I just made a big scene in one of my favorite bars over getting harassed. And while I’m still processing it (literally this happened 20min ago), I think I’ve never been prouder.
Oftentimes after I’m finished work for the day, if I have the night off I’ll go to Yard House and sit at the bar for a beer and a burger (don’t judge me). I’m a regular there and they generally know my order.
Tonight a drunk man wandered in and attempted to make conversation with me three times before physically violating me.
The first interaction went like this:
Him: What are you drinking?
Me (already clearly typing on my phone, not looking up): The Dragonsmilk.
Him: Where’s that from?
Me (still typing on my phone, hoping he will get the hint): I don’t know, you should ask the bartender.
Him: Ok… wow you’re so unfriendly… thanks.
Me: You’re welcome.
About ten minutes pass. He reaches out and touches my arm, which immediately makes my skin crawl.
Him: What are you eating?
Me: Sir, I am not here to entertain you. I am here to eat my food and do work on my phone. If you have questions about the menu, you can ask the bartender to help you. I am not available for conversation with you.
Him: Wow ok… *mutters into his drink, slurring his speech*
Another ten minutes pass. He pays his bill, then stands up. He approaches me and grabs my upper arm.
Him: You are the meanest, unfriendliest, fuck off you spiteful, hateful…
Me (at the literal top of my lungs): STOP TOUCHING ME. DO NOT TOUCH ME. YOU DO NOT HAVE PERMISSION TO TOUCH ME. STOP HARASSING ME AND LEAVE ME ALONE.
At this point the entire goddamn restaurant has stopped to look at us. Every person within my peripheral vision is staring. The alternative music continues to jam on the speakers, but everything else is silent.
I turn to the diners, who are all stopped mid-meal to stare at me.
“I apologize for the disturbance everyone,” I say in my theater voice, projecting calmly. “That man was harassing me and it was necessary that I draw a personal boundary. I apologize for the volume and I hope you enjoy the rest of your evening.” I think I actually even folded my hands and bowed.
The manager approached me. She was a black woman, and maybe it was my projection, but I felt we were balancing a professional restaurant/client interaction with woman-to-woman bonding over the behavior of a dumb white guy. I explained what happened, and she said she was grateful I used my voice instead of starting a physical fight. We high-fived. I told her her staff was great and they didn’t do anything wrong. I told her that the man was drunk when he came in, that he was slurring his speech, but that the bartenders hadn’t over-served him here just because he was already lit.
“Yeah,” she said, “and sometimes you don’t know, someone could slur or have a speech tick even when they’re not drunk!”
“You’re right!” I said. “I hadn’t thought about that, but it’s ableist to assume slurred speech means intoxication.”
A few minutes later another man came up to me.
“Hi there,” he said. “I’m a gay man, I just had to ask – are you ok? Do you need anything? Do you want a drink?”
“Oh I’m ok,” I said, “but thank you, that’s so kind!”
“I’m out with my girls,” he said, “and I just told them all at the table, if a man ever gives you shit, you do exactly what she just did.”
I told him that made my night, and asked if he hugged. He did, and we did.
The staff comped my meal. I accepted but left a 50% tip.
So, just so yall know. I don’t just give dumb straight white men shit in the Facebook comments. I am living embodiment of the new paradigm, where men don’t get free access to my emotional labor when I am not inspired to give it to them, and where I hold to my boundaries with the most nonviolent tools I have available that are still effective on drunken assholes after midnight.
I hope everyone in the bar tonight learned that they can do the same thing. I don’t mind going first and making a scene. We’re at war; I don’t mind bringing my fair share of the fight. May you all feel empowered to do the same.