Perspective Changes

A short while ago the department decided to allow some students to meet with an invited speaker and to take him out to dinner (on the department's dime!). I'm shy around people I don't know very well (I know this makes me sound like a two year-old, but, alas, it is what it is) and I thought this would be a good situation for me to practice overcoming my (rather immature) shyness. So, I volunteered to be one of the students.

During the day it was all fine. The speaker was very interested in what everyone was doing, he asked good questions involving my thesis project, and offered advice on career paths. He did commit (what I considered to be minor) a few faux pas during the day and at dinner. I found these more amusing than anything else and Advisor came into the lab as I was recounting them to Roommate and Labmate.

"Then, at dinner he almost pushed poor Female Grad Student (FGS) off the seat. He pulled the old stretch and put the arm on the seat. Then, he kept scooting over until FGS gave him the hairy eye and asked if he needed to use the restroom," I was telling them as Advisor came in.

"He did what?" Advisor asked.

"Oh Invited Speaker was a little... umm... handsy, I suppose," I told him while Roommate and I sort of laughed. "He just didn't seem to have any boundaries. You should have seen FGS when we dropped him off. He did the reel-'em-in-and-kiss-'em-- on the cheek." Labmate, Roommate, and I laughed. Advisor didn't.

"That was inappropriate," Advisor said, clearly a bit upset.

"I suppose he was. But he was just a harmless, handsy guy," I replied.

I was a bit mystified that Advisor was upset. I mean, older men tended to do this. I, and other women my age, get called 'sweetie' and 'honey.' We get the patented awkward-arm-and-shoulder-rub. And, on occasion, we get the superior-who-is-a-bit-touchy-feely-but-not-in-a-threatening-sort-of-way. It's always been this way from the time I was fifteen and a supermarket bag-girl who'd get hit on by the widowed 70 year-old men who'd shop on Saturdays.

"He should know better," said Advisor. "It's a shame that this experience has been marred for you all in this way."

Then, it hit me. Of course Advisor would be upset. He would not be treated like this and, frankly, wouldn't tolerate it. So, in his thought process why should I be treated like this? I have to admit that I felt (and still do) like a moron. Why is this sort of behavior ok? Why is it just an amusing anecdote to tell people? It's sort of ... I'm not sure of the correct word here (sad, pathetic, oblivious) that I never questioned it until now.

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