In my day job, I work for an alcohol distributor. My job comes with a lot of perks, like cheap booze. It also means that, from time to time, I have to spend evenings out in the bars drinking. I know, it’s rough.
Last Thursday, I was out at a work function that I wasn’t completely thrilled to attend. But I went and smiled and schmoozed. I drank some booze and did my job. Around 10 pm, a man at a bar decided that I was the love of his life and the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Drunk guys have this odd tendency to do that.
There I was, innocently sipping a cocktail, when a slovenly man walked up to me and started spitting game. Heavy on the saliva and low on the actual game. He was crude and cursing. And his presence turned my co-workers into older brothers quicker than a drunk can slug down a shot. Suddenly, I had a human shield in front of me. Honestly, you would’ve thought they were in the Secret Service.
In the face of inappropriate behavior, my co-workers wanted to protect me. It was sweet. Honestly, it made me what to pinch their cheeks. But it was also uneccessary. I’ve worked as a cocktail waitress in a former life. I’m fully capable of laughing in a drunk man’s face. Or flashing my prettily-adorned ring finger his way. While I wasn’t particularly enjoying this man’s attempt at flirtation, I also wasn’t scared or offended. But my co-workers assumed that I was. They told the man to back off and get some coffee. They told the bar manager to stop serving him. And they literally escorted me everywhere, including the bathroom. Seriously, I had a man waiting for me outside the bathroom like I was a five year old girl. It was all pretty comical.
There are two ways I could have addressed this situation. First, I could have gotten annoyed at their knight-in-shining-armor routine. I could’ve explained that I’m a grown woman who is capable of handling herself in the face of an obnoxious drunk. I could’ve shot down their protectiveness and yelled at them for treating me like their kid-sister. All of those reactions would’ve been completely justifiable. And given my co-workers’ tendency to treat me like a young woman who needs to be taken care of, I sincerely wanted to yell a little.
But it wouldn’t have done me any good. Being rude in the face of chivalry, no matter how unwanted, makes the woman look ungrateful and the man look mature and kind. In this situation, I did not want to come off as the bitch. I chose the other route, the more devious route. If my co-workers wanted to treat me like a kid-sister, I’d show them I was the mother hen. I told them all how cute it was that they rushed to my defense. I thanked them profusely for their unnecessary intervention. I laughed at the drunk who was now grumpy and sulking in the corner, showing just how not-frightening he was. My goal was to make the whole situation, both the drunk’s advances and their macho-man defense look as ridiculous as it was.
It is sweet and kind that my co-workers wanted to protect me. But I do not want to be seen as someone who needs to be protected, especially not by men who I have to work with on a daily basis.