For the past few years, Daughter-Only has worked in a variety of retail businesses in our small town, managing to amass an alarming number of stories of inappropriate innuendo and outright harassing comments and requests from customers as well as from some of her fellow employees. Some of these things, coming as they did from her superiors (at a job she no longer holds) were legally actionable, or damned close.
Mostly though, they were misguided, socially awkward attempts to strike up a friendship or relationship or, um, let's say "relations" with Daughter-Only. One thing these types of commenters seemed to have in common was an utter lack of awareness about how their interest and the way they chose to express it might actually be perceived by Daughter-Only and those around her as more icky than intriguing, more frightening than flattering.
Currently, Daughter-Only (who will be 20 in June) works at a café in an "arts center" that has studio space for various artists in its basement. She reported to me this week that one of the "artists from the basement" approached her and said, "I don't want to come across as a creepy middle-aged man, but I wanted to let you know that I am working on a sculpture of your face." He then went on to rave about her striking bone structure and to explain that he may be staring at her more than usual in the coming weeks--you know, for artistic purposes. All the while, Daughter-Only struggled to maintain her professional composure.
Now, perhaps--perhaps!--this middle-aged man has a purely artistic interest in my daughter. Perhaps--perhaps!--this man is not just a(nother) creepy middle-aged man expressing an inappropriate interest in my daughter.
But perhaps--perhaps!--this middle-aged man may want to come up with a better opening line, because there's no way that anything that begins with the line, "I don't want to come across as a creepy middle-aged man..." is going to be anything but creepy.
Q is for Qualms
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