I sent this in to Hello Giggles, but who knows if they’ll post it. The immense amount of time I spend on HG was actually one of the inspirations to start blogging again. Hopefully, it’s enjoyable.
I don’t know about you, but I generally don’t roll out of bed in the morning and think, “Hmm, I wonder if I’ll get hit on or sexually objectified at work today.” But maybe I should, because it seems to keep happening. I’m not talking sexual harassment or anything like that, because the problem is not my coworkers or supervisors. It’s the students.
I work at a public community college. This means that I spend a great deal of time amongst a student populace ranging from seniors in high school to senior citizens, though there are a great deal more of the former. And I remember what it was like to be an eighteen-year-old girl torn asunder by hormones and thrown from my sheltered, small-town high school (where I’d known nearly everyone in my class since kindergarten) into a whole new pool of eligible males (who not only DIDN’T think I was weird or crazy, but actually thought I was PRETTY). I can only imagine what this transition would be like for a guy.
But at a more mature and hormonally balanced twenty-seven, I have reached that point in my life where the younger generation makes no sense to me. I see the ‘husband hunters’ who look like they’re about to go clubbing at 8:30am, and try to remember if there was ever a time I didn’t show up for early-morning classes or work in whatever my sleep-deprived mind could manage to color-coordinate, clutching a mug of coffee or hot tea like my life depended on it, and staring at the world through squinted Oh god, why is it so EARLY? eyes. I listen to them complain about professors actually trying to make them use their minds and hold them to ethical standards like responsible adults, and shake my head thinking, “Kids today…” (And yes, I already have an order in for a rocking chair so I can sit on the patch of grass in front of my apartment building and yell, “Get off my lawn, you kids!” while shaking my fist in the air.) But probably the most surprising thing I have come across in this group of young whipper-snappers is the very frank and forward nature of their courting rituals.
My first personal encounter with this generational gap in courtship was a few months ago, walking from my building to the admissions department. Our campus prides itself on our friendly and welcoming culture, so I make a point to smile politely at just about everyone I pass. On this particular day, however, I passed a young male student with my generic polite smile, and hadn’t made it two steps when he said, “Excuse me, but are you seeing anybody?”
Granted, it was not his fault. I have a round face, wear little makeup, and take decent care of my skin. Therefore I perpetually look about ten years younger than I am (which will come much more in handy when I’m pushing forty instead of thirty). I can count on one hand the number of times I have NOT been carded, and have on several occasions seen people double-take when I tell them my age.
Yet while I’m used to being mistaken for a teenager, I can also count on one hand the number of times I have been directly hit on. This in part falls back to the fact that I didn’t go on my first date until I was almost nineteen. As I said, I went to a very small, very sheltered small-town school where everyone knew all about the times I’d peed my pants in elementary, or when I got that really cute pixie cut and everyone called me a boy for a week, or how I was “fat” all through junior high and high school (though I now realize that at a stocky and strong 170 lbs. my senior year, I really wasn’t; actually the healthiest I’ve ever been in my adult life was at 175 lbs., but that’s another discussion for another time). Or how I’ve been unbelievably socially awkward since, oh I don’t know, forever ago. Let’s just say actually BEING a teenager was not much fun for me. I had never even thought it was possible for a guy to find me attractive, much less beautiful, until it happened in college. This, as you can imagine, left me completely unprepared to deal with unexpected and/or unwanted interest from the opposite sex.
So even ten years later, when posed with the question, “Excuse me, but are you seeing anybody?” I immediately fell back into stunned, socially awkward, fat-kid mode and just stood there a second with my mouth hanging open.
“I mean, do you have a boyfriend?” he asked, as if I might not know what he was implying by are you seeing anybody.
The mature adult female in me was thinking of brilliant retorts, like, “While I appreciate your interest, I really don’t think it’s appropriate. You see, I’m an employee here, and about eight-to-ten years older than you. And perhaps, at this institution of higher learning, you should be focused more on, oh I don’t know, LEARNING than finding a girlfriend. Save that for the Student Life activities.”
Alas, the mature adult female doesn’t generally get much say in these situations. What actually came out of my mouth was more like this:
“Uh, I work here.”
The poor boy apologized profusely, to which I muttered something like, “It’s okay,” and immediately started power-walking back to my office to tell the whole thing to my married female coworker–who laughed at me.
For a long while, I contributed this to some sort of social experiment for a class or an attempt by this singular young man to bolster his confidence when speaking to young ladies. It wasn’t until recently that I realized it might be a generational thing. That was not the first time I’d been hit on by a much younger fellow (the last time, the guy thought I couldn’t possibly have been more than sixteen); it was just the first time it had ever happened at work. Then at a professional development workshop I found out something similar had happened to one of the speech faculty. The young men of the high school class of 2012, it would seem, are rather more brazen and bold with their declarations of interest than previous classes.
At first I thought, how refreshing! I’m used to dancing around the issue with guys of my own age group. (Does he like me? Does he know I like him? How do I tell him I don’t like him without hurting his feelings? Why can’t guys just be honest and tell you they aren’t interested without making up lame excuses? I’m a grown woman; I can take it!) I thought how nice it must be for girls these days to have such clear and concise dialogue, when half the time I feel like Elizabeth Bennett the first time Darcy proposes. The feminist in me rejoiced at this new generation and their disregard of old-hat, uncertain courtship games.
And then, this morning happened.
I rolled out of bed at my usual twenty minutes late, threw on some clothes, frowned at my hair and tucked it into a slap-dash bun, and headed to work. I did my usual early-morning work things, and headed out of my office suite and into the hallway, smiling politely in my Please don’t speak to me; it’s not even 9am fog at everyone I passed. And then I realized that one of the young men I passed, with not much more than a curve of the corners of my mouth, was looking me up and down with a classic Joey Tribbiani, ‘How YOU doin’?’ expression.
First of all, I wonder if this kid even knows who Joey Tribbiani is. Secondly, my inner feminist was outraged. OUTRAGED, I tell you! MIF (my inner feminist) has not been this outraged since my friends and I got honked at walking down the sidewalk on a pub-crawl. “I will not be objectified in this manner!” she screamed in my head. “My fore-mothers didn’t burn their bras and go to sit-ins in the sixties so I could be inspected like a piece of meat! How dare you, younger generation male. How. DARE. You.”
But MIFK (my inner fat-kid), made me stand there a good five seconds in shock. While MIF was ranting and raving in my head, MIFK was like, “I—I just—I just got eyed by a kid TEN YEARS younger than me! And I look like crap today!”
By the time all this had gone through my mind, the kid was long gone down the hall. I simply shook my head, wondering if I should have chided him for such behavior or thanked him for the ego boost, and finished my walk to the bathroom.