Growing up I could never accept the fact that I was pretty, let alone beautiful. I think maybe in my past life I was hideous or horribly disfigured and those feelings carried over into this life, so instead of banking on my looks to get me through, I went with humor. Always making jokes, appropriate and not so appropriate. But growing up, I was always showered with compliments like rice on a wedding day, “look at you, you’re gorgeous, you’re so pretty, you’re stunning” and so many others. And when I grew up the compliments became more graphic and mostly from men. I’ve been called “hey baby” so much, at once point I almost started introducing myself as such. I’m not the first to say that this phenomenon starts as early as grade school. A boy pulls your hair, he likes you. He punches you in the arm, he likes you. He pushes you down on the playground, he likes you. He calls you names in middle school, he likes you. He screenshots a half naked snapchat photo you should have never sent and sends it to all his friends, he likes you. Girls get so much of this kind of attention that by time we are women, we are almost immune to it and don’t even realize half the time that it is inappropriate or inexcusable or unprofessional or even that it is sexual harassment. We hear it, we usually just ignore it, and smile and walk away. After all, what’s the point in saying anything, especially when the person who is “showering” you with these inappropriate compliments is in a more powerful position than you? Or holds the fate of how many hours you get or if you get the promotion you wanted? Smiling and moving on is the easy way to deal with it. And then you just hope you never end up in a dark room or alley alone with them with or without alcohol, because it could easily end up like the Stanford case.
There’s been so much floating around the Internet and the media lately about rape culture. Of course I’ve talked to my boys. I asked my 14 year old the other night that if a girl had too much to drink, was he aware that it didn’t automatically give him permission to touch her? He said of course and told me that he knew what rape was. And then followed it up with he didn’t even have a girlfriend let alone a drunk girlfriend, and he was slightly uncomfortable talking about it, but I just wanted to touch on the subject because I hadn’t really directly addressed it. Not because I don’t think it’s important, but I had, until recently, just assumed that boys, especially mine, knew that if a woman has had too much to drink, it negates any form of consent even if she is throwing herself at him screaming “yes!” But with every article about the Stanford rape, I doubted a little more and wanted to clarify with him and not just assume that he knew right from obvious wrong.
On top of all that Stanford stuff happening, I also got a call from my boss saying that someone had called HR on him and accused him of sexual harassment and that he could possibly be fired. Of course I knew exactly what he was talking about because he is overly flirty and it’s no coincidence that there are only women working in his stores. It was only a matter of time before someone had enough. Or someone’s boyfriend had enough. Either way, he was calling to tell me that he gave me as a character reference for him. And don’t get me wrong. I like him enough, but he’s young and terribly stupid when it comes to blurring the lines. I was laying in bed when he called getting ready to take a 9am nap because I woke up exceptionally early for no reason. So I was only half in the conversation, but as he was telling me that he really would appreciate it if I didn’t throw him under the bus because he likes his job, in the same breath, he said jokingly, “what are you wearing?” I brushed it off like I always do when he says some crap like that and I went to sleep.
Sometimes, I think I have a processing disorder, because after I had “slept on it,” I woke up furious. I was furious because he was obviously not taking it serious. I was furious he tried to “throw me under the bus” to save himself and then there was that small part of me that was slightly amused because it’s almost as if he has never met me. The one character trait that I have and am proud of is that I do not, will not and cannot lie. I mean minus that whole Santa Clause, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy thing, I’m a ridiculously honest person and I rarely sugar coat shit. And I woke up pissed about the whole situation. “What are you wearing?” Five minutes after leaving an HR meeting about sexual harassment? What am I wearing? I don’t know ,maybe the number to the ethics line perhaps?
And it’s not just this job. There has been sexual harassment in almost every job I’ve ever had. So much that it’s easier to play the game than to make it stop and I think that’s where part of the problem lies. Yes, I am admitting that I am part of the problem. I know how to take a dirty joke and I know how to make a dirty joke, but I am also 40 years old and will quickly follow up a small episode of laughter with, “whew, that was a good laugh, please don’t confuse that with me ever wanting or having the desire to fuck you, not even a pity fuck,” and then I just continue laughing. I once had a boss who talked about and grabbed on his dick so much, even in important meetings, it was like he was having a daily flashback of that time someone ran into the room and tried to steal his dick but instead gave him crabs. I’m serious, the pulling and the scratching all the time was seriously ridiculous. And the dick jokes. Ugh. I swear you could have taken anything with a warm wet spot and put it in front of him and he would have fucked it. Zero tolerance, my ass.
I laugh when the sexual harassment training pops up and I have to go online or watch a video of what sexual harassment looks like. Honestly, it looks like every single day to me. Random men approaching random women with random stupid lines. I had a guy pull over today and try to use God to pick me up. “I was feeling so lonely today and just needed someone to talk to and I prayed to God and there you were walking down the street.” And I’m like “yea, I was praying to God that I get to my bus on time so let’s flip a coin and see whose prayer He’s really answering today.” Jesus? Really? then when that didn’t work, he offered me a donut from his half eaten box of glazed donuts. For the record, even when I was 80 pounds heavier and addicted to sugar, I have never gotten in a car or given out my phone number for a donut. “I like what I see,” he said. “Me, not so much,” I thought, but I just told him I wasn’t single and kept it moving. Incidentally, I caught my bus, so I think we know which prayer God answered, Bub.
My point is, up until this week, I think I had been desensitized to the fact that I’m pretty much sexually harassed in one way or another on a daily basis. I had programmed myself to just smile and walk away. Or play along to not cause anyone discomfort or embarrassment and this week, I realized, fuck that! I will, from now on, point out all inappropriate comments and cut them down before whoever is saying them gets comfortable enough to let a second one slip out of their mouths.