Weird story. I’ll go ahead and spoil the ending: it was all paranoia. But the fact the paranoia even existed is the very point of the story.
I’m not going to tell you where I work. I will tell you that I’m in a two-person office and I’m something of an office manager. I keep things running smoothly; I keep things in order. I’m not the boss. That’s the other person in the office. But I’m female, and the boss is male, and the boss is a man that if you saw him you probably wouldn’t want to start something. He is a big guy.
He left early the other day and told me to leave at four. I had a 3:00 appointment and a 3:30 appointment to handle after he left, but it was all good. My 3:00 was easy paperwork stuff. Get a guy to sign a form, send the form to home office, and ta-da! We’re done. Easy, 5 minute appointment tops.
He calls and lets me know he’s running a bit late. That’s fine, but I find out during the course of the conversation his son is with him. His son is an adult. Again, fine. But here’s where the paranoia kicks in:
I’m a female, alone in the office, and I’ll be facing not one, but two grown men. Odds are everything will be fine (and it was), but I had a moment of panic: my boss wasn’t there. If these guys decided to try something, anything, I’d be up shit’s creek. I’m pretty sure I could fight off ONE person, but two? So my brain started wondering whether or not I should unlock the back door, that way I could run for it if I really had to, but then I realized that by leaving the back door unlocked, it’d leave the door open (pun intended) for strangers to come in. Worse, I’d forget the door was unlocked after my appointments, and that would be very bad indeed. No one wants to leave their office unlocked all night, do they?
Like I said, all my paranoid fears were for nothing. And I do have a panic button that essentially calls the local cops ASAP if I push it. My 3:00 appointment arrived, left his adult son in the car, signed his paper and was very nice and congenial and thanked me for my help. I smiled back and told him to let us know if there was anything else we could do to help. Did I feel bad for mentally freaking out? You bet.
See? Paranoid. Nothing to worry about. And that’s usually my motto. There’s a handful of people we work with that my boss has told me (or I’ve told my boss) that I shouldn’t be alone with, because said (male) person gives off creepy vibes. One of those said people on my boss’ list (not mine, I think he’s a harmless old man who appreciates younger women in a non-creepy way) showed up out of the blue last week when my boss wasn’t in with a question that could’ve really been handled over the phone and really shouldn’t have been asked to begin with: this guy, he’s smarter than the question he asked me. And I realized, after he’d left and I was getting on with my very busy morning, that he probably just stopped by to see me. Not chat, not like lonely old people do. But he wanted an excuse to see me. That’s it. And the realization ticked me off, because I was having a bad, busy morning.
When people talk about rape culture or how it sucks that women are the ones who are taught not to be victims, but men aren’t taught how NOT to be a victimizer, this is the bullshit our culture has produced: women, like me, who have a legitimate, however paranoid fear, of being alone with strange men and because we’ve been taught to “stay safe,” have to mentally chart escape routes just in case.
If I had been a men, none of these situations would’ve been a bother. But I’m a women, and therefore both situations were. It’s not that I’m afraid of being alone with men. I sometimes scoff at people who my boss thinks is creepy and I don’t, but I do have MY list of people who are creepy. Men who, if they have an appointment, I don’t want to spend a single minute alone with in the lobby. Men who, if I’m on the phone with them, make me shudder even though they don’t say anything wrong except the occasional “honey” or “baby” or “sweetheart.”
Being a part of the customer service oriented business I am means I don’t get to be a bitch and say, “Don’t call me that,” and set them straight. I’m in the South, and that means a lot of those endearments are just old school habits that don’t go away. And even if I wasn’t in the South, I still couldn’t be a bitch and set them straight, because in my line of work, customer service is important.
But I have to deal with them. Because I’m female. And my whole point is that I shouldn’t have to. I shouldn’t have a list of clients, however small, whom I don’t want to be alone in the room with. My boss shouldn’t have a list, however small, of clients HE doesn’t want me in a room alone with. I shouldn’t have paranoid fears that just because I’m alone in the office and a male client comes in. I shouldn’t feel the need to prepare, just in case.
But I have to, because I’m female. And those paranoid fears, however fleeting? Those anxieties or that dread? That isn’t going away. And that’s really, really unfortunate. Because while what I’ve talked about is the norm for most women, and what I’ve talked about is wicked tame compared to what many other women go through, it’s still a drain on us. It’s a drain because it’s normalized and it shouldn’t be.
That is all.