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Wide Awake: The Guy At Starbucks
“That ever happen to you?”
By Marianne Aleardi

Usually on my way to an event where Ill be speaking, I stop at Starbucks for about a half hour to take a break, go over my notes and relax a bit. But last time I went, I had to leave kind of quickly. I didnt want to. But there was this guy.  

I had been sitting in one of their leather chairs with a coffee table in front of me. I was sitting alone. In fact, the place was pretty empty, and there were lots of open chairs.  

So this guy sits down on the other side of the coffee table. I didnt even notice when he sat down. And soon I hear, Do you want this? 

I looked up and he was leaning forward. He had grabbed a pack of cookies or a protein bar – Im not sure what it was – from a kiosk next to him and was holding it out toward me.  

Ill buy this for you. Do you want this? 

I was a little stunned. I was so engrossed in my notes that I didnt know how to respond, so I didnt answer.  

He moved to the edge of his seat and seemed to be getting angry that I wasnt quick to reply.  

Dont you want me to buy this for you?” He was annoyed and made it clear.  

I said no.  

I put my head down, as if I was back to reading my notes, but I was still stunned. I didnt know what had brought that on – I hadnt made eye contact with him or smiled at him, I didnt even know he had come in. I realize that makes me sound like Im not aware of my surroundings and maybe I should be but, well, I was at a neighborhood Starbucks.  

I sat there for about two minutes wondering if he was going to say or do something else. I wanted to leave, but I thought  

he might follow me. I decided to go anyway, because I knew I wouldnt be able to concentrate or relax. As I left, I checked over my shoulder to see if he was getting up too. 

In the parking lot, I called my husband and told him what happened.  

That ever happen to you?” I said.  

I knew it hadnt, but it has become a thing between us now: any time I experience something that demonstrates how difficult/unfair/unsafe the world is for women, I call him and describe what happened. I always end with, That ever happen to you? 

He always says no.  

I started making these calls to Joe when it became clear to me that he, and lots of other men, have little understanding of what women experience on a daily basis. They think what they hear in the news is the extent of discrimination and harassment. They dont think it happens to their wife or daughter or co-worker or friend. They dont think it happens in Starbucks.  

I started making these calls to Joe because while he, of course, would say I shouldnt have to leave Starbucks because of some guy, he really only thinks about it when I call him. I think about it all the time, all women do. I question myself on why I didnt know a guy had sat down across from me. I carefully choose where I sit in a public space and who I make eye contact with. I call Joe, because I hope he starts to feel the frustration of how often I make this call (its pretty often).  

But most important, I recount each story to him because that is the only way things will ever change. Good guys need to understand the extent of harassment – or at least, discomfort – brought on by men. It isnt just what you hear in the news. It happens to every woman you know on a pretty regular basis. And it happens in Starbucks.  

Good guys need to start saying out loud, on their own, that none of this is ok. Its not enough to believe it or to agree with a woman when she says it. Good guys need to start speaking up for their wives, daughters, co-workers and friends. That is the only way things will change.  

Until that happens, Ill keep calling Joe. Ill also keep telling men I know when things like this happen to me. They might get a little annoyed, but thats ok. Its good, actually. Then theyll know how we feel. 

May 2019
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