Anjali Figueira-Santos: Normal, natural and disrespectful
It was nearing the end of the night and my shift, as I readied to finish up with my last table.
The table wasn’t originally one I was serving, but as my co-worker clocked out, it was passed on to me. I was reluctant to take them, as I had noticed the tell-tale signs when they’d first arrived.
The eyes watching me walk through the room, the efforts to make eye contact. So it was with a grudging effort that I approached them to ask if they would like anything else.
The older guy seemed fine, with only subtle and fleeting glances. It was the younger one who I wasn’t so sure about, and who upon my arrival at their table retrieved his phone from his pocket and looked at me expectantly.
“Can I have your number?”
Call me old fashioned, but I appreciate a bit more effort when being asked for my number. Maybe ask me my name first, or even a simple “hello” would do? I would have replied the same either way, but the cordiality might have given me time to prep my answer, rather than leaving me with an awkward and surprised attempt at a smile, and blurted out “No.”
He asked why not, to which I answered, still politely and hesitantly, “Because no.”
He asked me if I like to have friends, which I didn’t answer but managed a confused face. To this he replied that I could give him my number and we could be “friends,” bringing this wonderful conversation back around to him asking for my number. I will not bore you with the details, but this awkward process was repeated thrice. In between it all, he asked if I had a boyfriend or husband, to which I replied, as I was tired of our loop and figured it would help, “boyfriend.”
This, I assure you, did not bother him. And so, to simply finish it up, I smiled tightly and gestured at their empty plates, asking if I could clear them, and hurried to the back room. All was fine, until they paid, and he again began the questioning, though this time using the “Facebook” tactic instead.
This article wasn’t meant to vent about what happened, because it isn’t an unusual occurrence.
The point is to bring up an important issue that all women face: turning away men. I shouldn’t have had to say that I had a boyfriend. I shouldn’t have had to explain why I didn’t want to give him my number. I shouldn’t have had to then repeat my answer several more times after already having said no.
Yet I find myself having to go through this process almost every time.
I read a post once by a woman who said that she was speaking to her nephew about his crush. He had asked her out, and she told him “No.” To this, the aunt asked him, “Do you know what you need to do now?”
He replied, “Yes, I need to keep trying.”
“No,” she said, “You need to leave her alone. She said, ‘No.’”
Her nephew, the woman wrote, had seemed shocked, as if no one had ever given him similar advice.
Young, and even older men in this day and age are not taught about how they should approach a woman, or how they should react to the responses they receive. Meanwhile, I didn’t feel right telling this guy to cut it out and leave me alone by even the fourth time, firstly to preserve his feelings, as I didn’t want to be cruel or rude. Secondly, because I knew there was a possibility that my response could produce a violent reaction.
This issue has never really been tackled, because it is something that we are taught to live with. It is normal, natural. A simple case of “boys will be boys.” Understanding this problem is the first step that we need to take as a society that will affect so many other difficulties that women face in the daily life. Making it seem small, or allowing the above mentioned man’s aggressiveness be written off as playful or joking will only make matters worse.
The first step we need to take is a simple reteaching of the word “No,” followed by a healthy dose of respect.
Anjali Figueira-Santos is a Forest Charter School student and intern at The Union. Contact her at email@example.com.
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