I had a bad experience on Friday night. I went to a restaurant where I was harassed by an aggressive and creepy waiter trying to persuade me to go out with him. It made me very uncomfortable and it’s safe to say I’ll never go again.
In the aftermath, my friends have been variously persuading me to make complaints to the manager and/or report him to the Police, mostly because the restaurant is only a few doors down from my house. I can see where they’re coming from and I’ve taken it under consideration, but what has made me really think over the last day or so was my response to being harassed.
It never happens to me. I’m a 30 year old with (diplomatically) a ruebenesque figure. I’m certainly no great beauty. On Friday night I was still in my work clothes, it had been raining all day so my hair was a frizz bomb and I looked exhausted. I was so floored by his attention that I probably didn’t deal with at as well as I should have because it just seemed so bizarre.
The thing I keep coming back to again and again is this – did I respond badly because of a self esteem issue? If I had been a 6ft tall, blonde glamazon with flawless makeup and legs up to my armpits, would I have just brushed it off because I was used to it? Did I let it get to me because of my personal body issues? Did it seem so bad because of the uniqueness of the event in my life?
Academically I know it doesn’t make a difference. If a woman tells you she’s not interested, you back off. There’s a difference between an encouraged pursuit and a straight no. This guy clearly stepped over the line, especially at the part where he wouldn’t bring us the bill because I wouldn’t give him my number.
But still… In many ways I’m extremely glad that I don’t get things like that happening to me on a regular basis, but I did wish I had dealt with it better. If I had been outright rude instead of politely telling him I wasn’t interested, would that have nipped it in the bud before it got out of control? I hate that I’ve started to look out of the window to check he’s not in the street before I head out to the car. I hate that it made me so deeply uncomfortable. So much of the time I feel like I should be stronger and more assertive. It irritates me that I let it get to me.
Part of me feels like this is as much my issue as it is his, and that’s a very scary feeling. That takes me back nine years to another place and another man who made me feel like it was as much my problem as his. After all this time and personal growth, after moving 700 miles and 4 months of counselling, have I really not changed at all?