Living life on the defensive

Early last week, I got home from work feeling a little disgusted with my male coworkers. I by no means wear provocative clothing (growing up in a conservative family cured me of any inclination I may have had to show even the slightest amount of cleavage), and yet there were a couple of instances at work where I felt the need to cover myself up. It’s incredible to me how completely unabashed some men are when it comes to how they treat women. It absolutely disgusts me when a man stares unashamedly at my boobs or my butt (just because I don’t have eyes in the back of my head doesn’t mean I don’t know you’re looking).

Creepy guys, keep your eyes to yourselves

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to judge a guy for glancing at my chest (accidentally or otherwise). It’s the guys who outright stare and make no attempt to disguise that they’re staring that disgust me. It makes me feel completely defenseless in the worst way possible. It’s an unwanted sexual advance that you can’t really do anything about.

Trying not to give the wrong impression

It’s this type of man that puts me immediately on the defensive when meeting someone new. I’m extra careful not to give anyone the wrong impression. I tried to explain this to my roommate, but I don’t think he quite got it. Eventually, I got a little frustrated with him and told him he couldn’t possibly understand because even though he has sisters and has had a lot of female roommates, he’s never experienced it firsthand.

Our conversation went something like this:

“There are so many dirty old men at work!” I complained to my roommate the other day.

“Go on,” he said.

“Well, I was leaning over to tie my shoe, with my foot up on a chair, and this man walked behind me and stopped way too close to my ass, even though there was plenty of space to go around or to stand elsewhere. Actually, he started to walk past me, did a stutter-step as if changing his mind, then stepped back a little behind me and stood there. For no apparent reason.”

My roommate laughed, “Well it’s actually way worse if you had your foot on a chair.”

“What? Why?” I asked.

“If I told you, you’d be embarrassed.”

“Hmmph. Well, there’s also this other older man who keeps trying to chat me up. And at one point I leaned over to get a closer look at something, and I swear he whistled under his breath.”

“How do you whistle under your breath?” Roomie said, forcing his jaw into a double chin and screwing up his lips as he tried it. “That’s not even possible.”

“Whatever, he walked over to me right after and showed me like 18 pictures that he’d taken of the sunset over the weekend.”

“Ok, yeah, that’s a little weird,” Roomie consented, “but I still think you might be a little too sensitive.”

“Idunno -”

“Well are you looking for it?” Roomie interjected, “because if you’re looking for it, you’ll start to see it everywhere, regardless of whether or not guys are actually being creepy.”

“I still think it’s better to assume guys are attracted to me than to deal with the consequences of being overly-friendly,” I said.

My roommate shook his head, “Guilty until proven innocent? That doesn’t seem very fair.”

“But I’d rather not take the chance,” I continued, “because it’s a lot harder to back-peddle once you’ve crossed the friendship line.”

“So you just live your life on the defensive? That sounds pretty terrible.” He was silent for a minute, then said, “So how do you switch to the offensive when you’re actually interested in someone?”

“Yeah, idunno, that’s the hardest part, and I haven’t quite figured it out yet, but I’ve gotten one too many awkward confessions of love not to want to make absolutely sure I’m not leading someone on.”

Roomie ruminated on this. Then he said, “I still think you just shouldn’t think about it. Just be friendly with everyone.”


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