I had to tell a man to leave my workplace today.
It was a man I knew; he used to come into the Cinema all the time a couple years back, get a coffee, and chat with us before his movie. He was a nice guy. He was also banned from the Cinema because we kept getting complaints that he would sit behind women in the theaters and touch their hair during screenings.
Since he has been banned, I’ve passed him on the streets every once in a while, and said hello. I didn’t want him to know that I knew why he was banned.
I’m terrible at confrontation. When he came in today, I admit, I momentarily thought about hiding; but I eventually stepped it up and apologetically told him he couldn’t enter the theater. I was apologetic because he was such a nice guy.
The guilt I felt afterwards was very weird. It had been a while since the “event”, or series of events as it were… Maybe it’d be fine now. I sat there, wishing he hadn’t been banned. But then, I thought, no, this man did a super creepy thing and invaded several women’s personal space. Why should I have even been apologetic?
But then, I probably used the same words my manager used when he banned another man, who had repeated offenses in his repertoire ranging from being disruptive to being wholly inappropriate to patrons and even to me. This man’s scale-tipping offense was that he followed me home from work one night. Management took care of it with a letter and a check. “Sorry. We’ll refund your membership.” No one likes being the bad guy, so we try to make it appear that the decision was not ours, and that we’re very sorry for the inconvenience. We’d rather let the behavior continue than be the one to dole out the punishment. That’s why this particular man got away with coming into the Cinema several times after he was banned. No one wanted to be the bad guy, except for the girl who instead hid in the bathroom when he came in.
What drives us to such a response to inappropriate behavior? Why do we care more about confrontation than about making people feel safe? Or, like today, why are we so ready to excuse it if we think the person is otherwise nice?
Just because someone is a decent person doesn’t mean they can’t do inappropriate things. But you know, you typically don’t get banned from an establishment until you have repeated offenses. So clearly there are some people who can’t understand that they’ve made a mistake, and continue their inappropriate behavior because no one speaks up to tell them to stop.
We live in a society where people are scornfully called “social justice warriors” if they call someone out for sexist behavior, yet there are judges who insist that the victims of rape must have done something to deserve it. We live in a society where people become outraged if you label something they say (not even them as a person, but something that came from their mouth) as racist, yet there are cops who get away with shooting innocent black men because they’re good people, they just made a mistake. We suffer from an inability to tell people when they’re wrong, and this conditions them to believe they’re right.
I would rather be held accountable for my actions than let myself slide into the behavior of a person I don’t want to be. If I hurt someone, I want to deal with it. I don’t want to be quickly forgiven, because I’m generally a nice person. I want to be ashamed of my behavior, and learn from it and grow from it, and prevent myself from hurting someone again. I don’t want to be that person who wonders why I’ve lost so many friends over the years, because no one tells me that I’m exuding shitty behavior. This is reality. If I’m being inappropriate, please, for the love of god, tell me. And tell others. Otherwise this world is doomed to repeated offenses.