Even after two too many after-work old-fashioneds, Jim Talbott, 33, sensed that the woman on the Brooklyn-bound L Train was not quite as attracted to him as he was to her. She didn’t smile or thank him when he told her, slurringly, that her dress was “real nice.” Instead, she plugged her ears with ear-buds and turned the volume all the way up. “Is that Beyoncé?” he asked, twice, to no reply. He guessed he should probably stop talking to her, should stop staring at her legs, should absolutely not follow her off the train when she rushed out at First Avenue. Nevertheless, he persisted.
“I love sports,” Steve Ames, 22, would say, “just not lady sports.” Whenever lady sports came on TV, he would wave his hands in mock excitement and squawk, “Look at me! I’m a lady playing lady sports! Don’t mess up my hair! Oh no, I broke a nail!” Nobody ever laughed. He persisted nevertheless.
Francis Whiting III, 76, was the last of a dying breed: a true gentleman. The light of chivalry may yet be extinguished from the face of the earth, he lamented, but it would not disappear before he did. He rehearsed this thought, or some variation thereof, dozens of times each day: when, for example, he held the door for a woman slightly too far away for it to be strictly necessary, and when he stood as a woman approached his table, and when he assigned the most challenging cases at his firm to men, and when he noticed a woman at the office looking tired, and told her so, and urged her to get more rest. It was no simple matter, being chivalrous. Nevertheless, he was a man of principle, and persisted.
Yes, thought Tim Waters, 28, on a bench in Central Park. Yes, yes, no, he thought, as three more women passed by. Yes, would definitely bang. Yes, maybe, yes. He glanced at his phone and realized he was late to meet his girlfriend. Nevertheless, he persisted.
At dinner with a few of his college buddies and their wives, Dave Blake, 41, was halfway through the story of Sigma Nu’s epic 1997 road trip to Myrtle Beach when he saw that the ladies weren’t laughing: one was staring at the tablecloth, and shifting awkwardly in her chair; another was squinting at him, arms folded. He was fairly sure his own wife was covering her eyes in shame. Nevertheless, he had yet to come to the best part of the story: the part about the girl-on-girl mud wrestling. He persisted.
Robert Engle, 39, loved the arts. He had a favorite female novelist, a favorite female painter, a favorite female film director, and so on. When someone in his book club asked why he separately categorized art made by women, he didn’t know how to respond. But he persisted in doing so, nevertheless.
“Manufacturing is the key,” Henry Parker, 52, explained to the other parents at his son’s school’s family-day picnic. “That’s the thing most folks don’t understand.” He was about to deliver further insights into the state of the economy when he was interrupted. By a woman. Who disagreed with him. Who had many things to say about the economy. Who was an economist. Henry, who wasn’t, felt a swell of panic rising in his gut as he listened to her opinions on technology and automation and the evolving nature of labor. It was possible that he was outmatched. Nevertheless, he could not keep quiet. His first words after he cut her off were garbled, but he persisted, and soon he found that he’d raised his voice high, very high, far higher than was socially acceptable, and was demanding to be told, “What in god’s name this woman could possibly know about robots.”
Ed Owens, 68, first met his daughter’s partner at Thanksgiving. “Seems like a very nice girl, your friend,” he told his daughter that night, and was corrected. “Partner? What does that mean?” he asked. She explained. She explained again at Christmas, and at New Year’s, and at Easter. “It’s great you have such a close friend,” he said, nevertheless, persistently.
Long nights online had left Andy Rogers, 19, feeling unfulfilled. Maybe he should take up jogging or something, he thought as — for the tenth or the hundredth time that day — he sent the phrase “Shut ur dumb ugly mouth u dumb ugly bitch” to a woman he didn’t know. He could try lifting weights, maybe. Or get back into fantasy football. But then the screen flashed again, and on it he saw another woman who needed to be told to shut her dumb, ugly mouth, and so, nevertheless, in spite of everything, he persisted, and did.
In a crowded coffee shop, Chris Jones, 35, sipped his cappuccino and nodded earnestly at what his sister was saying. “Right,” he said. “Yeah, I totally see that.” Certain things he routinely said and did, she was explaining, made women feel uncomfortable. Offended. Demeaned, even. It was the jokes, the little asides, even the things he probably thought were helpful — like when he asked her if she thought it was a good idea to make an important investment decision while on her period — that were actually, you know, not helpful. She kept talking, and he kept nodding, and saying “Yeah, totally,” and thanking her for bringing this to his attention. She was probably just on her period, he thought. Across the table, his sister made a final plea: maybe he hadn’t realized how his behavior affected the women in his life. She thought that if she could just communicate how it made them feel, how it belittled them and held them back and undermined their achievements and sometimes made them want to literally scream with frustration, he would definitely stop. Nevertheless, he persisted.