When we tell a young man "there's plenty of fish in the sea" we frame relationships as a predatory act, but we also expect he will understand the metaphor.
What happens when a man can't, or won't, understand you're not actually supposed to treat other people like prey to be trapped?
Worst case scenarios of this situation play out to heartbreaking ends daily, but TikTok user Paige Hardy isn't one of them, thankfully. She's a near-miss with a dude who took the "plenty of fish in the sea" thing way too literally.
Paige recently shared a cautionary tale of the time she dated a "local stalker" who had a major issue with aggression towards women and would later get himself kicked out of their university over it. She's hoping others can learn from her close call and all the red flags she ignored, and maybe they'll be better able to steer clear of men like this.
Or at the very least, be better prepared than she was.
The story is a wild and scary ride that took two videos for Paige to get through.
The first real red flag here happened before the two even went on their first date, but it's a flag Paige couldn't have known about, so we'll loop back around to it. For now, we'll start where Paige did—with a young man she met in Ethics class (the irony!) her junior year of college.
He asked her on a date, she said yes. So far so good. Everything seems perfectly average thus far, but we really don't make it very far into this story before most people would have checked out.
According to Paige, the man suggested that their first date should happen at his place where he would cook for her. While that sounds lovely, it also sounded a bit intimate for a first date.
She suggested somewhere public for their first date as she would feel more comfortable—a pretty common request.
His response made him seem like exactly the type of man whose house you don't want to be alone in on a first date. Paige says he got angry with her and acted offended and insulted.
He even dropped this gem of a quote on her:
"Do you think I’m some sort of creep or something? How dare you?"
Amazingly, rather than cancel entirely after he blew up on her, Paige opted to continue. The pair ended up at a coffee shop for their first date.
Here we encounter the next red flag—although he was a film major, her date didn't have any real thoughts or opinions on movies, the industry, etc... He didn't actually seem interested in films.
What he did seem interested in was finding out exactly where Paige lived, up to and including her apartment number. She gave him a different unit number when he kept pressing her for info.
That proved to be a smart choice.
The next day, she was hanging out with friends when the man started to incessantly text her demanding they hang out. When she told him that she was with friends and not available, he once again reacted by lashing out in anger.
Paige was called a bitch, berated, and then confusingly asked out on another date since the man wanted to "make it up" to her after he was done raging. She declined that second date and posted some screenshots of the conversation to a local Facebook group.
Remember that first red flag that we said we'd loop back around to? The one Paige couldn't have known about but discovered later?
Evidently she was one of about 40 women having a similar experience with the same man. Turns out, he slid into the DMs of everyone in one of his classes who had a name that sounded even remotely feminine in order to "cast a wide net."
That class was about 300 people.
When he asked Paige out, she had no way of knowing that she was literally just another number—another potential fish.
That is the reddest of flags, indeed.
Terrifyingly, Paige's encounter was comparatively mild. The young man had gone so far as to stalk women around their apartment complexes, follow them home, berate them during group projects and even aggressively confront and harass them when they were with friends. He may have done the same with her if she had been honest on that first date.
Some of the women took the issue before the school board that deals with sexual harassment and violence on campus. That's where Paige found out the school already knew about the young man and his behavior.
They claimed he had some "learning and mental disabilities" so they had granted him some grace and put together some classes and a success plan for him.
Even with evidence he wasn't sticking to that plan, the man wasn't immediately reprimanded. In fact, he went on to harass more women on campus.
That's not to say the school took no action.
The institution did try to work with his disabilities, which made their response slower than some would have liked. But his continued harassment and refusal to stick to his success plan meant they did eventually have to kick him out for the safety of others.
In the end, Paige shared her story to encourage people to pay attention to the red flags and to remind them that they're allowed to have boundaries.
Unfortunately, a quick glance through the comments proves her experience isn't that uncommon. In fact, more than one person thought they might have gone on dates with the same man.
When they asked about details it turns out nope, none of them were the same guy. There are just lots of men on school campuses harassing people.