On Sunday night, I went to a bar in Tahoe City to watch the San Francisco 49ers beat the New England Patriots. I’m not from Tahoe, so I don’t know a lot of people here and I’d never been to this particular bar to watch football before, but I had a friend meeting me and I bumped into a couple of people, so I wasn’t on my own.
At one point, after two Bud Lights, I walked up to the bar to order another round. As I stood there waiting for the bartender to acknowledge me, a guy sitting at the bar, put his hand out and felt the sleeve of my Niners T-shirt. He didn’t say anything, just gently caressed the fabric between his fingers.
“Um, what’s going on there?” I asked.
“Oh,” he replied. “I’m just feeling your T-shirt.”
I didn’t react because, well, what was the point? Even though it was weird, he was just touching my T-shirt and I had on a long-sleeved thermal below it; it wasn’t like there was any skin-on-skin contact. Plus, every single dude in that bar was wasted and there didn’t appear to be any repercussions for their behavior.
Literally, one Patriots' fan continued to yell, “Suck my dick!” for the duration of the game while flexing his non-existent muscles and spilling beer on himself. Guys were crawling over tables to get to their seats. People were screaming at each other. It was actually totally entertaining for an hour or two, but as they drank more and got even sloppier, it started to get a slightly disconcerting. Like anything could happen.
But amongst all of that, this one guy, sitting alone at the bar while fingering the sleeve of my T-shirt seemed innocuous. So I just ignored him and placed my order.
While I was waiting for the beers to arrive, he reached out to touch the sleeve of my T-shirt again. Only this time he also managed to rub the side of my boob.
“Um, you just touched my boob?” I said. Not as a statement, even though that’s exactly what happened, but much more as a question.
“Oh, I did?” he asked.
“Sorry. I just wanted to touch your T-shirt.”
“It’s okay,” I said, effectively “forgiving” him.
“But wow. I just touched boob!” he said.
“Yeah,” I replied. And then I laughed. “You should go home and write about it in your diary. Mark this day on your calendar!”
And then I grabbed my drinks and walked away.
When I got back to the table, I told my friend. “Some guy just kind of touched my boob.”
“What?” he asked.
And that was when I realized I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it. I didn’t want my guy friend to suddenly be in a position where he felt like he had to do something or say something. I didn’t even know if the dude at the bar had groped my boob on purpose. And I certainly didn’t want to involve anyone else in the situation. I was the one who turned it into a joke. It was no longer anyone else’s problem except mine.
“Oh, it’s no big deal,” I said. And then I told him how I’d laughed it off and basically congratulated the guy for getting to second base.
Listen, I’m not trying to be overly dramatic about the fact that some weirdo in a bar touched my boob. Far worse things happen to women on a daily basis. Ultimately, it’s not a big deal. It was mostly just side boob and, hey, whatever. The guy lives in Tahoe; he probably hadn’t touched boob in like a year.
What I’m worried about though is how quick I was to brush it off. To make it into a joke. To let him off of the hook. Did he mean to do it? I honestly have no idea. It’s definitely bizarre that he wanted to feel my T-shirt, but does that mean his ultimate goal was to also rub up against my breast? My gut instinct tells me “No,” but... Does it even matter? Since when is it OK to touch strangers in a bar anyway?
If I’m truthful, this kind of behavior happens more than I care to admit. The anonymous person in the crowd at the football game who grabs my ass. The person at the Giants’ parade who I assumed was just pressed up against me because of the mass quantities of people but was actually rubbing his penis against my butt.
And what do I do when this happens? Nothing. Because I feel like there’s not much I can do -- especially in the crowd situations -- and also I just hate to make a big deal out of something that ultimately doesn't affect me. Is it gross? Of course. But do I turn it into a funny story? Always.
I use humor in most awkward or uncomfortable situations. It makes me feel better to laugh about the horrible things in life rather than fret about them. But while I don’t regret for a second how I handled the guy who touched me in the bar on Sunday, it did make me wonder how far someone would have to go before I stopped laughing and started taking it seriously. Unfortunately, for now, I don't have an answer.
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