24 December 2006

Harassment.

Having just posted nudey photos of my work cohorts (I got permission from them, dear reader(s)), i feel there can be no more apt time to move quite to the other end of the spectrum to rant endlessly about a rather uncomfortable situation I find myself in frequently these days, with nary a clear solution.

I work more than one job, dear reader(s), and my other place of employment finds most of my colleagues fairly consistently clothed. This is a great relief to me, specifically in the case of one gentlemen I occasionally find myself working alongside, who pays FAR TOO MUCH ATTENTION TO MY PERSONAL LIFE. FAR TOO MUCH.
It began sometime back with your average work chatter, what do you do, where do you live, etc etc. Not unusual. From most people, this kind of chatter I find both welcome and immensely edifying.
However, in this case, things graduated to a point where this gentleman, a self-confessed illiterate when it comes to computers, was reading my (previous) blog daily and visiting my (rarely changed) website regularly (or so it seemed, judging from the comments about it) At work he would comment on events in my life back to me in greater detail than I ever outlined in this silly cyber-preoccupation of mine.
I began to realize that something one-sided was going on, but how does one stop being amicable, with someone who is being "kind" and "considerate", by most peoples judgement?
When I printed my first comic, and threw away a badly coloured one, this man protested, grabbing the book and saying he would like to keep it, despite already owning a copy of the completed book. At the time I was indifferent to the matter.
A month or so later he confessed that every time he goes to one of the bookstores that carries them in the city, he buys a copy, so now I no longer know if my books are actually selling, or if they are piling up in this man's personal environs.
These days I cannot enter the room without being leered at, and somehow such things as orange juice appear for me on the lunch table when I'm sick, despite NOT asking for it, despite expressly insisting that I am not in need of anything.

A month ago I moved house. This gentleman has asked me where I live THREE times now. Specifically. He isn't content with "the west end" or any response like that. And he isn't content with "I moved TO A DIFFERENT ADDRESS" either.
When male friends visit me at work, there is an impromptu quiz about who they are, what they do, "my, (they are) handsome" etc etc.

For a long time I have tried to accomodate these questions with pleasant vaguaries, in the interest of keeping the peace (read: being passive agressive). This has been, of course, completely ineffectual.

My next step was to begin pointing out to this man that he pays far too much attention to my personal life. This was greeted with a chuckle on his behalf, along with some vage sort of disclaimer.

Finally, the other day, when he mentioned that he had read about a friend of mine in the latest uTOpia book (about culture and the arts in Toronto), identifying her by her first name, as if she was an acquaintance of his, i announced that she is NOT his friend, and HE REALLY PAYS FAR TOO MUCH ATTENTION TO MY PERSONAL LIFE.
His retort? "well, she's in (the book) for anyone to read about"
How do I argue this, dear reader(s)? Of course, nothing about her relationship with me is "in the book", but he remains staunchly oblivious to the inference that HE HAS CROSSED EVERY RESPECTABLE BOUNDARY ONE CAN CROSS WITH A COMPLETE STRANGER whose only shared connection is the workplace lunch table.

Now, all of this seems to imply a simple solution, non? Keep Away. Plain and simple. This man, rife with good intentions as he sees them (and they no doubt are), has absolutely NO intention of listening to my complete lack of interest in him, or my increasing discomfort with being constantly waylaid with attentions that even my ex-boyfriends wouldn't indulge in.

Now here, dear reader(s) is the problem. This gentlemen runs two of the machines I need to use to do my own book projects. And, try as I might, I cannot get him or anyone to teach me how to use them INDEPENDENTLY if I decide to use them off my own accord, it is pointed out that I am doing a far from perfect job, and this gentleman inevitably steps in to improve on it, Completely Ignoring my entreaty that I am not in fact Interested in doing a perfect job, I am interested in doing the project on my own. I have attempted to negotiate these jobs in trade, since the gentleman has an affection for scotch, but now my offer of compensation to ensure that the arrangement is seen as a business one is greeted with a voluble tirade that he WILL NOT help me if i purchase him anything of the sort.

The difficult thing is, I need to use the machines, I need help using them (at the moment) I am grateful for the help. These projects are SO important to me. I need to make the books. There isn't a question here. That is a mutual understanding. Unfortunately.

Good intentions, ladies and gentlemen.
"Good Intentions".

What's a girl to do?

2 comments:

the Doctor said...

hmmm...what about talking to him directly about it. Like... over coffee? Does that sound strange? Think about it. It might not be so strange.
You could arrange a brief meeting (even if it's just outside of your workplace at lunch) where you, in no uncertain terms, tell him what is going on for you.
Tell him you need to clarify why he is paying so much attention to you and then clarify for him, that while you are not opposed (i'm assuming) to being his friend at work, you are not interested in him outside of that and that his attention and covert affections (orange juice when you are sick) make you uncomfortable. Maybe if you got it all out in the open with him he thing may improve. Some people need the direct line... not hints or allusions... but the direct (though not unkindly said) line. "I feel that you are interested in me. But this makes me uncomfortable. I am not interested in you. I like you, we can be friends at work but I don't want more than that and I find all your attention a little nerve racking to me at this point in time." Does that seem an unreasobable approach?
If I were he, and some one, kindly, took me aside and said such things to me, I would be glad of it. Perhaps at first a little embarrased and my pride might be hurt, but in about 32 seconds I think I would 'get it' and would be glad they confronted me rather than let it continue to stew.
But that is me. All I'm saying is. Have you had the oportunity to be frank about how his well meant intentions make you feel? You have a right to tell him.

steflenk said...

i think this is highly reasonable, good sire.

However.

i don't want to have coffee with this man. i don't want to meet this man outside my workplace, i don't want to share any of my life/time with him, and quite frankly, though I am exceedingly grateful for the help, my book projects are MY book projects, they are not a joint venture with this person. i have not asked for an assistant, i have asked to be shown how to use certain tools at my workplace. I have insisted every time that I would like to be shown what to do and then left to do it, and i'm quite sure at this point i would not break anything if left to my own devices. But I want to respect the fact that I am not an expert, and they are not my tools to use freely. And I want to learn, it's true. And so a twenty minute project turns into a two hour endeavour, every time.

It is true. i haven't point blank said "I think you like me and you should pack it in".

I have said to him "YOU ARE PAYING TOO MUCH ATTENTION TO ME AND MY PERSONAL LIFE AND YOU SHOULD STOP".

In person, in those words, in that tone of typing.

I don't think there is a radical difference between these two sentences. In fact, i would consider this to be "direct". Maybe not as direct as a sledgehammer to the calves, but this is the direct I can muster. It is true I have trouble making people feel vulnerable or small, especially in situations like this, because I have been on the other end a great deal in the past. It took a long time to get to a point where I could even say the above. But I did say it and I believe my statement to be clear. It wasn't uttered beneath my breath, through email, or through a withering glance (although I have spent much time glancing witheringly as well, to be sure)

I have repeated my concern once or twice now (in person.) His response is to chuckle uncomfortably and change the subject, or justify his attentions as public domain (in the instance of my friend cited in a book he was reading)

To which I have no argument.

Here i am, posting my problems publicly, non?

Have I even got the right to demand privacy? Do I ever have the right to demand privacy, given my tendency to blather on about personal problems to anyone who will listen?

In fact, what gives me the right to complain about anyone else's behaviour towards me at all? This person is obviously behaving honestly about some idea he has attached himself to, and he has needs the same way I do, and who am I to grudge him this? Or even contest it? It's his idea, he's not physically doing anything to me, harming me, etc.
I too have attached myself to ideas, disregarded warnings, nurtured unreciprocated feelings. (This is how I am gauging it, incidentally. And if someone ever said to me "you are paying too much attention to me and my personal life and should stop." I would take that as a sign that something is very Wrong with my behaviour and should change.

Anyhow. There is an easy solution, isn't there? I could stay at home, by myself, out of "harm" (or discomfort)'s way. Why deal with other people if one is just going to complain about how they affect one's psyche?

I don't want to invalidate what you have pointed out, good doctor. It is true; If I'm not willing to take my personal time to have coffee with this man (which is something I barely make time to do with close beloved friends) and break down, in excruciating detail, why he is making me uncomfortable, how fair am I really being?

It isn't enough to say "STOP" these days, is it? One needs to have a categorical list of why one should stop,what one should stop doing, when one should stop doing it, and how one should behave instead.

How on earth could the word "STOP" possibly be sufficient in this complex day and age?

I think i'll stop there.