Next week, I’m celebrating a BIG birthday: 30! In acknowledgment of the fact that I’ve spent over half of my 20s working at The Frisky, I’m going to reach down deep into to archives and revisit some old posts. I’ll examine what I wrote at the time and how that has or hasn’t changed. If you have any suggestions of old posts you’d like me to revisit, tell me in the comments or shoot me an email at Jessica@TheFrisky.com. Earlier this week I wrote about “Why I Like Being Called A Slut In Bed.” Next up is …
Publication Date: November 21, 2011
“Yesterday, as with every other day I run into [the coffee shop worker], we discussed only two topics: how are you and how’s the weather. I really didn’t want to chat; I wanted to get back to my TiVo on pause. So, I was caught off guard when he asked my name for the first time, told me his for the first time, and then said, ‘Sometime, I would like to take you out to dinner.’ Then I did something I’m not proud of: I burst out laughing, turned my back on him, and walked away. Not five seconds after my back was turned, I felt like an a**hole. I swear to God, I was laughing to myself, not laughing at him, but it probably didn’t look that way — or feel that way — at all.”
What Was Going On In My Life At The Time: Back when I wrote this post I was happily and somewhat-seriously dating a French guy. I must have been pretty oblivious and out-of-practice in dealing with attention from other dudes. (Theory: Men have a sixth sense that they can tell when you’re in a relationship and that makes you more attractive to them. When it rains, it pours.)
What Makes Me Cringe Now: Oh, everything about it. Being asked to dinner by a random guy who worked at my local coffee place caught me completely off-guard. I have manners, I swear, but I handled this awkward scenario so, so gracelessly.
I wish my reaction had been to just say something like ”Sorry, I have a boyfriend!” and turn him down gently. There’s a fine art to the polite rejection. Instead, I awkwardly laughed and walked away, reacting in the moment without thinking. I felt shitty about the massive flub immediately afterwards and still cringe a little about it to this day.
What I Still Agree With: Employees asking out customers on dates during their work hours is inappropriate and awkward for everyone involved — that is something I still totally believe to be true. Coffee Shop Guy and I were barely acquaintances; I didn’t even know his first name until this conversation. He didn’t sexually harass me at all, but it was awkward, bumbling, unwanted attention — I was just trying to buy myself a latte on a Sunday afternoon, after all. When I wrote the post originally, I assumed — perhaps incorrectly — that readers would have their own stories of being flirted with in an inappropriate setting. Or maybe they’d have their own stories of flubbing situations that could have been handled with more grace. Or, heck, maybe we could even have a feminist conversation about how men interacting women men in public spaces.
What I didn’t mean was for that essay to be perceived as “Ha Ha, I Rudely And Meanly Stomped On A Fragile Male Ego! Isn’t That Funny!? He May Never Ask Out A Woman Ever Again! BWAHAHAHA.” Alas, that was sorta how it was received. The post got 182 comments calling me words like “cruel,” “bitchy,” “mean” and “callous.” Someone even suggested “he should’ve pepper-sprayed you.” (The male ego, oh, it is so fragile! )
I continue to be a bit surprised that some readers perceived this interaction as, like, literally the worst thing that ever happened in that coffee shop guy’s life. I still lament that I reacted in the wrong way; I knew better than how I behaved. But my reaction was always gonna be some version of “nope.” I learned from this situation to take a deep breath when awkward stuff happens so that I can react more politely and maturely; I hope the employee also learned how/why it is inappropriate and awkward to ask customers on dinner dates.
How The Post Would Be Different If I Wrote It Today: I’ve actually been considering a revisit of sorts to this topic. There is a new coffee shop in my neighborhood, which I stop by every single weekday morning on my way to work. The owners and men behind the counter know my order by heart, but they don’t know my name — that’s because they call me “Princess” or “Gorgeous” or “Sweetheart.” (I have noticed, however, that when I’m in their coffee shop with my husband, they never say it.) I assume this is the case because I live in New York City’s predominantly Greek neighborhood, Astoria, and Third Wave Feminism hasn’t really found its way here yet.
Their behavior irritates me some; I’ve noticed they don’t address the male customers with “Hey, Handsome” or anything like that. It’s a little flirty, but it’s not really an appropriate way for an employee to talk to a customer. I wouldn’t call it sexual harassment, exactly, but it is weird for me every time one of them does it. I have a name, after all. I’m trying to figure out a polite-but-firm way to tell them, “Hey, I’d prefer you don’t call me ‘Princess.’ My name is Jessica!” So far, I’m not sure what it is.
I seem to have something about me that draws in overly-friendly baristas, don’t I?
Do you have a suggestion for a post I should address in Flashback? Send it to me at Jessica@TheFrisky.com. Follow me on Twitter.
[Image of a worried woman via Shutterstock]