Have you ever found yourself in an uncomfortable situation and been so taken aback that you didn’t know how to respond to it so you just did nothing? That was me a few months back and I wondered if we could chat about it so that we can all leave after reading this feeling more armed with responses and the confidence to stand up to intimidating people.
I take the last ten minutes of Leo’s swimming lesson to sit in the sauna after a 20 minute swim/float about. I think I deserve it. Yep that’s right, my story is set in a sauna. You can probably hazard a guess as to where this is going. For some, saunas can be intimidating places at the best of times but they don’t really bother me. I’m not especially up for chit chat and find that a couple of short answers and closing your eyes is enough of a message to most that you’re there to chill the F out, not reel off your life story to a complete stranger.
There is a guy around my age, another woman and two men, probably in their mid fifties who obviously know each other well as they’re engaged in a weird sort of boastful ‘manly’ chat about travelling and work and whatnot. The younger guy leaves and is followed five minutes later by one of the other men. That leaves me, the other lady and one of the men.
He proceeds to stand up and take something from his pocket. Olbas oil. He asks if we mind him shaking a few drops into the sauna. The lady and I say no that’s fine – just not too much if that’s cool. The bit of the sauna he needs to put the oil in is between the lady and me, towards the top of the sauna. He steps up on the bottom bench to reach above and as he comes down he says ‘Don’t worry girls it’s just a touch of rohypnol. Shouldn’t be enough to do any real harm. Just a couple of drops.’
Then as he sat down he proceeded to witter on about it – along the line of ‘Yep just a couple of drops of rohypnol, not too strong’ or some twattery like that. I paraphrase because to be honest I was in so much shock. But I do know I remember thinking, why keep repeating it?! Once wasn’t bad enough?
Did you just make a rape joke?
That’s what I was screaming in my head. But nothing came out of my mouth. I failed to say anything at all. It was clear he had no intentions of actually doing anything – to him it was probably ‘just a rape joke’. But why wasn’t I able to stand up for myself? For all women? Why was I so unprepared for this sort of behaviour? And I wasn’t the only one. The lady sat next to me didn’t say anything either. I did look to her and she looked at me but we sat in silence. After a minute she left and I followed behind her.
How do we prepare ourselves for situations like this? I was frozen in time. When I got home I was reeling off everything I wanted to say. ‘Did you really just make a rape joke? Do you have any idea how utterly horrendous that is? You’ve made me feel extremely uncomfortable and I will be speaking with management to make sure you never use this sauna again’.
How do we arm ourselves with the words and the confidence to shut that shit down? I want to be able to speak up but I felt completely unequipped to deal with it. I’ve shared this with a few friends and they too said they would be absolutely raging inside but would probably just laugh it off and make a sharp exit.
Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation (bloody hell, I’m so sorry if you have) and how did you deal with it? Do you have a set come-back if something makes you feel uneasy or uncomfortable? I feel like it might be one of those things that until you’re faced with that sort of situation once, you can’t really prepare for it? I feel like next time – as I’m sure there will be a next time – I will feel more like I can say no. Just no. How dare you say that to me? But isn’t it awful that to experience it is the only way I feel I can prepare for it?