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Angry with myself this week

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Darkness Falls posted 5/18/2013 12:54 PM

Hi all. I'm frustrated and angry with myself. Earlier this week, I let someone cross a boundary and I don't feel as though I handled it assertively enough.

The quick backstory: I've had my job for 8 1/2 years. I've been with the same workgroup with the same coworkers (95% male) for all of that time. It's a very male-dominated profession and I've never had a problem with anyone; everyone has always been very respectful of the few females there are (i.e. no comments, jokes, sexual harassment, demeaning remarks, etc.).

On Thursday night I was finished with my work and I was waiting in the hallway for XH. I was talking with some of my other coworkers when a different coworker walked by to go into the office. It is a narrow hallway and I backed up against the wall to let him pass. As he passed by me, he poked me in the stomach with his index finger.

I've known this man for 8 1/2 years, as I said above. We are not friends. We are acquaintances and we do the same job out of the same workgroup. There has never been anything inappropriate between us...never anything at all beyond basic small talk about work. I have no idea what could have given him the idea that it was OK to touch me in any way, let alone poking me in the stomach.

So my first thought was, WTF??? I'm not very quick on my feet, verbally, so it took a second as he was walking past me and I said, in a half-joking manner, "Hey, I'm not the Pillsbury Dough Boy here." He kind of laughed it off, but then (around 10 minutes later) he said, "I'm sorry if I offended you earlier." And I gave the total standard spineless, people-pleaser answer: "It's okay."

It didn't offend me, so it didn't seem appropriate to fire back with, "Well, you did!" More like it confused me: why would he think that was appropriate?? He wouldn't have done it if I were a man, obviously. We don't have an overly friendly relationship.

I am angry with myself for how I handled it. I should have thought of something not as playful as the "Pillsbury dough boy" reply, but I'm not sure what exactly I should have said differently. Things like "Don't touch me!" or "WTF is your problem??" are more in line with how I felt, but seem too harsh or not in line with what happened (not like if he groped my privates or something, kwim?).

To add: we all wear uniforms and I wear no makeup and look very plain, so clothing choice is not a factor as far as "sending off signals."

Any thoughts? And how can I respond appropriately in the future WRT personal space and boundaries? I don't anticipate anything like this ever happening again, but then I never thought it would in the first place.

mike7 posted 5/18/2013 16:28 PM

you did ok imo - to beef it up you could have simply said the truth. "Yeah.... that wasn't appropriate. Don't do it again."

He would get the message and you're not overreacting. if he takes offense at you stating the truth, tough shit for him.

But it will send a message to anyone else that wants to pat your bottom or rub your shoulders.

NoraLee posted 5/18/2013 21:09 PM

The way we women sacrifice to avoid someone else's discomfort! I'm guilty of it too.

I don't think your response was all that bad actually - he did come back and apologize so you must've said it in a tone that conveyed you message so I think your point was made.

But when he apologized - instead of "its okay", next time say, thank you for your apology - because ultimately, it wasn't okay! Instead, we're appreciating the effort the other party is taking to correct the wrong

. Another standard reply that I try to remember to use (it's not automatic yet) is "I'm not comfortable with that..."

I think the goal is assertiveness without aggression.

Darkness Falls posted 5/19/2013 09:38 AM

But it will send a message to anyone else that wants to pat your bottom or rub your shoulders.


next time say, thank you for your apology - because ultimately, it wasn't okay! Instead, we're appreciating the effort the other party is taking to correct the wrong

NoraLee...thank you! That is exactly how I should have phrased it instead. I'll keep that in mind. I have always hated when the wimpy "It's okay" comes out of my mouth.

tired girl posted 5/19/2013 11:20 AM

I agree with what Noralee said, I think the problem came in when you said OK rather than say, I did feel that is was inappropriate.

Have you taken a look at why you say it is ok rather than stand up for how you really feel?

Darkness Falls posted 5/19/2013 11:49 AM

Tired girl---yes, it's the usual reason: caring what other people (who don't matter) think. Not wanting to "look like a bitch." Not wanting to "blow things out of proportion."

That's why I'm angry with myself.

wifehad5 posted 5/20/2013 16:02 PM

If he does it again, don't say anything, but bring you knee sharply up into his groin. That will get your point across

tired girl posted 5/20/2013 17:29 PM

I explored this same feeling in myself early on. What I found underneath that for me was actually not feeling like I had a right to be offended when someone crossed my boundary. That was why I would often say"that's Ok" when often it wasn't.

I am getting better with not being Ok with people crossing my boundaries and saying it is a problem for me. They are mine after all. It has made me feel so much more comfortable in my skin.

Darkness Falls posted 5/20/2013 20:11 PM


tired girl---

I explored this too, and I feel that I failed in how I handled it. Being too unassertive has roots in my prior lack of boundaries in interpersonal relations. Or maybe that should read the other way around. Either way, it's all interrelated and it's something I thought I had a better handle on.

I was taught how to say "NO!" very forcefully if something grossly inappropriate/wrong occurs as a child: i.e. a stranger approaching, someone (either stranger or known person) trying to touch inappropriately, etc. As I'm sure almost all children are. But I was never taught how to handle the gray areas---when something isn't okay, but doesn't cross into "danger" territory. It's something I've always struggled with, and "it's okay" has always been my fallback/go-to reply for most any offense. In my case it's not that I feel I don't have a right to feel what I's that I've never practiced expressing it in a healthy way.

Part of my reluctance to be assertive as a grown-up, I know, is that I tend to go from amiable to bitch very quickly. I either laugh/shrug it off, or I go off the deep end. I lack a middle ground, and it's something I obviously need to work on.

tired girl posted 5/21/2013 09:28 AM

I understand that whole middle ground thing. I think that is a very common problem actually. We are taught in this society to go along to get along.

I feel this is a skill that actually has to be practiced. Hlessons and I have actually run through scenarios that could happen if he were to run into his AP as he has to go to where she works on occasion. I want to know that if she were to approach him he is going to feel confident in whatever situation arises. He also can easily fall into that, " I don't want to look like the asshole here" mentality. Me, I really never had a problem looking like a bitch, lol. I had more of a problem with not calling guys on comments that were made, I would ignore and walk away, or simply not respond. I understand now, that was still something that was crossing my boundaries. I felt as long as I didn't respond, everything was ok.

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