Friday, January 9, 2009

When the Nice Guy Makes You Uncomfortable

Female readers, read this.

Geez, what a hot topic. This has happened to me--there's a night guard at work I avoid. He's probably perfectly nice, but within my first week of work, he said something about how the company was so incredibly lucky to have me, something overly glowing and weird, that it made me uncomfortable as hell. I avoid even making eye contact, and I feel bad about it.

This has happened to me so many other times too. On the bus--being complimented on my feet (?!). Being followed to a seat in the back so they can "get to know me better". Being joined at my table at Barnes & Noble and trapped into conversation. Being photographed on the train, or sketched in Starbucks (and given the sketch). Most of these things are hard to quantify as being inappropriate. Most happened when I was new to the city and afraid of being rude. I'm ruder now, but it still happens.

And thank god for Peanut. While my friend was visiting, someone next to her on the train put his hand on her leg and said something obscene, and Peanut almost pulled him out of his seat. I didn't even know what was going on, but I found out later this man had been making my friend uncomfortable for the entire ride and she was afraid to speak up. The moment she did, Peanut saw what was going on and threw around some testosterone. The guy got off the train at the next stop.

The comments on that article show how widespread this is. Nearly 800 comments, most of which are personal stories of this exact experience. It's so hard to figure out where the line is. My bagel guys know my order and have it ready when I walk up. They tease me a little, compliment my hair, ask where my glasses went. But they don't creep me out for some reason--maybe because they know about Peanut and ask me about him, too. They seem to be friendly flirting rather than leering. I don't know how to put into words how they are different from the guard downstairs, but they are.


  1. Wow! I guess I've always thought I was being paranoid. My ex-bf called me rude once when I blew off a few nice comments from a Blockbuster check out guy (he was still deciding on candy selection, so the guy didn't realize we were together). I feel a little more secure in my rudeness (growing up in a small city in the Midwest, you had to be nice to every one because they probably knew your parents), but this makes me feel like my gut insticts aren't totally off.

  2. I had this type of encounter yesterday, once a week I stop and buy coffee on my way in to work. There is this guy always there working on his laptop that has to say hi and make chit chat with me. I can't say why but he makes me uncomfortable, other guys could be more flirty and yet not creep me out. Living in the city I've learned to be appropriately bitchy at times.

  3. That's how I felt when I first read the article--Oh, good, I'm not the only one!

  4. Ugh, I had the sketch on the train thing happen to me a few years ago. That was creepy because I didn't even realize that guy was looking at me frequently enough to draw me! And then the other guys around me were grinning or snickering, which annoyed me even more.

    Same thing with one of our bus drivers: overly overly friendly, kept calling me baby and eventually tried to HUG me once when I was getting on the bus. Um, not ok!!


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