Sexual harassment. How could it be sexual harassment if I allowed it, and even answered his questions? Wasn’t I just as guilty if I had partaken in those conversations? I had never been one to accuse a man, but here my team lead was saying that’s what my relationship was with Ethan. She also said that he must have thought I’d be an easy target (due to an abusive relationship I’d been in), and how he was only looking for someone to have sex with. She claimed that it was something he did often, and that he’d even attempted it with her.
I thought about my other relationships/friendships with men. The one I had with him was quite different. Sex got brought up more with him than any of my other friends. In fact, the amount of time sex was brought up in our conversations was similar to the amount of times it was brought up in a new romantic relationship. That didn’t mean he was harassing me, or that anything my team lead said was true, but it did plant the seed for the events that happened next.
Other people were kinder to him. They said he liked me, and one even gave reasons why I should consider dating him. Soon, the entire store knew what was going on, or at least bits and pieces of what was happening. I wanted things to go back to the way they had been, and I knew that wasn’t going to happen unless I did something to fix things. I sent him a text message explaining why I was upset and apologized. I got no response, which was fair. I would want an apology in person, so that’s what I did.
I usually didn’t look at him, since he reminded me of my ex-boyfriend, but this time I found myself studying his body language. He didn’t fold his arms across his chest, and he leaned in. He wanted to hear what I had to say, but that didn’t mean he was receptive to my apology. The entire thing was awkward for me, and my hands were shaking as I tried to fix things. I had hoped we could put things behind us and move on, and he seemed open to that. At least I thought he was, until I received a long message from him a few nights later. He was cursing me out and accusing me of prank calling him. He really tore into me this time, and it was clear he had never viewed me as a friend. I’ve been in situations like this before, where the guy only wants to date you and that’s the only reason for him talking to you. It always stings, but I hadn’t realized he’d liked me. I suspected it, but he’d never confirmed it.
I attempted to calm him down, but there seemed to be no end to the vile mood he was in. I suspect part of his anger was because of what had happened between us previously. I have never been good at dealing with people when they’re angry, so what basically happened was me basically begging him to calm down and trying to explain that I push people away at the same time. I hadn’t prank called him, but I felt that he was angry for other reasons. I just wanted to fix things, for them to go back to the way they had been before. Finally, he just told me to leave him alone. I agreed and went on to ask other people if they would count down my register with me. I really went out of my way to avoid him, even taking a different path whenever I had to do something at the front of the store.
I didn’t like putting a bigger workload on others, but I didn’t see any other way. I knew someone would eventually have a problem with it, and that happened sooner rather than later. For the sake of privacy, I’m going to call her Geri. Now saying Geri wasn’t fond of me was an understatement. I’d made the mistake of complaining about another coworker to her when I was new. That coworker was her friend, and I was just frustrated with the situation (was still working my old job and ended up running late because of the coworker I complained about).
I asked Geri if she would count my register with me instead of Ethan. She agreed, but she paged me to the manager’s booth before I left to ask me about it. When I explained the situation, she said that we probably needed to sit down and have a talk. I was open to that, but I didn’t think he was. I told her that I didn’t think it would work and she ended up asking him about it. The next time I asked her to count the register with me, she refused. She said that I had sent him adult diapers and vagisil. I had sent him adult diapers as a joke, but I hadn’t sent him vagisil. I felt ashamed, but I explained the situation and told her what my team lead had said. Before I could stop myself, the words sexual harassment slipped out.
“Wait, wait, are you sure? He could get fired for that, you could get fired for saying that. Janet could get fired for telling you that to,” she said. Suddenly, she’d become the Oprah of terminations. I wouldn’t know how right she was until a few months later.