“I could share stories about times when men said or did things that were not OK.
When they violated my personal space or robbed me of my autonomy and dignity. Perhaps there’s still more to be written about those experiences — especially ones in the workplace.
But for today, I want to share a moment of hope.
I drive to work a lot. In the city. So I’ve gotten to know the guys at the lot across the street from my office pretty well. I see them almost every day; we exchange good mornings and inquire about each other’s families and wellbeing. We share parenting tips and commiserate when we haven’t slept.
I know they have a soft spot for me because they tend to prioritize bringing my car out first in the evening. In fact, one of them professed last week, when I rolled up with my way-too-loud happy hip hop blaring from my always-open windows: ‘I love you every day.’
Maybe it’s just because I show up cheerful and happy to see them. Or maybe it’s something else that’s less cool. I don’t know.
But we have a good rapport.
And yesterday, the lovely guy who intakes the cars in the morning asked me — as he always does when he takes my key and moves the seat back so that a full-sized male can get into the car and move it without shattering his knees on the wheel — how my kids are and how life is. I answered and then he asked somewhat bluntly: ‘Am I allowed to hug you?’
We have become buddies over time, his kids are older than mine and we talk often — so his inclination to give me a hug is not inherently problematic or weird to me.
I also don’t love hugs, and I especially don’t like men initiating any physical contact with me without establishing I’m OK with it first. And he doesn’t know any of this.
So I was grateful that he asked; and explained I would be OK with a hug from time to time, but that I’m not a big hugger. He seemed fine with that response, and said, ‘Yes, that’s why I ask — you are my friend, but I need to make sure it’s ok with you.’
He did not make any attempt to initiate that hug yesterday. We said goodbye and have a wonderful day, with smiles, as we usually do.
I can’t credit his thoughtful respect for my boundaries to anyone other than him. Maybe he’s a gem. An outlier. I don’t know.
But I walked across the street to my office after that feeling so pleased that this man respected me enough (and more than his own inclination to hug me) to ask. And to accept a tepid response which he interpreted as a no, with no argument, no pushing, no ‘come on, it’s just a hug.’
And I don’t think he will behave any differently towards me when I roll into the lot this morning.
This is what I expect from male friends and colleagues and I don’t think it damages our relationships in the least.
Maybe there’s something in the wind. Maybe something is changing.
Maybe my ferocious 5-year-old will get to live in a world where the men around her ask permission before initiating physical contact.
I sure as sh*t will tell her this is her right.
Not that she needs me to tell her.
A few months ago, I cuddled up with her after she got into our bed in the middle of the night and she said — with no particular inflection — ‘keep your hands to yourself.’
Then she smiled at me and fell asleep.
God, I hope for her.”
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