TL;DR don’t touch people you don’t know.
This is a story of something that happened to me today. A cautionary tale. It has left me quite shaken and I want to share the experience with the world for two reasons: if you are the recipient of this kind of behaviour, know that you are not obliged to be okay with it. More importantly, if you do this sort of thing, please take some time to rethink your choices.
I am currently single, as a result I am on several dating apps, with mixed success. I had been chatting to a fellow, Joe (not his real name), for a few weeks on and off. He suggested we meet for lunch, and I suggested a cute pub/cafe in Brunswick Street.
I arrived first and sat at a table outside in the shade. I sent him a message on the app to say that I had a table and would see him shortly.
Hands come across my vision – someone behind me is covering my eyes and I’m startled. A face comes into my view from behind my left shoulder, the face of Joe.
I’m literally speechless. I don’t know Joe from a bar of soap and he decided to surprise me from behind before we’d even said hello. Even now, typing this, my cortisol and adrenaline are spiking.
Once I recover my ability to speak, I say that wasn’t okay. That sneaking up on someone is really threatening. That I need a moment to process. He says he’s sorry, and feels like a bit of an idiot. What I want to say is ‘good, so you should’, but I keep that to myself.
For a brief moment, I considered laughing it off but I felt nauseous and shakey. My eyes were darting around looking for threats. I’m sure all the colour drained from my face. I had to be true to my experience and I was incredibly unsettled. I did not want to be anywhere near this person, and any romantic notions were gone. I say I’m going to have to reschedule and leave. As I walk away my legs are jelly. My heart is pounding and I am both frightened and furious.
I do not, for a moment, believe Joe had bad intentions. I’m sure he thought this would be a funny meet cute, and that, like a romantic comedy, I would giggle and think it was great. But I didn’t.
What I learned from this interaction is that Joe thinks his need to ‘make an entrance’ or ‘seem spontaneous’ trumps my right to feel safe, and my right to bodily autonomy. That he has no concept of personal space or why it might be important.
And then there’s the fact he put his hands on my face IN A PANDEMIC. We are all social distancing, and avoiding hugs so get you can certainly your germy hands off me!
It took me fifteen minutes, pacing around Fitzroy, on the phone to a friend to calm down enough to have eat (since I fled the place I was supposed to have lunch). My hands still shook around the chopsticks.
I don’t think this person will take the time to consider how his actions affected me. He has sent a message since which reads as though he’s chalking it up to ‘not a good match’, which is definitely true, but not the whole story. I’m fucking furious that Joe has upset me in this way, and that he doesn’t appear to have any idea that he is at fault. I hope he reads this and is ashamed enough to change his behaviour in future. Not cool Joe. So not cool.