I don’t know why I suddenly remembered this incident today. I was just browsing Twitter and the same ol’ stories were there: personal lives, work lives, politics.
I’ve been kind of down on myself lately. Mostly since I gave my notice at work and my boss has become insufferable. It gets hard to not let it wear you down and make you grumpy outside of work. I feel bad about it. But lying about not being grumpy is exhausting. I don’t want to lie about how I’m feeling to spare others because I shouldn’t have to. I do it anyway to protect myself and my relationships with other people, but I hate it.
So maybe that’s why I’m thinking about this today?
I was 18 or 19 and working at Zellers (Canadian equivalent to Target, for my American folk). I worked in hardlines, which meant I was on the floor in every department that wasn’t fashion or shoes. I helped people with questions, manned the phones for my departments, tidied, etc. Retail worker stuff.
It was a slow night with not many people working. For some reason, I was covering the shoe department. I think the person there was on break, or something. I never worked in shoes so my ability to help people was pretty poor, but I did my best.
An older man, maybe early 50s or so, well dressed – almost too well to be shopping for shoes at Zellers – wanted me to help him find some shoes. I don’t really remember the details of what he wanted. I struggled trying to find something he was looking for. It took me way too long to realize he didn’t really care.
He asked random harmless questions while I looked, small talk stuff. But every question he got a little bolder and stood a little closer. I would always adjust and back up a few inches, but he didn’t really pick up on the hint. He smelled of too much cologne. His questions got weirder and bolder.
Where do you live? Do you like to go to parties? Ever hang out with a wealthy man? Do you like older men?
I lied to every single question. The second he went beyond “how long have you worked here?” I was on guard. He kept telling me he was only in town for the weekend and that he had lots of money and I should come hang out with him and his friends that night. I kept politely and very awkwardly declining but he just kept asking. He’d actively stand in my way when I would try to walk around him. I awkwardly pretended I was still dedicated to finding him some shoes when in reality I was hoping a coworker would walk around the corner and save me.
I have lots of money, you know.
We can have so much fun.
You’ll have the time of your life.
I’m only here for the weekend.
Come on, you know you want to.
My discomfort was at 120%. No one was walking by, the whole department was empty. I didn’t have my radio. So I did what always works.
“Sorry, I have a boyfriend.”
I hated saying that. I didn’t have a boyfriend. I didn’t want a boyfriend. And I didn’t want to use that as a reason to not go to this creepy man’s old businessman orgy. He asked one more time if I was sure I didn’t want to, that my “boyfriend didn’t need to know,” but I was adamant that, no thanks, my boyfriend would not like that.
And then he grabbed the pair of shoes I had been fussing over and walked off.
Without a boyfriend, I was an option, no matter how much I didn’t want to. With a boyfriend, I was difficult, but possible. But not worth going out of his way for, or worth being as persistent as before.
Worth? I don’t know if worth is the right word. Do you only have worth to other men if you’re single? Or is the worth the same, but the trouble not? If you’re single, there’s no consequences, but if you’re not, suddenly you’re committing a crime in a foreign country?
I hated that I had to lie to feel safer – better. Lying to feel better about anything is balls.
I’m not traumatized by this experience. That isn’t really the point. It was, unfortunately, what it was. It’s just something I’ve been thinking about today as I sit here and lie to myself about how grumpy I am so that I can not be a complete asshole when I get home to my house family.
I am, first and foremost, the biggest liar to myself.
I’m not mad at anyone. I love my friends and my family. It’s not their fault I’m grumpy most of the time. It’s just exhausting to be outwardly happy sometimes. And sometimes, it might take me some time to go from complete savage to amiable again. Just give me some time, I’ll get there eventually after a few hours at home. I adapt to the environment, so if my environment is happy, I’ll equal out with it eventually.
Sorry I’m a liar and sorry that sometimes I have to be. But at the same time, I’m not sorry because it’s the only way to be civil, or safe, or better.
Thanks for putting up with me.
Edit: I realize this makes me sound a little bit annoyed with people for expecting me to be happy all the time, but that is definitely not the case! I’m just venting because it makes me feel better. <3