ed. note: The following is an actual letter from a reader.
I want to tell you about an experience I had with an old boss. I think you have just the expertise to tell me if I am just being overly sensitive, or if the guy was an actual pervert.... (I'm thinking of the saying "it takes one, to know one.") (Hope that doesn't offend you, Smitty)
I went to work for a major psych clinic. The owner, a male in his 50's, was my boss. When he did an orientation with me, he kept staring at my chest, I took it that he liked the necklace I was wearing. A lot of people compliment me when I wear it, so I didn't think too much of it. In hindsight, though, I wonder if it was a warning of things to come...
He would ask me to sit next to him during clinicals, the chair scooted close enough that our arms kept bumping. As we'd walk the halls, he'd stick close to my side, again our arms would bump, or he'd touch my arm on purpose. One time he laid his hand on my thigh under the premise of showing me how to assess for a client's ability to have boundaries. He liked to talk about sexual intimacy in the elderly - as a clinical issue. Why, I'm not sure, we were usually working with run of the mill psych issues and dementia stuff. There was some other stuff, it's a long story... The final awkward straw came when, walking too closely for my comfort, his hand grazed down my boob. Gulp. I said nothing. I didn't want to freak out on him if he did it by accident -- after all, wouldn't he be embarrassed enough? He said nothing -- no apologies. I don't know what I expected him to do, or myself to do. It wasn't like we were at a bar and I could backhand him or throw my drink on him, knowing for sure he was a sleaze.
I told my husband, first asking him, did he usually touch the females at his workplace? Was it normal, this touchy feely stuff and I was just a prude? I often hugged my female co-workers where I used to work. Or we'd hold hands, but...
Anyway, I ultimately quit and moved on.
All this made me feel -- funny. Am I a prude with too big of a personal bubble, or was this guy a piece of work?
Don't touch me again mother-fucker or I'll chop your dick off and shove it up your -- whoa, got carried away there.
Dear Don't Touch Me, blah, blah, blah,
Okay...I'm going to make an official announcement: KEEP YOUR LETTERS SHORT PEOPLE. I've got shit to do, you know. Still, I am glad you wrote me, and I don't take offence. But I want to set you straight on something: Smitty is not a pervert. Sure I do some things that some find objectionable, but it is always between consenting adults. Which brings me to your letter. I should add: I have been to many mandatory trainings on this subject so I am something of an expert on sexual harassment. The workplace can be a very tough place to work, if you catch my drift. I've never brushed a boob or anything else, though. Frankly, I've never had to. But I wouldn't. You are right to feel uncomfortable about this. That guy is a creep. If you have to resort to that shit, you are lower than scum. And "sexual intimacy in the elderly"? Are you fucking kidding me? I am working very hard to keep from throwing up. Here's the thing: Any one of those things (except the elder-sex talk, which is just not right) could happen on accident, or, I hope (and here I'm thinking about the looking at a woman's chest part) be forgivable. But taken as a whole, they are disgusting. They make even me think for a second about how hard it is to be a woman sometimes. And, worst of all, they make it much harder for those of us trying to do the hard work of pretending we care about what you're talking about so we can get in your pants.
p.s. I couldn't do it. I threw up. I once saw a picture of a woman having sex with a horse and that didn't bother me. But the thought of grandmas and grandpas screwing was just too much.