You are not the exception.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a “nice guy” who’s just trying to make someone’s day better, it doesn’t matter if you have no intention of making someone uneasy, and it doesn’t matter if you’re convinced that the girl bringing you your dinner is your soulmate. Keep it to yourself. She’s just trying to do her job. And if it’s her job to be nice to you, that means keeping a smile on her face, whether she’d rather dump your drink on your head or not.
Ask any girl. Chances are that she has at least one heebie-jeebie-inducing story about that time some dude made her feel at best like she wanted to shower in Purell, and at worst like she needed to find a weapon to defend herself. But that girl will also have multiple other horror stories about her friends’ similar experiences, and a large percentage of those stories are going to take place in the service industry (though I am certainly not minimizing the many cases of harassment that happen in other industries as well).
For example, I work nights at a hotel and have endured everything from weird compliments about my mouth, to spending half of my shift trying to elude a guy who refused to stop urging me to have parking lot sex with him. (I wish I was kidding.) A few days ago, one of my coworkers was followed into an empty stairwell at 3 AM by a man who had spent two days sexually harassing her. Last week, a guy spent five excruciating minutes wringing every possible euphemism out of his bowl of Fruit Loops to me. (Spoiler alert: there were a lot more than you think.) And none of these events are out of the ordinary.
So this is exactly why your niceness is a non-factor. To the girl who has to serve you in whatever capacity, your come-on will probably just be yet another putrid drop in a giant vat of uninvited attention.
That being said, there are plenty of genuinely kind and well-meaning guys who simply don’t understand how their behavior could possibly be considered shifty, so for them — and for everyone else — I have composed this list:
1. You are exploiting the power discrepancy.
You are a customer. She (either another women or myself) is paid to help you in some way. At the end of your encounter, your money will either directly or indirectly make it into her bank account. She needs it to pay her bills. Her financial security is literally dependent on your business, whether it’s via a tip or repeated patronage. This is the reason that some assholes get away with telling her to “smile, honey,” when she’d rather be puking on their leering faces. You don’t want to be that guy. But if you share his tactics, however accidentally, you’re halfway there.
2. It is almost impossible for her to reject you clearly.
Whatever her instinctive reaction may be to your addresses, she doesn’t have much of a choice beyond laughing it off and continuing to tend to your needs, which makes the whole thing even more unfair. By trapping her at her place of business, you’ve taken away her choice to shut you down in any way other than gently. And in a lot of cases, the gentle letdown isn’t enough to get the message across as thoroughly as is necessary. In fact, it’s often willfully misunderstood, which frees up the customer to plow into even more painful territory. Generally, the firmest she can be is to tell you that she’s already married, whether it’s true or not. And a lot of the time, even that isn’t a strong enough deterrent to get a guy to back off. Either way, making her lie to you is a dick move.
3. She doesn’t have an exit.
Sure, if you’re openly groping her or posing a physical threat, she may have access to security guards or managers who can throw you out. But if you’re just giving her the creeps? Not so much. There may even be some kind of policy that she isn’t allowed to leave a guest unattended if they’re waiting at her post. Therefore, she may be at your mercy for as long as you choose to hang around, despite her feeling awkward and/or hoping that a small explosion breaks out somewhere so she has an excuse to leave.
4. You have the power to get her fired.
Most businesses have some sort of work performance review, and if you decide to retaliate against her rejection by leaving a shitty comment card or complaining to her boss that she was unfriendly/unprofessional, there is nothing that she can do about it. Even in a case of your word versus hers, there may be some company rule that dictates her firing if you’re adamant enough about it. This is especially true if you’re not the first spurned suitor to use that kind of a tactic (and it’s certainly not unheard of). So she can’t afford to make you angry. And since she doesn’t know you personally, she has to be especially cautious with her responses, lest you hulk out on her.
5. It’s less of a hassle to be kind, whether you deserve it or not (and you know it).
Assuming that you don’t stoop to doing something that warrants a permanent ban from the establishment, it’s probably less risky for her to just fake a smile through her discomfort until you finally leave, and then hope that if you come back, you won’t be her problem anymore. And that sucks, especially if it’s an almost constant aspect of her work week. Ultimately, your decision to potentially make her uncomfortable for your own potential gratification is selfish. Leaving a woman with no choice but to put up with whatever you decide to dish out is never kind, so don’t flatter yourself by thinking that it’s okay because you “didn’t mean anything by it.” Creating the situation at all is inappropriate. If you’re so convinced she’s your soulmate, instead of making your move, go watch Serendipity. Let John Cusack convince you that fate will bring you back together at a better time or whatever. Then you can truly claim to be a nice guy.
This post was originally published on April 15, 2016, and has since been updated.
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