Recently, I went on a vacation with a friend. We were thoughtful about our safety, we took reasonable precautions, stuck together but also gave ourselves the opportunity to have a good time. We spent the day on a catamaran, tried some local restaurants and enjoyed the beach.
Our final evening there, we were enjoying a dinner at the outdoor restaurant and a stranger insisted on buying our dinner and inserted himself into our conversation for roughly 45 minutes. It was clear to me that the man was lonely and unwell and I remarked to my friend that he needed a shower, a hug and a stay in rehab. I assumed that would likely be the end of it.
The next morning, my friend and I packed, had a leisurely breakfast and headed to the airport. As my friend and I had chosen different airlines and had different destinations, we had to separate upon arriving at the airport. As I was getting my bearings in the airport, I spotted the unwell man wearing the same outfit as the evening before and pacing the airport. When he saw me, he told me he had been looking form me in the hope of seeing me off. I was immediately uncomfortable but felt the need to stay calm. Just as the evening before when I observed his quickly shifting mood, I did not want to upset him or escalate the situation.
He informed that he had had a difficult night and had decided to change his travel plans and head to Baltimore that day. I wished him well and insisted I needed to get through security in order to ensure I didn’t miss my flight. (What I did not mention is I was there roughly an hour before it was going to board. I wanted to be in a more controlled environment where it would be more difficult for him to attempt to do me harm.) He seemed sad but calm as I left him and I again assumed that would be the last time I would lay eyes on him.
Just as I got through airport security, he tells me that he has put himself on standby for my flight and wants to come to Austin with me. Right away, I flash to my car parked at the airport and wonder how I would be able to get to my car without being followed (and possibly worse) should he make it on to both of my flights and panic began to creep in.
As gently but directly as possible, I let him know that I wasn’t comfortable with that and ask for help from the airline. While the men that worked for the airline were very kind, they could offer little in the way of protection and comfort. I was basically told I could board the plane first in order to get myself out of the terminal then I could ask for help if I was still concerned when I reached my final destination.
While I was seeking help and looking over my shoulder, the unwell man sent me a series of passive aggressive text messages and ultimately took himself off of the standby list for my flight. Oddly, that did little to quell my fear.
I stood nervously near the ticket counter while I waited and continued to scan the crowd as I had no idea if he had been allowed through security with his standby boarding pass.
Standing there and as I traveled home, I moved through several different emotions. Anxiety of course then to guilt. His tone and messages made it seem as though I had led him on and then deeply wounded him; two things I would never intentionally do. The guilt made me feel defensive as though I should have to defend myself for:
- Not inviting him to sit down
- Not asking for him to buy us dinner (in fact, telling him not to twice)
- Not wanting to share personal details about myself like my last name
- Not returning his call that morning
- Not wanting a stranger to come home with me
Then, I got angry. He continued to call that day and that night, not leaving messages but letting me know it was not over for him.
But why am I mad?!
So, glad you asked! Several reasons. First, I had to defend myself to well meaning family members. I had to somehow prove that this unwanted, unencouraged attention was in no way accidently brought on by my obliviousness and/or that I could not have prevented this behavior earlier on in the first encounter with this man. I’m angry at the notion that I could have or should have done anything differently.
Second, that he thinks that because it is something that HE wants, that he is entitled to it! I cannot tell you how many sessions I have had with articulate, kind and well-educated women who fret about what they “owe” someone when that person buys them dinner and/or drinks. Just so you know, and I can’t over state this: NOTHING. It is polite and respectful to give a sincere, “thank you.” THAT’S ALL!!! This unwell man bought my friend and I dinner which was entirely unnecessary but generous. I assumed that since he was INTERUPTING US he felt the need to offer an amends by way of buying us dinner. Fine, I did thank him sincerely and assumed we would be done with the whole thing.
Third, I resent being made to be afraid or intimated. When I think back on my encounters with this man, I consented to only giving him my phone number. To be honest, I only did that because I felt pressured to after he bought our dinner against my consent. At no other time, did what I want factor into this man’s decision making. And when I brought up what I wanted, he treated me as though I had committed a sin against him. But what really makes me angry about this is he is neither the first or last man to attempt to force me or any woman into a situation she does not want to be in because they “don’t want to be mean.” Because being nice, even at my own expense, seems to be an expectation of my gender, I am angry.
Recently, there has been a hashtag going around, “#NotAllMen.” That’s true. I am fortunate enough to know and to have known men that would never behave the way that the unwell man did or worse. But that hashtag has been getting used when women are found raped and murdered. While it’s true that most men don’t rape and murder, there should be no pat on the back for that!!
I wholeheartedly believe that I am owed nothing from the world and that my well-being is my responsibility. And… When do men start to look at themselves and each other differently? It’s not enough to say, I don’t/won’t rape and murder women. Shouldn’t the goal look a bit more like… I will actively listen. I will be respectful. I will not stand by while a woman is assaulted verbally/sexually/physically. I will be nice!! #DoBetterFellas
As always, I’m here. If you are ready to work on having the life you want, call me and let’s get started!