Tip-toeing Through Eggshells

Working in hospitality has provided me with a unique exposure of having to stifle one’s own emotional reactions, self-respect and personal space for the sake of professionalism and protecting the brand.
It’s just a touch here, a grab there, a pet name ever so often – but it’s enough. It’s so enough, that one of the first questions I receive every time I train a waitress is, “How do you handle it?”
Well, you could do what I did.
Gently start to do the chicken dance until the patron notices his arm flapping along with yours, then politely answer his confusion with, “I like my personal space. I don’t like to be touched”. Or, you could could snap, telling your patron that “My name is Cenea, not ‘Darling’ or ‘Babe'”, and that out of respect, he should consider how condescending and unpleasant it may seem to the recipient.
In a position of power, nobody wants to be called, “Darling”.
You know what happens then? Pandemonium. Your three bosses are called for you being rude and unprofessional – for offending your patrons. A scene is made. Promises to never return are made. Self-doubt creeps in. Should I have stood up for myself? I mean, he wasn’t hurting me. I could have sucked it up. You’ve done that before.
There’s a very thin line between harassment and harmlessness, it appears. What stops some men (or women) from responding to an earnest statement about personal space or consideration with, “Oh. I’m sorry. I didn’t know you felt that way. I respect that”?
Instead; aggression. Further pushing. Further coaxing. Coercing. Force. A complete disregard for the word, or idea, of “No”.
It’s unsettling how deep this goes. It’s unsettling that I believe that there is an expectation of violence from men from women, even if unfounded.
Why do we put up with it? Why do we tolerate the catcalls? Why do we smile and laugh nervously, when all we really want to do is disappear? Why do we walk around the area with the group of men, and not through it?
I see it often in hospitality.
A woman clearly uncomfortable, too afraid to tell him to leave her alone. In the beginning she didn’t; appealing to his marriage, his humanity, and eventually, resorting to harshness. It was a long ordeal. Everyone has their limit.
It’s a funny thing. I know this first hand. You know too. You just know. Do not be rude. Manipulate or be docile. These are your options. If you defend yourself, you fear – you prepare for a storm.
Don’t touch me. I don’t like to be touched. You’re in my bubble – my personal space. I can be in this industry, and still have personal space.
We expect a shitstorm. We expect a mentality that defines us as rude or unservicelike. We don’t get to have personal space in this industry. Are we kidding? We’re servers. How dare we tell our customers that them touching our arm makes us uncomfortable? We don’t have the right to feel uncomfortable. Do we like our jobs, us servers?
How then we blur our own lines. She’s just uncomfortable. She can deal. Oh, it’s okay. He’s not physically hurting her. It’s just a little anxiety – a little fear.
Why is the line contact, when the line should be space? Why do we let people get in our face, because we’re too afraid to upset them?
It’s taken me a long time to develop self-worth. It’s taken me a long time to undestand that I deserve respect.
Respect is not just earned. Respect is a human right. Do you know what respect is? Respect is consideration – basic consideration. It’s the pure acknowledgment of the consciousness and empathy.
Do you have that?
Not all men are this way, and neither are all women. This entire argument is vice versa.
Kudos to the women who unashamedly stand up for themselves, and let’s hope to hell that they never cross the wrong personality or mentality.
Because those of us who often don’t, have.
Thank you to the men to whom this post does not, in the perpertrative form, apply. We know, not all men are the same.
Nevertheless.
This is not an ideal world.

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