Getting hit on always makes me feel embarrassed and uncomfortable--it pretty much never strikes me as a flattering or pleasant experience. No matter how nice dude-in-question is about it, I always come away feeling weird. Sometimes even ashamed. I think it's because I don't like the reminder that because of who I am and how I look, I'm seen as being sexually available. I think this is also why I'm so creeped out by the concept of "dating." To me, the ideal relationship, sexual or otherwise, comes first from friendship or at least good conversation. But here I am today, squirming at the thought of someone coming into my workplace and spending a few days assessing my physical attractiveness while only speaking to me enough to order a cup of coffee. Spending a few days looking at me before deciding that I'm worth his time or inquiry.
I feel like these situations ruin nice people for me. Dude-in-question seemed like a perfectly nice, quiet person, who I would have been more than happy to exchange friendly small talk with or whatever. Navigating other peoples' flirtation is sometimes just part of my job, and that's usually not so bad because it's not exactly personal. It's easier to shrug off. But then this particular dude had to go and ask if I had a boyfriend and about how old I was and about what I was studying (all to determine whether or not I was available/desireable), making me feel vulnerable and small and stupid. Making me feel like a piece of scenery--an object. And then of course, because just being awkward wasn't enough, he had to tell me that because I'm a student I'm not even living in the "real world" yet. Two of my least favorite kind of dude-interactions combined--hitting on me and condescending to me at the same time. And this was the first conversation I had today.
Just now I tried to tell a male friend of mine about it, in the (misguided) hope that he would commiserate with me or at least find the story funny. Instead, he just told me that I need to get used to this kind of shit because I work "in a public place." Now I just feel worse. There are some things I'm willing to get used to in order to do my job effectively (see: dealing with flirtatious customers, getting yelled at, having people make comments about how I'm dressed and my hair color and my piercings, earning thousands of dollars below the poverty line, cleaning up other peoples' garbage, deflecting rudeness, etc.), but I refuse to accept that interactions that make me feel like my safe space and my bodily autonomy have been ignored or violated are something I should just accept. The thing is, I have to deal with that kind of interaction constantly, be it sexual harassment on the bus or nice guys asking about my relationship status at the coffee shop, and it always makes me feel like shit. It's not just something I'm expected to deal with at work, but it's something I'm expected to deal with in every aspect of my life, in every space I occupy...and I don't want to. Why should I have to? My friend that said this to me didn't mean to be a jerk and he didn't mean to make me feel bad. He just lives in a world where, as a man, unwanted sexual advances (which are probably less frequent for him than they are for me, if I may venture a guess) don't involve the same weird power dynamics, the ones that make it okay to suggest I'm immature even while expressing interest in me, the same ones that make it okay for strangers to ask me questions about my personal relationships to what they hope is their own benefit. The dynamic that allows "what do you study" to come after asking me if I have a boyfriend.
Now I'm just comforting myself by thinking that maybe dude-in-question is secretly a pickup artist enthusiast who was just talking about to real world to "neg" me for "The Game." That would actually take this from crappy to hilarious in no time.
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