“Can I use this?” the man asked, gesturing to the bench right next to mine.
I was at the gym, finishing up my last set of shoulder presses.
“Sure, no prob. I’m done over here. I’m actually just about to leave. It’s all yours.”
He grinned. Eyes glinting. A flirtatious tone in his voice.
“Oh no, honey, don’t leave because of me. Then I won’t have anything nice to look at.”
The hairs on the back of my neck prickled. Yuck.
I replied, slowly and calmly, articulating each word: “I’m not leaving because of you. I’m leaving because I’ve finished my workout.”
I started to turn away, ready to depart.
Oh, but he wasn’t done yet.
He eyed my wedding band, then added, “So your husband lets you out of the house, huh, looking like that? You come to the gym all by yourself?”
My heart charged into my throat. I shot him a stern look.
“Excuse me?! My husband doesn’t ‘let’ me do anything. And I don’t need protecting. Especially from the likes of you.”
He seemed to interpret this statement as an invitation to continue flirting. He waggled his eyebrows playfully, repeating his earlier string of comments: “Aw c’mon, I’m just kidding around. Please, really. Don’t leave because of me…”
There are moments in life when you can just walk away, say nothing, do nothing—or, you can make a different choice.
You can decide, “I’m going to educate this numbskull and let him know what’s what.”
In my calmest tone, I took his ass to school.
“Look,” I said. “I know you think you’re being friendly. And maybe you think you’re complimenting me. But you’re not. That’s not how you talk to women. I’m not here for your entertainment. You need to be more respectful.”
The smirk evaporated from his face.
He apologized. (And he seemed sincerely sorry.)
Reminder to men: Women are not decorative objects for your amusement. Women are not here to entertain you, flirt with you, and chit-chat just because you happen to feel bored at the gym—or the airport, coffee shop, office, etc. (Parents: educate your boys accordingly.)
Reminder to women: If anyone (regardless of gender) says something that’s not okay, don’t ignore it. Let them know. You don’t have to scream and yell. Say it calmly: “That’s not appropriate.” Three words. Full sentence. No elaboration needed. And no apologies.
Everyone: Stop tolerating disrespectful behavior. Stop settling for the “crumbs” and “scraps” and “bare minimum” in life. Start demanding better conditions. When we stop letting things slide, when we demand better treatment, that’s when the world changes from the way it is…to the way it could be.
My husband knows that he would get his ass whooped, six ways to Sunday, if he ever told me not to go to the gym, not to wear tight workout pants, not to do…whatever I damn well please. LOL. For real though. The day my husband tells me to “stay home” is the day hell freezes over.