I am a waitress. It’s not my dream job, but most days it’s fine enough. There are days when I really don’t like it but today was not one of those days. Actually, today was pretty good. There was just this one table that soured the mood, somewhat.
At lunchtime a table of five men joined us in the restaurant. One man in particular was a bit of a pain, being rude and demanding, but honestly none of the comments he made were what pissed me off. I guess you could say that it’s part of the job.
What did get up my back was the tiny little phrase he made right at the beginning of the meal. In response to my question whether anyone on the table would like a side dish with their meal he said “Well actually, I was thinking of having you on the side.”
I did a double take. You what now?
I do not get paid enough to listen to whatever you are insinuating.
First off, what do you even mean? I know what the answer to that question would be. Something along the lines of, “I don’t mean anything, I’m just having a laugh!” or “It was just a compliment, relax”. I know because I’ve heard that answer many times before. I’ve been told that it’s my fault for misunderstanding. It’s clever, I suppose, because there’s a play on words between the side dish, like fries and a bed partner? Someone who serves to titillate and to be provocative.
Is it really necessary to clarify my role here? I wait on you, and if you’re nice to me, I’ll be nice to you. However, I am not here for you to sexualize me. Really, that should go without saying.
I am glad that I work in a place where I feel safe, so I didn’t feel threatened or intimidated by his comments, but the idea that a man who must be near enough twice my age, can somehow phrase the idea between the two of us in a way that leaves no room for my consent… it’s scary.
I don’t want you to have me on the side. It is not a compliment. I am not gratified to find that I am somehow attractive to you. There is no way that what you’re saying to me right now is in any way beneficiary to my self-esteem.
Or is that not the point? Perhaps I’m just meant to stand there, play the prop, so that you can get your own kicks from your little joke. And since it’s ‘just a joke’ and not some major crime (like the one the you’re so subtly implying), there is no reason for me to be upset? You didn’t touch me so I suppose it’s ok then?
How have we come to the point where such thing can somehow be normalized? That all the shitty stuff that isn’t as bad as the things that – could have happened – is somehow not a problem anymore? It’s little things like this, these derogatory comments, are the things that lead to these very serious crimes. It’s the first step.
While writing this piece, I had to stop myself from typing phrases like ‘it was just-‘, and ‘no big deal’, because what happened to me wasn’t particularly newsworthy or out of the ordinary. It’s probably not even the most offensive thing someone’s said to me this week.
But that’s what’s wrong with it in the first place, isn’t it? Apparently this man’s four companions didn’t have a problem with it, since they didn’t say anything or react in any way. Were they cringing inside? Were they wishing they had just that little bit more courage to be able to say to their friend, “dude, that’s not cool, you shouldn’t be saying things like that,”?
I’m sure there are many people who would say that I’m overreacting, that I’m making something out of nothing, that I’m the one causing the problems. And you know what? I’m okay with it if I am.
Hell, be upset. Be horrified. I know that he’s just an asshole who’s ‘not worth getting upset about’, but you know what? Assholes don’t stop being assholes until something makes them. People will say that I should worry about the big problems before we worry about the little ones but maybe it’s these little things that slip through our fingers that start to add up, piece by piece, that make these big problems. I think we should start at the beginning: zero tolerance for bullshit. Force people to think before they speak. And to have some respect, dammit.
I am angry because today a man said inappropriate things to me and it was no big deal. This is my invitation to you to be angry, too.