Lay your cards on the table

12th Ramadan

1. “My mom didn’t”

mymomdidnt

This, from today’s PostSecret. I mean, WHOA. Right? It might as well have been sent by me.

2. TV addict

I am eternally grateful to this Thought Catalog article for introducing me to the brilliance that are My Mad Fat Diary, which I – yes, binge-watched – in two days, and Orphan Black, which I am also binge-watching. I’m really, really excited when tv shows are so good. I’m getting the same feeling I got when I discovered Homeland last year.

3. So this is how it feels

This week was our (my?) first week without DS. On Monday I came in…and LO the new guy was seated at DS’s desk, as I knew he would. Still it took my breath away. And then AM asked me, not one minute after I sat down, “You’re missing him, aren’t you?” Because I’m the biggest softie in the world, my eyes immediately welled up. I was so afraid my voice would crack so I muttered my reply under my breath: “No.” AM’s response? “Liar.” I had to run to the bathroom to cry privately.

On Tuesday, AM mentioned that he was missing DS, that the office was quiet without him. I couldn’t handle that either. I had to run to the bathroom to cry. AM never mentioned DS again, but I didn’t need anyone to bring him up to be reminded of him and be sad all over again. My eyelid was twitching that day, and when the same thing happened the week before, it was DS I whined to about it. I actually looked around the office and wondered who I could tell about it now, and most importantly who would care. Needless to say, the answer to my question warranted another trip to the bathroom. I did the bathroom run about five times that day, no joke. I had to have a real good cry when I got home.

Wednesday onwards, however, I was okay. DS and I communicated a bit via Whatsapp. He made me laugh, as usual. Slowly but surely, I’ll be okay.

Missing one’s colleague is dumb.

4. The Talk

I finally had The Talk with AM. About his perv of a friend, the bloody feet tickler. Despite my cool and steady preamble, AM was cupping his mouth with his hand. I asked him why he was doing that, and what he said made me laugh my head off: “I just know your story will make me cringe.” Haha!

The first thing he said was, “That’s what someone would do in the UK.”

(P.S. Not at any point during our conversation was AM a dick. He was very nice and understanding about the whole thing, even if he was trying to defend his friend.)

Me: You lot are not in the UK anymore. Try again.

Him: You don’t speak with a Singaporean accent, and apart from not dressing skimpily, you don’t look like a Muslim. He probably has no idea you’re even a Muslim.

Me: Whether or not I’m a Muslim has got nothing to do with it. It should not matter what I am or what I’m not. He should just learn not to touch people as he pleases. Feet tickling was just taking the piss.

Him: I agree. That’s too much.

Me: I’m not asking for your approval. This is just a ‘letting you know’ thing, a heads up of what happened and what I’m going to do. Next time if he even touches my hand I’m going to…

Him: Don’t slap him. *laughs*

Me: *laughs* (AM knows me well.) No, I won’t slap him.

Him: Unless he slaps your arse first.

Me: Oh. YES. If he did that I would punch him. But if he even so much as touches my hand I’m going to tell him no. I’m going to say it like this, “I prefer not to be touched.” I’ve had enough.

At this juncture I need to thank Chelsea for the wonderful comment she left on my original post. If you read her comment you will see that I lifted those words exactly – and the rest of my conversation – from her comment. My conversation with AM kind of went as she (sort of) predicted it would.

Him: Ah…okay. But maybe you could soften the blow a bit? Maybe you could say, “I’m a Muslim. It’s not my culture to touch the opposite sex unless we’re blood related. So I hope you don’t touch me. If you don’t mind.”

Me: *laughs* NO. First of all, he’s not a child. I don’t need to ‘soften the blow’. Secondly, I don’t need to justify why I prefer not to be touched. I just don’t. I don’t have to give anyone a reason. It’s my body and I’ll make the decisions. And thirdly, ‘If you don’t mind’? Are you serious right now, AM? I don’t care if he minds it or not. I still don’t want to be touched. (Although to be fair, “if you don’t mind” is such a British thing to say, a filler in a sentence. It doesn’t actually mean what it implies. But I still refuse to say it.)

Him: *sigh* You’re right. You’re absolutely right. You don’t have to justify it. He just has to respect it. (pause) Just be polite, yeah?

Me: I promise. Thank you, AM.

It went well, I suppose. AM knows now, and even better, I got him to agree with my approach to the situation.

Fuck having to be polite though. I hate that women are supposed to keep their cool when fending off perverts. For fear of humiliating them (I know precisely why I have to prevent that in this situation, but in different circumstances, when the harasser is just a random passing stranger – why do we care to maintain their dignity?), and for fear of some kind of retaliation (in my situation maybe not physical but in different circumstances, there’s always a chance they’ll go apeshit on you). I hate that women have to feel fear at all when we’re just trying to tell men to leave us alone. What can we do to change this?

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I knew you were trouble when you walked in

Okay. I’m just going to dive right in. We rent out one half of our office to my director AM’s friend. We see them only once or twice a month though as he is based in Hong Kong and his three employees work outside a lot. His three employees are fine, but him…right from the beginning he’s been very touchy-feely with me. Likes to touch my hands and shoulders when he talks to me. He’s also verbally flirtatious, not just physically. I’ve always been uncomfortable with it. The first time he touched my hand I remember thinking, ‘This guy has worked in Southeast Asia for so long, Malaysia even. He should know not to touch women as he pleases.’ But I figured, whatever – old guy (at least 50), AM’s friend, nice guy otherwise, doesn’t go beyond my hands and shoulders and I haven’t caught him staring at my rack yet. I’m a confrontational person most of the time and I’m not afraid to stand my ground most of the time and I don’t take shit lying down most of the time but I thought, hey, I’ma just let this roll off my back. I convinced myself that the touching is innocuous and didn’t let it bother me. On his last visit last month, however, after yet another super friendly conversation wherein he touched my hand, DS, who witnessed it, whispered to me, “He’s really flirty with you, isn’t he?” I was quite shocked that he took it as him being flirty and not just being friendly. I thought that DS, being a fellow Westerner and coming from a culture where hugs and kisses are freely bestowed upon opposite-sex strangers you just met – even though he and the rest knew not to do it with me – would see the old guy’s touchy-feeliness as just being a bloody ignorant Westerner and not as being flirtatious. See how we women second-guess ourselves even when our instincts tell us it’s harassment?!

Anyway. Today, he came in, and this thing happened after he’d come to my desk several times, asking me this or that (legitimate questions). I was seated on my chair with both legs tucked beneath me and shoes off. (I love sitting like this.) So my naked feet were sticking out from one side of my chair, in his direction. After the conversation ended he suddenly said, “You know, I have a temptation right now.” I thought it sounded a bit weird, but I asked anyway: “What?” I really shouldn’t fucking have. Guess what he said, or rather, did next? He bent down and tickled my feet! My hands immediately flew to my feet to push his hands away and I simultaneously pulled my feet away as I nervously laughed a “NO!”. But my hands of course touched his, and he lingered, and he’d already managed to do what he wanted to do anyway, and I felt sooo dirty afterwards. I should have slapped him. I should have at least not let out a nervous laugh and instead scolded him in unequivocal terms, “DO. NOT. TOUCH. ME.” But I didn’t. It caught me by surprise, it all happened so fast, plus I had already gone into that situation with the mindset of him not being a pervert but just a really friendly guy. It was one thing for him to be a pervert but I didn’t stop him.

He left the office soon after, and I later related the incident to DS, who wasn’t in the office when it happened. He kept saying, “I knew it! I knew he was flirting with you! Dirty bastard!” What else can he say besides that? The perv returned to the office in the evening, and I was about to leave but remembered I hadn’t done my dishes in the sink yet. I had to pass by him to go to the bathroom and saw that he was packing up to leave as well. He started telling me that he was returning to Hong Kong tomorrow and when he would be back in Singapore (next month, thank God) and I feigned interest. I was so engrossed washing my dishes that I didn’t notice him walking into the bathroom. (Even if I had though, even if both of my hands weren’t occupied, what could I have done – stopped him coming in? No.) He was going to deposit his used cup on the counter next to the sink. As he did this he said to me, “Well, I hope you feel better soon (I’ve been feeling a bit off these last couple of days and I told him so). Because you usually have a big smile on your face…” – as he said this he squeezed my shoulders like he was trying to comfort me – “and these days you haven’t smiled as much.” I hunched my shoulders and tried to move away but in that crammed space I had nowhere to go. Fucking hell. He just managed to touch me again.

Yes, sure, shoulders, not boobs. But still a touch that is unwelcome and not to mention completely unnecessary. He has to know I’m a Malay-Muslim (though my hair is uncovered). In my culture you don’t touch a woman anywhere unless you’re blood-related. Some women aren’t even okay shaking hands with the opposite sex and most men respect this! He has no excuse though cuz like I said he’s worked in Malaysia before. He should know this! But even if he had never worked among Muslims, among Asians, he should just err on the side of caution. In your culture you hug and kiss everyone? (Spain, omg. I died in Spain. Everyone wanted to kiss me in Spain.) Fine. But you’re in my territory now, goddammit. Do what the rest of the men are doing, i.e. NOT TOUCHING THE WOMEN.

I don’t want to be that girl that feels harassed by anything and everything. But the feet tickling. Come on.

I’ve had enough of this. Next time I see him and he touches me anywhere, I mean anywhere, even my hands and shoulders, I’m going to tell him in the most polite manner possible (why am I still worried about being polite? Oh, right. I don’t want to make it awkward. Why do I care? Oh, right. Boss’s friend. FML), “Please don’t touch me. I don’t like to be touched*.” Watch me. I’ll do it. He’s not allowed to cop a feel any longer.

*False. I like to be touched. Just not by him.