for a while, now, i have been spending increasing amounts of time as a local lesbian bar. originally introduced to me by my friend akira, i quickly fell in love with the place, and the people. i regularly spend the tail end of my weeks there, but mostly show up to socialize with friends, watch people dance, or sing karaoke on sundays. it’s hard for me to find a place that i truly feel comfortable at, especially a public place such as a bar. regardless, over the past few months i have slowly increased my confidence, largely going by myself to dance or drink. i’ve made quite a few new friends there, including the staff, which is great. i love being able to walk into a familiar place with familiar people. cue cheers theme song.
not only are my friends and the staff great, but for the most part everyone at the bar is friendly. very rarely do i run into someone who is so abrasive or intrusive that i would say they are affecting me in any sort of negative way. last night was one of those rare occasions, and it was pretty severe, as those sort of things go.
i showed up around 8pm for line dance lessons, as i had gotten myself into doing recently. i don’t have a partner to dance with for the 2-step, so i figured line dances will give me something to do on saturdays other than drink and watch others dance. plus, it’s good exercise. with some trepidation, i entered the bar – since this is still a new thing for me, with new crowds, my anxiety was giving me some trouble. once i saw familiar faces, that seemed to melt away considerably. i grabbed a beer, and went to say hi to kat in the dj booth.
lessons started a bit late, but i jumped right in. we were learning the dance to the theme from footloose (the newer one). i was having a great time. there was an older lady sitting on the sidelines watching everyone dance – she wasn’t doing anything particularly notable, so i didn’t pay her much mind in the beginning. at some point, i left the floor to use the restroom. i entered, and shortly after, she entered as well. at the time, i didn’t think much of this; we had not interacted at all, and to me it was just another patron using the restroom. in hindsight, it was pretty clear she was following me in on purpose.
she remarked on my dancing, saying that i did well, telling me she would like to dance-dance with me some time (her words). i thanked her, saying no, but thanks, to the dancing request. i tried to keep the awkward we’re-in-the-restroom talk to a minimum, albeit not very well… she was hard to deal with already, forcing additional conversation. i left the restroom a little off, hoping that would be my last encounter with her for the night. by this point in the night, kat’s s.o. drea had arrived. i tend to latch on to drea as a source of solid ground, so instinctively i found myself heading over to her to explain the awkward situation in the bathrooms. we laughed it off, and i went back to the lesson.
but now, while dancing i could see the bathroom lady. she was on the sidelines still, but her watching was more pointedly focused on me. not good. i kept my head down, and focused harder on my steps. the lesson ended, and i decided to head up to the bar to grab another beer. upon arriving, i was quickly joined by the creeper lady – way too close, at that. she sauntered up to the bar, resting on it next to me, staring. i looked over, and she started on a possibly-drunken spew of compliments and chatter. initially i was flattered – telling me how good my dancing was, etc. i know for a fact my dancing is terrible, but i tried to take the compliments in stride.
as i attempted to leave the bar, she asked me the question that is my first lesson in assertiveness. “may i walk with you?” i didn’t want to be rude at this point, as she had given me no real reason to – i hadn’t felt entirely comfortable with her presence, but was trying my best to just roll with it. on top of that, we were walking almost exactly to the same spot in the bar, so why not?
we walked, with little talking. we stopped by her seat, and i tried to have friendly conversation with her – another mistake, but i was giving her a little too much of the benefit of the doubt at this point. she interrupted the bland conversation with a sudden, unwanted compliment – “you’re very attractive.” i froze a bit, blushing, but quickly remembered what Aki had told me about both accepting compliments and deferring people’s advances. “thank you, i appreciate your compliment, but i am not looking for any sort of relationship right now..” i half-stammered out. not my best defense, perhaps, but i was trying my best to get away from this situation.
at this point, she started to get touchy. unwanted touch and hugs were the first. at this point i had started to become distant – i shrugged off her advances and excused myself from the situation, retreating to kat and drea at the dj booth. i hid in the corner, out of sight of her, for a few songs. eventually, i got the courage to go back up to the side bar of the dancefloor, leaning myself against it, watching people dance while trying to figure out the steps myself. suddenly, creepy lady appears next to me, and puts her arm around me. i freeze once again, her various compliments falling on deaf ears at this point. seemingly unable to speak at this point, i try to scoot away from her, but this only prompts her to come closer. trying my best to become the metal pole to my left, i scoot ever farther away, trying to escape her advances, all the while unable to speak.
this is lesson number two. well before this point, i should have turned to her and in no uncertain terms told her to fuck right off. i was not comfortable with the situation in the least bit, but could not find the headspace to do so for some reason.
i finally broke away from her violently, practically running back to drea and kat. i found my corner once again, and tried my best to hide myself behind drea, and hide the tears that were beginning to flow. looking at my worriedly, she asked “is everything okay?” – it was at that point that i came to the sudden realization that i was not, in fact, okay. regardless of this internal knowledge, i tried to assure her i was okay, explaining the situation, trying my hardest not to cry.. and failing. she turned to kat, they shared a glance, and then pushed me up into the dj booth telling me i could stay there as long as i needed. i found myself sitting, clutching my knees to my chest, apparently trying my damnedest to empty my body of water via my eyes. i stayed there for a couple songs, trying to recover myself.
feeling a bit better after a couple songs, i heard a song i knew the line dance to. i popped my head out of the booth, not seeing the lady anywhere close – i came to the bar to dance, and by god, i was going to dance. it ended up helping a lot – focusing on my steps and trying to have fun prevailed over caring about the lady. after the song, i headed back to the kat, noticing that ashe was now back there was well. as i approached, she asked me if i was okay – saying that if the lady gave me any more problems, i was to inform her immediately. she even though out the option to use her as my “girlfriend” scapegoat – “if she does anything, just say security’s your girlfriend and she will be mad!” i thanked her profusely. things like this are why i like to come to places where people know me. i know that if something goes bad, i will have someone there to help me.
luckily the lady left shortly thereafter, and the rest of the night was normal. the experience has stuck with me, even today. every time i think about it, i shudder. i’m embarrassed i let my anxiety and shyness get the best of me, but i’m grateful for the people around me that help support me when i’m not my strongest. moving forward, i need to work better on being assertive with people who don’t treat me how i want to be treated, or people who downright disrespect me. there is no reason for me to have to put up with what they throw at me, and i know it.
for now, i’m going to keep this incident in the back of my mind as to the emotional torment that comes from nor standing up for myself. the next time i find myself in a situation like this, i hope to be able to look back and use my previous experience for strength in ending it.