WS, 5-month EA/PA '09-'10
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.
Divorced and remarried to XBH