Today, I did something powerful. I said no to a man.
Why is this so powerful?
Because I don’t think he expected it.
Sitting outside my workplace, waiting for me to end my shift, was a man twice my age.
Just a week ago, we had a friendly conversation about the work he does and the work I could see myself doing. Then he asked me out for a drink. I don’t drink. But I said yes because I couldn’t quite find a reason to say no. He seemed nice enough, although I’ll admit I was curious about his intentions.
The offer escalated to going to eat, a few days later as he followed me out to my car after work.
He approached me and leaned all into my personal space. At first I wasn’t too uncomfortable, or so I thought, until he reached toward my chest and grabbed hold of my neckless. My ankh. I felt trapped.
Trapped by my niceness, by my agreement to “have a drink”, by his physical presence.
He insisted that we go somewhere now, and asked me where I’d like to eat.
“My social battery is drained.” I plead. It wasn’t untrue.
I get up between 3:00 and 3:30 am to start work at 4:30am.
By noon, I’ve worked a full 8 hour shift, serving the neighborhood their coffee with a cheery voice and a big covered smile. I was tired, but I was also intimidated. He was so close to my personal space in a time when I just wanted to be alone and rest. It was uncomfortable.
As I squirmed in my seat, I offered to think on where I’d like to go, and negotated our meeting to the end of the week.
On Tuesday, as he walked in the door, I fled to the back of the store. It was then, that I truely realized how uncomfortable he had made me. Why was I hiding from this man? I waited until I couldnt any longer because I promised my sister I would be home in time to take her to work that morning. I gathered my things and head for the door. He was still there.
“Hello,” I called, once he made eye contact and raised his eyebrows as if to say “I’ve been looking for you.” “I’m sorry, I’m in a rush! See you tomorrow!” I yelled as I hurried out the door.
I didn’t see him again until today, Saturday. The dreaded day I promised to go out with him. I saw him in the store again and thankfully I was busy enough to pretend I didn’t. When it was time for me to leave, I chatted with my coworkers in the back and snacked on a donut, buying time for him to leave and the coast to be clear.
As I gathered my things, I barely made it to my car before I saw him walking up and calling for my attention. I was reminded again that it is Saturday and I did agree to have some sort of idea of where to go by now. I told him I wasn’t quite sure where I wanted to go.
That’s when he did it again, he reached into my car window and moved my sweater to see the tattoo on my arm.
STOP IT, DON’T TOUCH ME, PLEASE KEEP YOUR HANDS TO YOURSELF
were all thoughts in my head that simply wouldn’t come out of my mouth. Instead I smiled, and entertained his comments on my tattoo, even divulging what other tattoos I had and where they were.
Why couldn’t I just say no?
“You’re a different girl,” He said to me “You wear different jewelry and have different tattoos.”
I was triggered even more by his tone and these comments. I’m just a woman. I’m no more special than the next, and you telling me so does not make me feel connected to you in anyway. There’s nothing you can give me that I can’t give myself, besides the creeps.
He pointed to a restaurant in the same parking lot and offered for us to just sit there for awhile.
“I’m not really in the mood right now.” I say
“Okay, another time.” He confirms
“Why do you want to take me out?” I ask.
“To be friends.” He remarks, “If you don’t like, that’s okay.”
He started to back up a little bit and said “I’m just trying to be your friend.” as he gestured at me implicating he meant something different.
The look on my face must have given away my disinterest. “I’m just trying to be clear, I’m not interested in anything romantic.” I say, finally feeling better that I’ve found my voice to speak up for myself.
The look on his face said it all. His eyebrows raised and his eyes bulged out of his head.
“If you don’t want to be friends, thats fine!” he huffed.
“How about, I’ll see you here, and when I’m ready to go out as friends, I will let you know?” I ask, trying to peacefully resolve the situation.
“I’m not going to lose, you are going to lose, because I am a good friend!” He says, as he stumbles backwards and away from my vehicle.
It’s obvious that I’ve struck a nerve but I believe it is because he never had the intention of simply being my friend. He thought he would charm me with dinner, and get me to loosen up with a drink, and who knows what else. Maybe that’s my imagination, but I didn’t want to let it get that far. My intuition was telling me that I didn’t trust this man. I shouldn’t feel obligated to.
He pulled off quickly and I realized that it had been about an hour since he first came into the store. He had been waiting there for me the whole time.
I felt a slight twinge of guilt, that subsided as soon as I reminded myself that I have no need to feel guilty for speaking my truth.
The situation could have been scarier, and it wasn’t. I’m still very proud of myself for finding my voice, standing my ground, and speaking up for what I wanted and not what I felt like would bring about the least resistance. The problem essentially solved itself as he drove away, probably feeling rejected, but hopefully enough to deter him from further advancing.
As I sit in my new favorite cafe I take a deep breath and feel gratitude for my new power.
Telling a man “no”.