  What could go wrong?  A LOT.  He deluged me with “hints” that he inexplicably managed to fit into our light conversation.  Totally blindsided me.

But– wait– I– there is no reason–

I had no clandestine plan to jump on top of this guy or shove my tongue down his throat.  So, I don’t know where he got the hint that he should lob hints, because I wasn’t giving him any hints that required him to be defensive.  He was rather offensive.  And I was annoyed.  My agitation escalated over the fact that he’d counteract a hint with something charming.  My inner-voice vacillated between “Fuck this guy!” and “Aw, that was nice!”

This curiously sweet-sour balance that he was delivering made me think he was afraid of me or afraid of what I might do/say to him if instead he had blown me off completely.  So, great.  I was dealing with either the “King of Hints” or the “Queen of Pussies.”


I must’ve received three hints every five minutes.  It was grossly unbearable.  I wanted to puke on his head, which would’ve flattened the piece of hair that was sticking straight above his forehead.  I didn’t tell him about it because I thought it was cute, and cute that he didn’t look in a mirror before seeing me– or was that supposed to be a hint, too?.  Actually, it was really windy outside, which is where we met initially– I’m sure my hair didn’t look any better.  Anyway, when our conversation closed, I was left confused over what just happened… and WHY.  It got worse.


Yes, worse.

My night ended with a bang– two hints in one: I walked alone to my car, which also gave a hint to street thugs that they should mug or murder me.  Yes, I fucking got all your hints, but this one is a bit extreme– can you at least make sure I’m safe?! Awesome.

So much for respect.  That’s when I determined this guy was outright mean, though I bet he didn’t see himself that way.  I’m sure he thought he was polite and valiant and noble and blah and blah blahblah.  What Hollis Gillespie calls “tender rebuff,” I call “callous insult.”  I haven’t decided yet if I want to see him again or not.

If you’re curious, the fine artwork that I desecrated (now deleted) are Dante Gabriel Rossetti (woodcut) and John Waterhouse (painting) depictions of Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s poem, The Lady of Shalott, which I recommend you find on the internet and read.  It’s not a long one.  You’ll find it very fitting to this topic at hand.  Sir Lancelot is a moron.

Or you can read Ibsen’s five-act play, Hedda Gabler.  Tesman is an even bigger moron: hints-over-head galore.


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