Yesterday I went to the gym and had an amazingly awkward and unwanted experience. Yes, I was in a public place, at a squat rack in the middle of a gym actually. Both headphones in, I was deadlifting and minding my own business, as I usually do. Gyms, after all, are for working out. Not hassling other people. We’re all there to do one thing, work on ourselves. At least, that’s why I go to a gym. If I wanted more of an interactive experience I would go to a class, or pay for a Crossfit membership again.
So there I am, minding my own business and a man comes up to me and starts talking. Having to pause and step away from the 1 rp mx I was going up for I have to break focus, take off my headphones, and try to figure out what this guy just said.
“Pardon?” I ask politely.
“You should put your feet under your hips more. *randomlifteronyoutubenameididn’tpayattentionto* says you should have your feet under you more, which is different from a jumping position from like a clean or something.”
“Thanks.” I say, still trying to maintain a polite attitude while trying to cut off the conversation. No leading questions, no more response other than a curt acknowledgement. I also go to put my headphones back in.
He keeps talking.
“Blah blah blah *headphone back out.* to keep your head up…” He keeps going on and already I’ve stepped back from my bar again and this time turned slightly away and backed up, head lowering. I’m getting into my defensive *give me space* pose. Those even half perceptive normally leave a person alone when they are using this type of body position. Especially when they’re using an object to put space in between.
This guy keeps going. I’ve already completely stopped listening to the words, they don’t make sense anymore. Instead all I’m focused on is this guys odd stance, the wobbling back and forth that he keeps doing while talking, clearly uncomfortable, and then there’s the heavy breathing in between words that seems to be getting worse. Well if that doesn’t make a person uncomfortable…Backing away again, taking another step further away and further around the bar, trying to use it to separate.
I use my foot and Pull my heavy deadlift bar back with me. Not like I could up and wield it like a weapon, but in a pinch maybe I could kick it into his shins. That’d slow him. Yes, my brain is not on fight or flight mode. Nothing human makes sense anymore, and I can’t rightly concentrate on the world around me. My vision is narrowed, and everything upright and walking is now a target that is being analyzed. Threat? Bystander? Threat? Bystander.
Heavy breather is trying to introduce himself, “I’m Alex by the way.”
“Yup, great, Saberlin. Have a good day.”
I’m now trying to verbally end the conversation. Great, you gave me your name. Don’t care. You’ve invaded my space, given me unsolicited information, and made me uncomfortable. Please go away…
He walks off (thank god) and I’m angry. It’s all I can hold onto to not just up and walk out of the gym without any of my gear. Turning around to go to the locker room would have meant giving him my back.
Which brings me to the next problem. Yes, I get it. I’m a damned good looking woman. But please stop walking behind me again and again. There’s no reason to walk behind a girl that many times, unless you’re clearly and creepily checking out her ass. If a girl shuts you down. GO. AWAY. She doesn’t want you around her. Lifting in the same area she’s in? Ignore her and go back to what you were doing. Working out. Not checking out the fully actualized human being who is an equal. But therein lies the issue doesn’t it? There are still men out there (and scary enough some women) that seem to think that women are somehow still “less” of a human being. Thus they can be objectified, leered at, and not given the same courtesies that men expect from one another. Our space around ourselves somehow isn’t as real as men’s. All men have to do is puff their chest and people move out of their way. Men are great at taking up more space than needed and creating that lounged space around themselves. It’s something that’s harder for women to do, though I’ve tried to start practicing.
I finally get myself calmed down enough and get my head right to approach the deadlift again. All my focus narrowing in, I push that anger into my center and drive it out through my muscles. I hit it, and hit it well. 195 is no big deal. Hurray for the extra adrenaline. My thumbs burn from the pressure of the hook grip and I hold onto that pain. It clears my head. Then he tries to come back over.
Taking off my headphones I throw my hands out in front of me and down over the bar, puffing my chest, expanding my shoulders and my stance a bit. I narrow my eyes and pierce the best glare in his direction that I can, “Look, I got it, ok? I got it. I’m good here. Thanks.”
The thanks is only for the benefit of any bystander. Look, I’m still being the semblance of polite, which is worlds more than I want to be at this point. A good kick to the groin may have felt much more appropriate, but I hear men get their boxers in a bunch if you do that. Yes, I wanted to be violent towards this individual who kept invading my space and couldn’t pick up on ANY body language that was saying “leave me alone.” Which in all my years is normal for men. They don’t have to listen to a woman’s “soft no.” Why would they? Just keep pushing and eventually she’ll say yes right?
NO. FUCK NO. FUCK YOU. FUCK OFF. Leave us alone! The fact that it had gone that far was incredulous enough as was.
“ok. fine.” he nods and finally and awkwardly. I thought he was gone at last. Except he then goes and grabs his stuff and in the span of me setting my bar up for what would have been a 1rp mx for the day sets his shit up in the stretching area not THREE FEET from my bar’s end. WTF. WTF. Yes, that’s WTF twice. Because seriously? “Go AWAY” in any language does not equate to “go get your shit and set up right next to me.”
My ability to put up with this any longer was gone. The fact that I had to endure that much? Dumb as shit. I didn’t even finish taking all the weight off of my bar. I got it light enough to get to the rack and walked off. This is the first time I’ve actually been run off a bar completely and I was NOT pleased with it. Going to the other side of the gym and monitoring creeper to make sure he didn’t come my way. Luckily for the rest of my duration at the gym I was left alone. However, my fear didn’t go away until I completely left the gym.
Here are some of the issues:
-I was lifting alone. This means that’s likely planned. I didn’t ask for a coach, I didn’t go pay for a coach up front, I didn’t go to a box where I could get coaching. I wasn’t looking for coaching. And at this point, if I was, it would likely be me with a phone camera and then sending it to trusted friends and old coaches for critique.
-The que’s for leaving me alone were completely ignored:
–I backed up: this was ignored and he kept stepping closer. Guess what fuckwits, if a girl backs up, it’s not because she wants you to follow her.
–I kept moving to a defensive stance: this was ignored. If a girl goes into a defensive stance, crosses her arms, turns her body away, closes off. GO AWAY. She’s trying to give you the softest no possible. At the least ask, “am I intruding? Would you like help? Can I make a suggestion?” Don’t just immediately jump in and tell ANYONE how they should do a thing.
–Don’t invade my space: I don’t know you. I likely don’t want to know you. If I do, I’ll let you know and do so properly and appropriately.
Don’t wait to introduce yourself: If you’ve got credentials for what you’re about to spew out of your facehole, do it up front. “Hi, I’m Bob from Breakneck Box. I’m a coach over there and was wondering if you’d like some help?” <–Now I have your name, your credentials *at least your word* and you’ve stated your intent. You are now LESS of a threat. Asshat above didn’t even do that. Just jumped right on in.
–Learn how to read headphone talk:
Both headphones in? Fuck Off. I’m jamming and don’t want to engage in conversation with you.
One headphone in? I’m likely up for someone saying hello. Politely.
No headphones in? Yah talk to me.
-With ANY OF THESE: If I suddenly wish to terminate the conversation. This is MY choice. You don’t have the right to push forward. Accept the “no” and go away.
At one point I thought “If I had a boyfriend…” This is an issue. I should NOT have to think that I’d have been better off with a male escort, or even one at home that I could go “I have a boyfriend/husband/partner, go away.” I should NOT have to rely on having a significant anything in order to secure my autonomy when I’m out and about. I’m my own damned person and I can choose or not choose to have individuals in my space, talking to me or not, etc.
Additionally, you never know the mental condition of the people you’re approaching. Please approach with caution and good sense. Always introduce yourself. Ask if you can have their time. Don’t constantly walk behind them. That’s going to make anyone nervous after so long.
And the last rule: DON’T BE A DICK.