DEAR AMY: I am 31 years old. I have an older male co-worker who I feel violated me recently. He came to my home to deliver something, and proceeded to kiss me on the lips. I was pushing his arms back, but the hint was not taken. It did not go any further, and he left like nothing happened. I feel completely violated, betrayed and shattered. I have been polite and friendly with him, as I am with all my co-workers. He hugs many people at work, including me, every day — with a kiss on the cheek. We talk every now and then about our personal lives. He is married and I am dating someone. Now a line has been crossed, and I’m thinking: Did the personal conversations, hugs and kiss on the cheek that I allowed, make him think this was OK? I absolutely do not want to report him. He is a well-respected man and I don’t want to be the one to bring this up. I hate the feeling that I can tell no one, not even my boyfriend, because he will want to pursue actions against him. So not only do I feel hurt and violated, but I feel alone. I was also abused as a child by my older brother, and that seemed to go unnoticed. I didn’t say anything until I was about 17 years old. I know you will say this isn’t my fault, but maybe allowing the daily hugs at work made it seem OK to him. Why does this keep happening to me?
Locked in Silence
DEAR LOCKED IN SILENCE: Just because you didn’t forcefully stop your co-worker from hugging and kissing you on the cheek doesn’t mean that you invited it. Not only have women been socialized that it is somehow rude to reject unwanted physical contact, if he is your superior at work, you may feel that there would be professional consequences to you rejecting him, or speaking up.
Given your personal history, I can understand why you reflexively blame yourself for this violation, which makes it even more of a violation. Because now this person has not only forced a kiss, but he has also taken your voice.
When you pushed his arms back, you physically resisted this — and good for you! This guy obviously feels like he has the right to physically enter people’s personal space and basically do what he feels like doing.
You should send him an email, saying, “It is not necessary for you to touch, hug or kiss me in order for us to work together. When you came to my home on a work-related matter and kissed me on the lips, you went too far. Don’t ever touch me again.” And then, yes, I wish you would report it, knowing that if you did so, you would have a multitude of women (and men) who are virtually standing beside you, letting you know that we all have your back.
This keeps happening to you because this keeps happening to many, many people. You are not alone, and I hope you receive strength from realizing that.
DEAR AMY: This is for people who loudly talk on Bluetooth headsets while working out at the gym. I don’t mean while resting in a corner, but while actually lifting weights, and unloading and loading machines. This is obviously done for attention, because I can’t believe that these conversations can’t take place before or after the workout. These people think that being seen taking calls while exercising will make them look important. But it makes them look foolish and narcissistic. I can’t believe people can be so busy that they must yak while lifting dumbbells over their head. Look, I know we all have bigger problems, but maybe this is one I can help solve. Maybe by publicizing it to your millions of readers these fools will recognize themselves. Besides, sometimes these narcissists make eye contact with me as they’re walking toward me, making it seem like they’re talking to me. This is beyond annoying.
Not Seeking Attention
DEAR NOT SEEKING: My gym has signs posted prohibiting phone usage — and other loud communication — while using the equipment. Yours should do the same, and they should enforce it.
DEAR READERS: I still receive, read and appreciate “Ask Amy” postal mail. I have a new postal address which some newspapers haven’t yet posted, so I am noting it here. People wanting to write to me can address mail to “Ask Amy,” PO Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068.