Today I want to write about limits. I am also a bit Ranty McRantPants today. I would blame the menopause, but hey – that’s cheating!
Maybe I am coming to the time of my life where I have less energy to spend on other people’s foolishness. Maybe I’m just tired of the way I give of my time – I tend to go to extremes, and it’s either all or nothing for some things with me. I tend to have a very polar view of life – things ARE or they ARE NOT. I have trouble with the spaces in between.
I find I do not easily excuse bad behaviors from folks who are in the generation before mine – folks who are about 15 years older than I am. (For those playing at home, that’s folks in their mid to late 60’s) and I especially don’t excuse the bad behaviors of men from that era.
An example – and a trivial one at that, but it points to an underlying belief that he is entitled to whatever he wants – is a male coworker of mine who constantly takes things in the refrigerator that are not his. It started when he transferred to the office I work in. I used to buy organic whole milk to use in my coffee. Everyone in the office knows that milk is mine, there are only 6 people in the office. I started noticing the level of the milk was going down much faster than I used it, and one day I caught this person adding it to his coffee. The exchange went something like this:
“That’s my milk.”
“Oh, gee, I didn’t know that. I thought it was for everyone.”
“No, see, there is a carton of half and half right there. That’s for everyone. What you have in your hand is a quart of organic whole milk that I buy for my personal consumption.”
“Oh, it wasn’t labelled, I thought it was for everyone to use.”
“We never had to label things before. We generally don’t use things without first asking if we aren’t sure it’s for everyone to use.”
“Well, I thought it was for everyone.”
– And this is what he said EVERY time I caught him using my stuff. My ketchup. My mustard. My butter. Our boss decided we had to label our stuff if we didn’t want it to get used, which is fairly reasonable. This guy decided he wanted to make a production of it. He would come over to my desk, SLAM A DOLLAR BILL onto my desk making a big noise (knowing that I startle easily) and say in a joking voice “oh, I guess I lost the bet again! Here’s some money to cover the milk.”
Two years ago we moved to a new office, where the half and half is provided and comes in little packets that are shelf stable. I’m at lunch this week, I have a carton of half and half in the fridge. Guess who comes in and without even asking takes the carton out to add to his mashed potatoes for lunch?
“Hey, that’s mine! what are you doing?”
“Oh, I thought it was for everyone.”
“No, it’s mine.”
“Oh, *other coworker* usually has something there, she lets me use it.” (she does)
“Yes, I know, but she only ever buys milk. That is half and half and it’s mine. I would appreciate being asked before you take my food.”
And an hour later, guess who slams a dollar bill on my desk? Thankfully the desks in the new office aren’t the big hollow things and it doesn’t give him that satisfying BANG when he does it. So he says, very loudly, “Here’s the money for the half and half I used.”
It’s not about the money. It’s never been about the MONEY. It’s about the common courtesy that seems to be lacking about using other people’s things without asking their permission. It’s about going to the break room to make a coffee and discovering the stuff you buy because you can’t use what’s provided has been pilfered by some thoughtless jackass who doesn’t like the little shelf-stable creamers but is too damn lazy to buy a carton of creamer for himself, and the stuff that IS in the fridge for everyone is stuff he doesn’t like.
Another example is someone I had been picking up and giving rides places that I was also going. He gave me some gas money, which had not been requested. No problem there.
Then he started demanding a hug before he would get out of my car. He said he really looked forward to the hugs. Then the physical comments started. He said I was perfect for a guy like him. (Yes, he knows I’m married and he has said a number of times he has a lot of respect for my husband.) He said he thought I was beautiful and an angel. Right up until the day I told him I couldn’t give him rides any longer, and that perhaps he should find another man to give him lifts where he needs to go.
See, he went past the limits. Looking back, I can see how that happened. I talked to him as if he were one of my friends, including the same kind of emotional talk I would share with a friend. I have since learned that some men take that as a sign that I want to be physically intimate with them, since sharing emotion is something men of a certain generation only do with the women they intend to have sex with. That may sound as if I am taking the blame – I am NOT. I am saying that this person didn’t have the capacity to think that I was treating him with a great deal of respect and honor in sharing something. His training as a man of his generation had him thinking I was looking for something more.
Another guy from this same generation regularly calls me to ask if he is supposed to chair the meeting this week. As if I am the repository of our weekly calendar (I’m not) and also his personal secretary (I’m not.) And when I saw him at the meeting after leaving him a voice mail that said “we don’t generally assign meetings to people who don’t bother to show up at the business meeting, so NO, it’s NOT your week.” He and another man of the same era made a big show of asking my forgiveness for impinging on my time, in a very condescending way. I repeated it’s not my job to keep track, and it might be a good idea next time to take a picture of the calendar with his phone so he would have the information with him instead of having to call.
So here I am, trying to figure out why I am so damn angry over 2 ounces of pilfered half and half, or a phone call or a hug?
It’s really about the blatant disregard for personal space and limitations. It’s a symptom of a person who feels they are entitled to my time, my labor, my goods and chattels, and even my person. They question every decision I make, every piece of information I provide gets triple checked if it wasn’t expressly requested, and any contribution I make gets trivialized unless they are trying to butter me up to do work for them.
It’s just time for some people to start behaving better. And it’s time for me to teach them how to treat me better.
I just hope I don’t get killed in the process.