“Working with the public is always a bit dicy just in general. People are prone to assuming that you, as a front line worker are a little less than human since your job is to help them. Helping is often seen as a less important job somehow. But often guys, sometimes even old men seem to completely fail to understand that I am actually very much a person. Sometimes they’re just things that they maybe think are comments – you’re beautiful, you look nice today, what did you do last weekend? – that kind of nonsense. But sometimes it’s much worse.
Once a guy in his sixties informed me that I was a beautiful woman, but hastily assured me that I didn’t need to worry, he was too old for me and wouldn’t want to hurt me. Because if it wasn’t for his great and noble gesture of acknowledging our forty year age gap and heroic attempt to protect me, he would possess me. As if my feelings didn’t matter. As if what I wanted wasn’t important. As if I wasn’t in a relationship already. As if I wasn’t gay. I wasn’t any more complex to him than a book or a newspaper. No agency at all. A thing.
Another gentleman saw my wedding ring and said “well, you’re no good to me, you’re married”. Like I don’t matter if I’m not single, my entire worth is enclosed in a marital statue. My relation with a man is all that matters. Without that, I’m no good. If I can’t belong to you, I’m no good. My husband makes me good.
And the worst thing about it all is that you can’t say anything, because you’re at work. You’re powerless to defend your own agency, your self and self-worth because this is your job. To be polite. To be pleasant. To be still and professionally. To be less than.
Obviously I’d prefer that everyone just treated all people who are working with the kind of politeness all humans deserve and a detachment built on the understanding that working people do not have any obligation to tell you anything about their personal life. But at the very least, treat me like you treat all my colleagues – the old ones, the male ones, the managers. If I listen politely to you, it’s because someone is paying me to. It does not mean anything else and it doesn’t entitle you to anything.”
Sincerely, Not Yours