I wish to respond properly now to things men told me in my 20s
No, you know what, Jason? I've had a decade and a half to think it over, and what you just said to me, 14 years ago, is total horseshit.
I realize it's taken me a while to respond properly. I apologize. I've been a little busy with the whole "laying the foundations for a meaningful and fulfilling adult life" thing. I also realize that at the time, back when we were 22, it probably seemed to you like I had responded. You were not wrong, but please understand: as a woman, the nervous giggling and shrugging is simply the pre-response, the warm-up before you fully process what a guy just said to you and get furious, grossed out, or both about it.
And so, here we are. What you said then, what I said then, and the amendment to my response I'd like to make now.
"I don't want to set the expectation that I'll be free to hang out tonight, but I'll keep you posted!"
THEN: Cool, sounds great :)*
NOW: Neat! I don't want to set the expectation that I give a shit.
*This response took two hours to craft. It required me to enlist three different girlfriends to advise on such questions as: smiley face or no smiley face? Comma or no comma? It is deliberately engineered to look breezy. It is the least breezy thing ever to exist.
"You can die from blue balls. It sends you into like, medical distress."
THEN: Really?? Wow, that sounds awful.
NOW: Aw, you had a good run.
"I need a woman who looks great in a pair of jeans."
THEN: * buys 13 gym memberships, goes jean shopping for 60 hours *
NOW: I'M SORRY DO YOU WORK FOR BIG DENIM
"You're not like, Halle Berry or anything, but you're still attractive."
THEN: She's so pretty, who else do you think is so pretty, tell me so I can internalize those women as a threat for the rest of my natural life :)
NOW: Aw, well at least I'm ONE of those. ALSO BYE FOREVER.
"You're cute when you're mad."
THEN: haha thanks :)
NOW: Oh buddy, you're about to see me get REAL cute.
"You're pretty when you talk about things."
THEN: oh gosh thanks, I just, I guess I'm like, pretty passionate about this Fruitopia!
NOW: Oh thank GOD. I was worried sick.
"I never date super-hot girls. They're always airheads."
THEN: Ugh I totally know what you mean because my default response is to agree with you :)
NOW: And yet, which one of us is having trouble mentally processing that a person can have — HOUR-LONG GASP — more than one characteristic?! WHAT IS THIS UNFATHOMABLE SORCERY
"Hmmm, how do I say this: women don't tend to get over me?"
THEN: * Wanders down a rainy street listening to Radiohead for five days, mourning the end of my life at age 23 *
NOW: Okay well keep telling them that and I'm sure they'll be fine.