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How I Got Woke at Starbucks

women, feminist, timesup, metoo, #metoo, women's movement, sexual harassment, empower, modern chic magazine, modern chic, movement, change, gender equality, female, hot topic,

Harvey Weinstein.  Matt Lauer.  Louis C.K.  The list of lecherous man after lecherous man populated my newsfeed for the past two months.  I was embarrassed to admit that I didn’t join the #METOO masses right away.  Not because I condoned unwanted masturbation or the mistreatment of women, but because I needed to know how this behavior fitted with “regular” guys, and specifically my “regular” life before I jumped on the bandwagon.  Having not been in the awful situations of Rose McGowen, Ashley Judd, and other victims, I found myself fortunate, yet unable to relate.  Somewhere between Mayim Bialik’s sentiment on not being “a perfect ten … (and so) largely overlooked and, in many cases, ignored by men in power” and simply luckily unlucky.

Had no man ever hit on me aggressively?  No, of course not.  Had this happened at the workplace, and had I ever been treated less-than-professional in professional settings? Yes.

But, honestly, I never gave these men any thought.  Once I got the “vibe” I was gone.  On to the next opportunity.  If anyone, male or female, was going to pay me less, there were plenty of other places who would reward me fairly and respect my work.  Their antiquated stupidity was my push towards bigger and better.  It was their loss and the “opportunistic” mindset I held dearly.  It was the reason I was surrounded by talented, progressive equals of both genders. It was also partially the reason I had nearly 15 jobs in 15 years.

When the Hollywood scandals started surfacing, I found myself perturbed and conflicted by not feeling more akin to the victims.

I was a smart, successful woman.  These were smart, successful women.  Why was I not clamoring to be on their side?

I was in desperate need of a paradigm shift.  One of those small-big experiences that lasted only a moment, but whose ramifications would change my mind forever.  A woke moment. And I got what I ordered.  At Starbucks.

***

After several short trips to New York over the last year, I developed a love affair with the city as so many others do.  I decided to shorten the gap in our long distance relationship and spend the winter in the “greatest city in the world.”  My job as a web designer afforded me geographic flexibility and it wasn’t long before I had a roster of cafes with reliable Wi-Fi and outlets that I could call my offices.  Today I found myself at a Starbucks on Fulton St. in Brooklyn.  After receiving my drink, I settled into a 4-top across from a man in his 40s. Casually, but nicely dressed listening to what appeared to be a podcast on his iPhone.  Everything about him said “normal.” Nothing said “weirdo” and I did not give him a second thought as I started to unpack my laptop.  Headphones in.  Sound off.  (I can’t work with music, but I don’t like to be bothered.)

Shortly after, a very attractive woman walked in.  She looked like she just came from working out, wearing leggings and a sweater.  It was December in New York – how exposed could she be?  She ordered her drink and felt the same innocuousness about our table of strangers as I did.  She joined us, taking the seat next to the man.  Like myself, she too was here to work, taking out her laptop, relieved to find an outlet.

The man complimented her on how beautiful she was.  She acknowledged this with a polite “thank you” and we both thought it was a sweet thing to say.  Despite his flattery, it was clear she did not wish to engage any further.  Her computer was open.  She was into her work and wanted to be left alone.  The man started to leer and she shifted her hair to one side, partitioning herself away from him with the only thing she had.  Everything in her body language screamed “NOT INTERESTED.”

Still not getting it, he disturbed her yet again.

Man: You are such a pretty picture. Do you have pictures in your room?

Woman: I don’t know what you’re talking about. I guess?

Man: Do you ever look at pictures in your mind?

Woman: (Says nothing. Looks uneasy and confused.)

Man: I do. Dressing them. Undressing them. Everything that occurs in the imagination…

I had heard enough.  My earbuds could no longer contain the beginnings of his perverted soliloquy.  I yanked out my earphones and interrupted what I’m sure he imagined to be a romantic monologue, stamping my hand on the table like a gavel, looking him square in the eye as I said, “HEY!” in the low but authoritative tone you use to tell a child, “Enough. We don’t act like that in restaurants.”

He looked startled, but said nothing. I turned to the woman: “There’s another outlet over there,” motioning with my eyes to a table across the room.

She mouthed, “thank you” to me and I thought it was the saddest act of sisterhood ever.

Understandably, she was uncomfortable far beyond the other side of the Starbucks and decided instead to anxiously pack up her things and get the hell outta there.  Still Clueless Creep asked why she was leaving, to which she answered: “I have another appointment.”  There was no other appointment.  There was a man disrespecting a woman. There was a man who did not see a woman as an equal.  That is what there was.

Perhaps stupidly, I did not leave the table.  Recognizing this as a pivotal moment in my feminist education, I had been taking notes on the experience as it happened in front of me.  I continued to sit in front of the creep typing away, wondering if I should tell him how disgusting his behavior was.

And then something interesting happened.  He became not so disgusting.

A few moments later, a family came in with an elderly grandma.  He politely offered her the seat next to him while the rest of the party ordered drinks.  Throughout the next couple of hours, several people, both men and women, addressed him fondly, and I discovered he was somewhat of a beloved fixture at this location.

This was not a bad guy. This was a guy who chit chatted with old people and small children.  This was a guy people liked.  His win was quickly doused with the realization that no, he was not a monster. He was not Harvey Weinstein.  He was not the extreme.  He was the middle.  The norm.

A norm that sees women as less than. 

Filled with sadness and frustration at this thought, I started to ask “why?”  Why were men taught to believe this?  When?  Was it the media?  Their fathers?  Lack of fathers?  But most of all, why was I the one asking these questions?  These were things men needed to be asking.

Women have been dodging advances and accommodating less-than treatment for centuries.  I thought of the time I had wasted hiring and firing an employee because I got the sinking feeling he did not like taking direction from a female.  At the time, I could not describe chauvinism exactly to you, but boy did I know it when it happened.  I thought of a good job offer I turned down because the guy who interviewed me touched the small of my back just a little too long.  Where I once dismissed this behavior with no more than a “that’s gross,” I was now hit hard with the fact that it was horribly systemic. I was shook.

I don’t know if men who view women as less than themselves, and thus less than human, have lost their humanity, but you need to get it back.  And this is something you have to figure out for yourselves.  Because women are tired.  We are tired of explaining and coming up with solutions around disrespect.  We are tired of moving jobs because we feel uncomfortable.  We are tired of moving to another Starbucks to do our work.

We are tired and you are better than this.  It’s your move now.

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37 Comments on "How I Got Woke at Starbucks"

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nikki
Guest

Great write up. It’s interesting how nice guys can become assholes around women! Well done for standing your ground with him.

Joan Cajic
Guest

It’s time for people to know that time is up and that being quiet about something is no longer going to be the norm. There so many voices out there that need to be heard.

pinkoddy
Guest

I don’t think he is the norm, or certainly not what should be. The thing is these creeps, the ones who think they can treat women how they like, they tend to be hidden. As an abuse survivor myself it is usually what makes it even harder to speak out – is that they are so well liked and respected. That the women themselves are portrayed as less than and attention seeking. Well done for sticking up for that woman.

Amber Myers
Guest

Yes, I just love how women are speaking out. Some are walking around with Time’s Up buttons, and I want one. I’ve never been sexually harassed, but I know so many who have, and enough is enough.

Jeanette Radmall
Guest

This is a well written artice. I’m from a family of well respectable men. My fathers, brothers, husband, father in law, brothers in law are all very good men. It’s a bummer that a few creepy men ruin it for the guys who would never speak to a woman like that.

Cait
Guest

its crazy all thats happening in the media with this– Oprah’s speech was huge at the Golden GLobes too!

Jessica Taylor
Guest

YESSSS! Women are tired. Its always the same thing no matter where you go!

Leslie@Peaches&Willow
Guest

This is such a well written, eye opening post. I, too, felt much like you did when the movement first started but then it occurred to me all the ways I had been affected, too. It goes beyond physical touch. Its the way we, as women, are treated. You are a kind, caring person for standing up for that lady. The world needs more people like you.

Star harford
Guest

It does annoy me how some men think it is ok to make women feel uncomfortable and behave in this way. It is interesting as I read this I felt first hatred towards this man and then liked him again but it is true what you say that unfortunately it is normal to speak to women as if they are less!

Melodi Steinberg
Guest

That guy was a perv!!

Mike
Guest

I wouldn’t say that he was “the norm” he sounds like he is not good at picking up on social cues. I doubt he sees women as “less than” he is likely just really awkward. I have had some strange conversations with women in public settings, I don’t use that one interaction to generalize all women. But nice of you to give a stranger an escape route.

Joanna
Guest

I think that what happened at Hollywood was an eye opener of what has been happening for so long that we have started to consider it as norm. It happened to me, it happened to you, it happened to everyone, but we just shrugged our shoulders and went on forward. It was a word, maybe a gesture, a touch, but nothing more. And maybe that didn’t make us react. But now we have all united and it’s shocking how many #metoo stories have surfaced. From so many women who had the courage to break the silence!

Ana De- Jesus
Guest
I have been abused and sexually harassed before, as a child, as a teen and as an adult and it is not a nice feeling at all. But it is not always men, I was abused as a child by a woman, someone who was meant to be ‘my stepmum’ although the majority of my sexual harassment has been from men. I have been followed home, I have been asked for sex, I have been called names and I have been physically touched. To an outsider all these people can seem normal ‘they have normative jobs’, a family and kids,… Read more »
Nikki Gwin
Guest

I found your story interesting and well written. I haven’t jumped on the bandwagon either but for different reasons. You’ve given me thoughts to ponder.
🙂 gwingal

tara pittman
Guest

Good for you for helping this lady. I am glad you put this guy in his place

Cristina
Guest

It’s so important to call people out, it can be very uncomfortable and I’ve had times I wish somebody else stood up for me too!

Kyla Matton Osborne
Guest
What a powerful post! I am so glad you talked about what happened after the encounter, when he went back to being an average guy. So many men who harass, discriminate against, and even assault women are like this. They are the sweetest, kindest guys most of the time. But there’s something inside them that makes them think of women as “less than.” Something that makes them think it’s their right to pursue a woman, even after she’s made it clear she isn’t interested. It could be your brother, your next-door-neighbour, or your grandfather. And he probably thinks it’s completely… Read more »
Sarah Bailey
Guest

It amazes me that a small amount of men (and I do have to hope it is a small amount) believe it is OK to talk to women in such ways. I am glad that it is getting talked about more, but sad that people had to go through so much before it is.

Larissa
Guest

Awesome for standing up for that woman. We unfortunately do not see that enough, and lots of people are scared to do it. I agree with pinkoddy. I don’t think this is the norm as well. We [as a society] only allow ourselves to see what we want to see/need to see. I feel like there are always red flags, but people are so quick to make up excuses and not address the problem at hand.

Dee Jackson
Guest

Oh my! What a disgusting display. That is horrible! I hope she’s okay

Joy
Guest

Wow! That was very powerful, as I read it I’m clenching my fist and I’m screaming silently of disgust to the man who flaunts his disrespect to the woman. But lucky the woman, she got you. 🙂

angie
Guest

Great post, maybe it is the actions of the many that will change the future for women every where. Men have simply often been raised to say such nonsense and the women stepping up are hopefully making sense to the younger generation

Gingermommy
Guest

I am so glad that you helped this lady. So often people say nothing. You had the courage to speak up!

Kelsie
Guest

Wow! This is awesome and so well written! I agree with all of this! Thanks for sharing!

Ali Rost
Guest
A part of me thinks he had to have known exactly what he was doing because he proved he could mind his manners when it served him. Another part of me wonders if indeed he was clueless and thought he could behave however he wanted to the other woman. Yet another part of me is saddened by how prevalent this kind of behavior has been (for such a long time). I can only hope that as more and more women speak out, this kind of behavior will become to taboo that men won’t dare to try. x
Tracy @ Ascending Butterfly
Guest

My post today was about the Golden Globes, #WhyWeWearBlack, #TimesUp and I finally shared my own personal #MeToo experience. I didn’t when it first started in October. I read my friends posts with a lump in my throat. After about a week I solely posted #MeToo and had a ton of people tagging me or direct messaging me wanting more details. I never shared, until today. We are blogging twinsies today. And good for you for standing up to that slick weasel he knew exactly what he was up to!

kavita
Guest

Such a well-written article.  
I don’t think this is the norm as well. I am so glad you helped this lady and talked about what happened after the encounter.

LavandaMichelle
Guest

The time is now to break the silence. When the silence was broken, i was shocked on how many of ladies I new that had experienced this and brushed it off., including myself. Hoping the offending party would get the hint and stop the behavior. I am happy that the silence is broke and we can talk free and demand a change.

Nancy at Whispered Inspirations
Guest

What a TERRIBLY disgusting display. Well done for standing your ground and speaking up about it. So many people turn the other cheek. I am glad you didn’t!

Marissa Zurfluh
Guest

Wow, what a weirdo. I am glad you said something.

Agentszerozerosetter
Guest

Loved to read this post, so well written! Seriously, why a certain number of men feel the right to interact like this one at Starbuks?! As a woman I really hate this kind of behavior, so annoying!

Alicia Trautwein
Guest

I am happy that these issues are being brought to the forefront. As a mother of three girls, I look forward to them growing up in better times than the rest of us did when it comes to women’s rights and treatment. Thank you for sharing your perspective.

Blair villanueva
Guest

Very interesting read. For a society that tolerated this bad behavior for so long, it would be true challenge. But this could be change, all starts at home.

Sheri
Guest

I think it is great that women are speaking out about this and will no longer accept this as the norm or something that just happens to them. It is time for a change.

Candy Rachelle
Guest

Oh my gosh!!! That is horrible! I hope she’s really okay. Very well written post.

Sarmistha Goswami
Guest

I think such creeps are everywhere in the world and they are only a small number. Else world would not have been the same, at least not for women. There are still a good number of good men. It’s great that you spoke out and helped another woman in need. We really need to support each other in need.

David Elliott
Guest
What the guy did at the Starbucks was creepy and wrong and I am sorry that you and the other lady had to sit through it. And people doing that kind of thing in the workplace is horribly wrong. I had a woman once who worked underneath me who started following me around and purchased stuff for me and got me food and told the rest of the work not to eat it because it was mine. I admit I felt very uncomfortable by those actions. I had a hard time working with her from then on.
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