I am NOT Made of Glass

I have a new coworker who annoys the crap out of me. Oh, he means well, and I’m sure in any other context I’d think he was just fine. But within five minutes of meeting me, he called me a girl.  Great. I’m 49 and have almost 13 more years of experience on this job than he does, and he is already not taking me seriously.

At the end of shift change as I’m walking off the bridge, he insists on standing outside on the sidewalk and watching me go all the way to my car to make sure I’m safe. That’s a nice gesture, very gallant, so it took me a while to figure out why it bugged me.

Don’t get me wrong. I like having doors opened for me. I like common courtesy, evidence of respect, signs that people think I’m special and deserve to be pampered. I’d be forever grateful if someone pushed me out of the way if there’s a safe falling out of a 25 story window. And if I do see one of our crazies on the bridge, I will ask my coworker to watch, and I’ll do the same for him or her.

What I resent is the implication that I’m somehow incapable of protecting myself even on the calmest of nights, the concept that I’m so flaky and incompetent that I am unable to take reasonable precautions for my own safety. I also take exception to the fact that I’ve been walking off this bridge for nearly 13 years, past all manner of drunks and oddballs, and have done so effectively and safely, and yet this guy comes along and thinks I need him to be my hero all of a sudden. (And frankly it gives me the creeps that he’s probably staring at my butt the entire time I’m walking away.) Even when I tell him it’s not necessary, he insists on doing it anyway, as if my poor judgment needs to be vetoed for my own security.

So here’s what I plan to do when I see him this week. First, I’m going to ask him if he watches the male bridgetenders walk to their cars as well. If he says yes, then I’ll say, “Fine. It’s really not necessary, and it actually makes me really uncomfortable, but do what feels right for you.” If he says no, though, I’m going to hand him a link to this blog entry.

If you are reading this, coworker in question, it offends me that you perceive me as weaker, less capable, and by implication somehow inferior to you. If you haven’t figured out yet that I’m no shrinking violet, you’re painfully out of touch with reality. This does not make you a hero in my eyes. It makes me view you as a deluded throwback to the 1950’s, and I kind of feel sorry for you.



Author: The View from a Drawbridge

I have been a bridgetender since 2001, and gives me plenty of time to think and observe the world.

36 thoughts on “I am NOT Made of Glass”

  1. It is exactly these mixed messages that make it so hard to be a man in modern life. Yes, the ‘girl’ thing is annoying. But watching you to make sure you are safe… are we not doing that anymore? Or is it only in dark places in bad parts of town?

    1. Nope. It’s only if you’re asked and if the gesture is welcome. Do not FORCE me into the role of being a helpless child against my will. If I get a creepy vibe off a pedestrian, I’ll ask to be watched, but I will also watch any coworker, male or female, in the same situation, if that is what is wanted. But Sofia makes a good point which helps me clarify, below, so check out her comment, too.

      1. wait… are you giving me homework? And if I wait for permission to be protective towards women, that puts me in sort of an awkward spot… like you want my help when it is already too late to be proactive. Walking with a guy my size is a lot safer than waiting until something happens and then screaming and hope I can get there in time. Also, even when I am just out and about, I watch out for every woman and child… and smaller males… that I can see around me… whether they ask for it or not.

      2. Well, do that, but don’t shove it in their face. “I’m a hero and you’re weak.” “You WILL be protected, whether you like it or not.” “Your opinion or desires do not matter one whit to me.” “You’re obviously incapable of making a proper decision on your own so I’ll do it for you.”

      3. You are just trying to make the decision for me… how is that better… it is better to have a guy like me around and not need him… what’s the harm, other than a small ego bruise… than to not have me around and wish I was. When a guy watches you like a piece of meat, that’s disgusting… when he watches you like a treasured object, is that a bad thing?

      4. I’m not his treasured object to watch. I really do think I have more than these two choices: Imminent death or the sacrifice of my dignity and life long free will. I think if I’ve got a long straight walk to my car where there are no hidey holes for the bad guys to leap out of, I can actually be trusted to choose to take care of myself. That wouldn’t mean I didn’t want you around, dear friend. It means we would have each other’s back if the sh*t hits the fan, as it should be.

        It’s got to be exhausting, thinking you are the sole protector of every helpless, child-like woman in your vicinity. Why not assume every adult present is capable of being reasonably cautious, and you do the same, and then spring into action if needed? Live and let live, man.

      5. But a mother hen is going to be a mother hen… that is what they do… it is a part of their nature… and it doesn’t say anything bad about the chicks at all… you have decided to take this as an offence. It is this that confuses men. Some women do not want doors opened for them, especially in the Bay Area and California in general, but other do. So we do what our nature, instincts and being raised well tells us to do. We aren’t right all the time, but if we run the risk of offending someone, better to do it on the side our nature leads us to.

      6. Not being protective? That is like asking a mother not to love her children. It is an ingrained instinct in some people. Love can be construed in lots of ways as being demeaning to the child if you look at it that way. You are telling the child, even when they are grown, that you are always watching out for them, worrying about them, wanting to keep them safe. But you can’t stop feeling that way just because they might feel smothered. All you can do is be less obvious about it.

      7. Definitely do be less obvious, because smothering causes rebellion, and that’s very often a bigger safety issue for the person in question. And doing that for a child is natural. Placing a fellow adult into that child role, on the other hand, especially when you know it rankles, is rude. Sorry. We’re going to have to agree to disagree on this one.

      8. But you can argue that opening doors for a person implies they are too weak to open it themselves. I open doors for men too. Saying someone looks good might imply they don’t look that good on other days. Making food for someone could mean you don’t think they can cook. Anything could be taken this way if you really set your mind to it. It is like my joke about how I tell people to have more than one nice day in case I don’t see them for a while. Is saying have a nice day to be taken to mean you only want them to have one?

      9. Okay, now you’re going to a silly extreme. When someone opens a door for me or cooks for me, I know they’re not crazy enough to think I’m incapable of doing those things. But the safety thing is different entirely. The implication is that I can’t survive without their heroism. Which negates the fact that I’ve managed to do so for 49 years without their help.

      10. That is like saying that if your house doesn’t burn down you don’t need firemen. The reason the army and the police train all the time is that when trouble happens, it is unexpected and quick. Untrained people don’t know what to watch out for and don’t know how to react when something does happen. In most states, cops are legally required to render assistance even when off duty. On the other hand, you hear stories of women being assaulted in New York and hundreds of people hear her scream but nobody does anything, not even call 911.
        You want guys like me to be a seat belt after the car already hit something. But be something else all the rest of the time. Also, the statistics on rape and assault and purse snatching lead me to believe that even though most women can take care of themselves at least as well as you say you can, they still get victimized. And it only takes a split second to happen. And it can happen in public in broad daylight. The fact is, most people aren’t street-wise… they don’t take normal precautions. When my wife and I were walking to our hotel near the high school reunion, we saw a young lady walking towards us. She was texting on her phone. She never even looked at us as we passed her. It was late at night. Does she think criminals are never a male and female? Did she even know we were a male and a female? I doubt it. She never looked. Did she assume crime only happens in nice neighborhoods? That all criminals wear a black mask and striped shirt?
        So say that lady walked another block and then I heard her scream. Her purse was being stolen, she was being dragged into a car or bushes, pick your own danger. Do I run over there in the dark and risk my life against a possibly armed attacker, or do I wait until she asks me to make sure she is okay?

        On top

      11. Again you’ve completely missed my point. I appreciate you being a seatbelt, but I don’t want you to be a bubble that completely surrounds me and prevents me living my life. I don’t want to live in your world where I never feel like I can be independent or take care of myself, ever. If I have to be completely enveloped in your smothering arms for the rest of my life in order to be safe for the 5 minutes that the boogey man comes to get me, I’d rather take the boogey man. *I* do not walk around texting and oblivious. I’m not that girl. And you’re right. It only takes a second, so even if you suffocate me in a plastic bag, the guy could still run up and snatch my purse (by the way, I don’t carry a purse, for Christ sake), but meanwhile you would be the one preventing me from breathing.

      12. Then you didn’t describe the actions of the guy who offended you so badly very well. You make it sound like I walk around beside everybody like some kind of bodyguard. I thought he just offered to watch you while you walked to your car, a very common courtesy that our mother’s drilled into us if we were raised well. He didn’t follow you and frisk people who approached you, or insist of driving you home and looking under your bed?
        And safety always comes with some downsides… cops can pull you over when you speed. Or arrest you if you get falling down drunk in public. We give up things for safety all the time. Usually only the criminals complain about the cops watching every thing we do. But you seem determined to take what is at worst an overstepping of the social contract as some kind of personal insult while still admitting that if something does happen to endanger you, you still want somebody to come and help you. Was it in his presentation that the problem lies? Did he call you ‘hon’? Or ‘missy’? Was he condescending? Or was it just that he didn’t take your lack of enthusiasm as seriously as you think he should have? Because we don’t know the rules. They are different for every woman, just like the opening doors thing. Is it okay to act like that in a bad neighborhood, or in the dark, or just when we hear a woman start screaming?

      13. I think I’ve touched a nerve with you because I have a problem with you thinking you know better than I do about how I should live my life. You are not a cop. Neither is he. I pay taxes for the cops to be there. For everyone. Equally. Because guys get mugged too. If someone offers to watch me to my car and I am feeling creeped out, I’ll take them up on their offer, and I’ll appreciate it. If they offer and I say no thanks, it’s not necessary, and they accept that, that’s fine, too, and I’ll appreciate that the offer was made. But when they offer and I say no thanks, and they override my choice and decide to do it anyway, and make a huge deal out of making a point of it, then yes, I have an effing problem with it. I’m sorry if that inconveniences you, but I can’t live in a world where my default position has to be that I’m incapable of feeling safe unless you’re there to come to my rescue. It’s a quality of life thing. I will not give my own care, custody and control over to whatever random guy happens to be in my vicinity. If I do that, I might as well start wearing a burka and not venture out of the house unaccompanied. I won’t live like that, and you don’t have the right to make me feel that I should. I don’t give you that right. Can we please drop this now? It’s more than obvious that we won’t change each other’s minds on this issue.

      14. People who make it constantly apparent that they’re being a watchdog aren’t doing it to increase safety, they’re doing it to massage their ego and prove their superiority. Increased safety might be a happy byproduct of that arrogance, but so is making adults feel like children. It’s an attitude, really. Reasonable precautions are one thing. Acting like the head of an incompetent harem is another.

      15. Then you don’t really know me at all. I have risked my life to save people in danger, and I will again. If dangerous people were always easy to spot, it would be easier. But psychopaths look like normal people. And danger comes in many forms. Besides, when we have female guests, and it is dark, my wife… and my mother… tell me to walk them out to their cars. We live in a pretty safe neighborhood, but it is just common courtesy. Do you resent cops because they drive around looking for people doing bad stuff? Does that mean we are all weak? No, it means there are creeps out there. My ego has nothing to do with it. I risked my life to stop two guys mugging a man once. I didn’t do it to make myself look good. I could have died.

      16. And I’m grateful that there are people out there like you, Art. Truly I am. But that man you helped, if you had walked behind him his entire life saying, “I’m going to hover over you, whether you like it or not.” Like some demented paparazzi, he wouldn’t have appreciated it. Do it if you must, but don’t say it, don’t make it an issue, and for God’s sake, if the person asks you NOT to, don’t. That’s all I’m saying.

      17. You can ask a guard dog to not be a guard dog but he is still going to be a guard dog. But I don’t tell people I am watching out for them. It isn’t that obvious.

  2. It’s all about attitude – keeping an eye out to be sure you’re safe is fine, but being creepy, infantalizing and making a point of saying you’re keeping an eye out is not. As women, we know the difference between genuine gallantry and douchebags staring at our asses as we walk away. If there was nothing “off” about her co-worker, she would not have felt compelled to write a post about it…

    1. Exactly so, Sofia. It’s the “I’ve decided you’re weaker, and you have no choice in the matter” part of it that I take exception to. If the first time he had done it he had said, “Would you like me to watch you so you get to your car safely?” I’d have said, “Not tonight, thanks. I’m good. But I appreciate that, and might ask you to in the future.”

  3. I rather think people would not want to be treated as objects, “precious” or not. And if one deserves to be protected, all do, regardless of whether or not they are a member of some group they never chose to join. Some areas at night are scary for anyone.
    Next time someone starts with the “girl” or “young lady”, you might act insouciant and call him “boy” or “young man”…

  4. If danger isn’t always that apparent (post with no reply button), that means you are going to have to protect everyone, in every place. A daunting prospect, even for Superman…

    1. I agree. And lest anyone misunderstand, I am not expecting everyone to walk around with their head in the clouds and a “Please assault me” sign on their backs. Reasonable precautions are reasonable for a, uh… reason. But you don’t have to make the people around you live in a constant state of paranoia and subservience and submission in the process.

  5. The first time I met My Husband at work, he asked to help me. I admit I had a problem with that since he striped wires and I moved 200# cabinets around. I shooed him away. He persisted, he’s the ultimate Mr. Nice Guy. I hit back with piss and vinegar. Still I liked him, and we got together. Still he continued to check his watch when I went shopping. “I was beginning to get worried, that something had happened to you.” Finally, I had to tell him.”If you think I am so helpless and unable to take care of myself, how could I have raised three children on my own for 6 years? How would I have been able to juggle this horrific life of mine with bills, no child support, no help of any kind, and continue to work and raise these kids. More important, if we do get together permanently, how will I ever be able to help YOU! We got married after his over-protectiveness disappeared. We have been pretty much equals in the help-mate department. We work great together. building our lives together. A;most 38 yrs now. Funny thing is, now that we are on the downhill slide, we are both worrying about the other. But it is equally wanted and accepted. Still, I will not be treated as less than I am. Equal.

    1. That’s the spirit! And yeah, Chuck used to worry about my driving. He’d wring his hands whenever I had to go somewhere alone. This really shocked me, because I have a very good driving record. The only wreck I’ve had in the past decade was the other person’s fault for running a stop sign. He, on the other hand, had been in multiple and epic car accidents, so this hyper-concern really rankled. Ah well.

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