Blog By Mason Johnsont

I may have been present for the worst pick-up line ever this weekend. Sadly, the punchline wasn’t a cheesy one liner — it was a knife.

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When an out-of-town friend asked my girlfriend and I to take her out, we decided on our usual: karaoke. For the most part, the night was a lot of fun. We spent most of it dancing and cheering on singers brave enough to perform regardless of what they sang, be it “Careless Whisper” or “Killing Me Softly” (a great song, but WAY overdone at karaoke).

At one point, a stranger clad in a sleeveless, black shirt with slicked-back hair and a septum piercing decided to dance with our out-of-town friend. In and of itself, this isn’t a crime. Failing to notice the repeated signs that my friend did not want to dance? That’s less forgivable. My girlfriend and I watched in horror as our friend attempted to communicate “can you please stay the heck out of my bubble” by dodging out of the way of all of the stranger’s movements. As my girlfriend and I leaned in to each other to discuss the best way to handle the situation — do we form a human shield, or just leave the bar? — our friend completely disengaged the stranger, said something to my girlfriend I didn’t quite hear, then said, “We have to leave.”

We flew to the corner of the bar where we’d stashed our stuff, and our friend explained that it wasn’t just the creepy dancing that drove her away. No, when the man realized his efforts to woo my friend with his dance-floor skills were failing, he tried a different tactic: he showed her his knife.

… Sigh.

Like me, I suspect you live in the real world. Sadly, in the real world, a woman is more likely to be killed by her male partner than anyone else. While most guys have to worry about their crazy ex-girlfriends leaving them furious voicemails or throwing their belongings out on the lawn, women have to worry their crazy ex may literally murder them.

Considering the constant presence of violence against women in our society, showing the girl who just rejected you a switchblade in the hopes it might impress her is a terrible idea.

Oddly enough, that’s exactly what the stranger seemed to be trying to do. There was no overt threat accompanied with the knife. He displayed it to her with the enthusiasm of a pre-teen showing his buddy the rad throwing star he just purchased from the flea market.

Of course, this wasn’t two pre-teens fawning over a sharp toy. This was a man and a woman on a dance floor at a bar.

As my friends put on their coats and closed out their tabs, I walked back to the spot where we’d been dancing.

“You can’t do that,” I yelled at the guy.

With his attention on me, I went on: “You can’t just pull out a knife when you’re trying to dance with someone. That is not cool.”

(There was obviously more swearing involved.)

He looked at me, sort of shrugged, and placed an animated frown on his face. Then he reached into his pocket, pulled out his switchblade, and displayed it in his palm. He opened the blade, then closed it. Angry, I grabbed the closed knife from his palm.

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“Why would you show this off to people?” I asked.

It wasn’t until after I took his knife, as he bumped into me and attempted to grab it back, that I realized something very simple: It’s a really bad idea to get into a fight in a bar over a knife when you’ve been drinking all night.

I remembered that — oh yeah! — there’s a man employed at the bar whose sole purpose is to handle crap like this.

With my newfound realization, I let the stranger take his knife back, walked the six feet to the door, and told the bouncer what had happened.

Seconds later, the door guy and the owner both descended upon the stranger, searching him with flashlights.

My friends and I, the energy we’d previously possessed feeling stolen from us, took a cab home.

I still don’t understand what the guy’s deal was. Was he too drunk, too high, too dumb? Did his action contain as little thought as my reaction? Was his non-threatening — though definitely odd — demeanor real, or just for show?

I have no idea. And to be honest, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is the reaction of my friend.

Which is not something I innately understand either. As a man, I am allowed an immense amount of space which I feel entitled to inhabit. The fears that might pop into a woman’s head as a stranger dances with her against her will, refusing clear signs to stop, isn’t something I’ve been taught to automatically sympathize with, since it’s not a problem that usually affects me. I’ve had to learn how to pay attention to the people around me, how to be considerate of the fears of others, especially women. I’ve had to learn that the space I once considered my space, a space I could take anywhere and impose on anyone, was actually a shared space, especially on a dance floor.

I suspect the stranger in this story has not learned this. His actions, whether they’re more insidious or innocent than they seem, prove this. While I’d like to hope he realized what an idiot he was, it’s just as likely that he’s angry at us for “overreacting.”

While my friend ended up having a great night, it’s unfortunate she, like many women, has had to get used to the many strange, weird and scary things that happen to the female half of our population. It’s unfortunate that she has had to choose between getting used to these situations, or never having another fun night out on the town ever again.

Ultimately, men have the power to stop being creepy weirdos, yet it hasn’t happened yet.

We should probably do something about that.

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Mason Johnson is a Web Content Producer for CBS Chicago. You can find him on Twitter.