November 25, 2009

The Last Thing I Needed

The person in this office who has been described to me as "A Walking Sexual Harassment Suit" and "A Sexual Harassment Suit Waiting to Happen" came over to my desk today and started rubbing my shoulders. Flirtatiously he asked, "You don't mind that I'm doing this, do you?" and I turned around, smiled, and said, "Actually, yeah, I think it's kinda inappropriate."

He immediately backed away and put his hands in the air like he'd been caught with a lethal weapon by the police. At first, he apologized. And then he started to defend himself.

"My hands are clean - I just washed them," he explained.

"Oh, dude, I'm not worried about germs," I said.

"Oh. Well, you don't have to worry, I'm married," he defended further.

"That's not the point."

This guy has been swooning over me since we met, maybe jokingly, telling me how much he loves Upstate girls. He's even touched my foot in an attempt to tickle it (though in truth I was just sort of grossed out for him). He's never touched me in any other way until today, and I've been able to dismiss his behavior - and him - until today, mostly because technically he works at a different company and I don't have to deal with or report to him.

But the minute I explained that it was too much - that I didn't want to be touchy-feely in the office and don't hug, kiss, etc. at work - he started backing away from me and getting overly defensive, saying how embarrassed he was and how I didn't need to worry, that he would never talk to me again. That he had no idea I'd be so sensitive.

I tried to keep the tone light, joking that in those training videos, the classic example of inappropriate touching was the whole rubbing-the-shoulders move. But really, it's not a joke. And it's true.

Given the things that I have been dealing with over the last couple of years, this is the last thing I needed. But at a company full of young people who listen to dance music, drink in the office, and buy their drugs during the workday at their own cubicle, it's not terribly surprising. I was just hoping I wouldn't have to deal with it.

It probably won't happen again. I've learned my lesson and stood my ground, making my position clear. But now I've been labeled: sensitive, prudish, overreactive.

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