I ran into a friend’s dad at the gym yesterday, after walking out of a yoga class. I’m back in my hometown now after having been in college for two years, and I hadn’t seen this person or his son for about a year or so. The dad and I endured a few minutes worth of obligatory small talk, not having much of a background or relationship other than my friendship with his son and some business he had done with my mom. I walked away afterwards, waving goodbye and heading towards the water fountain.
Minutes later, he popped up in my peripheral as I was filling up my water bottle. It was clear that he wanted to continue the dialogue, as he proceeded to ask how my mom was doing and if I was dating anyone. I retorted that she is well and that no, I am not dating anyone. “You’re young, you should have fun,” he kept stressing. I agreed lightheartedly, taking it as parental banter, and again we said our “see you laters.”
I went downstairs to talk to a friend at the front desk after that, but within minutes my friend’s dad was right there behind me again, pacing around the main area. “Surely he’s not waiting on me,” I thought to myself. But when I started heading towards the exit door, it turned out that he was. He called my name and again inquired about my mom. The conversation quickly shifted as he asked me to sit down in the gym cafe and grab some food with him. I agreed absentmindedly, knowing that I would be getting a free smoothie out of it.
After sitting down at our table, he said that he would like to get together with me “if [I was] ok with it, even though [I am] friends with [his] son.” I figured that perhaps he wanted to talk about something in particular, maybe a summer business opportunity for me, despite the way he had phrased the question. “If you are bored, maybe we could spend some time together,” he went on. “What are you doing this afternoon? Would you have time then?” he questioned. I was a bit caught off guard, wanting to try to justify his strange proposals but coming up with nothing. As I have previously almost no relationship with this person, why would he be asking me, his son’s 20 year-old friend to “spend time” with him?
As the conversation continued, I found myself rambling on. Every time I finished my sentence, he would just sit there and look at me unless I asked him a question. “You seem like a free spirit,” he said. This, to which I followed with some pointless talk about youthful soul searching and career timeliness. “How would you feel about having fun with an older guy like me… maybe going out to dinner or going out of town for a weekend?” he asked.
Now I knew that things had really stepped into sketchy territory. I was taken aback, and the expression on my face showed it. “Why do you ask?… No, I would not feel comfortable with that… Are you talking about you in particular?” I pressed, with a tone of perplexity. “Me? No, I couldn’t do that. It was just…err…a general question,” he replied, clearly trying to save himself from utter embarrassment.
I wondered, though, how he would have replied if I were to say that yes, I am opened to having fun with an older guy like you. Did he pin me as the naive college girl feeling lucky to be wooed by an older, successful man? Then again, did I pin him as a modest father, husband, and business man who had worked with my father? Obviously we were both in the wrong.
Whatever the case, he had crossed a boundary. There was no rationale in what he was asking and even less in how he was asking it. Five or ten minutes went by, but I could bare the awkwardness no more. Trying to smooth over the residual discomfort, I babbled on until I finally told him that I had to go. We walked away from one another more hurriedly than two finishing up a casual, friendly meeting.
I sat in my car for a minute before heading out and thought about what had just happened. I was uncomfortable, offended, and violated. His actions showed me that you can’t define someone by their societal roles or be ignorant to someone’s agenda when they are approaching you in a questionable manner.
There are worse ways to be violated, but this situation showed me that as a woman I have to maintain a certain degree of awareness that a man may not have to, but as a human being I cannot make assumptions based on labels attached to their name (ie. father, husband). I have to realize that some people, sometimes those you may least expect, overstep boundaries. I have to speak up for myself when things just aren’t right – no matter whom it may be directed towards.
To say the least, my friend’s dad moving in on me was weird. But it really got me thinking. I am not looking forward to running into him again, but I know that next time I will be ready to speak my mind.