I generally don’t know how to talk to people. They are quite foreign to me. There are too many variables at work when I meet someone new. Maybe that’s just the years of isolation talking. I usually am not sure how to behave especially around men. And older men, they are the worst. What the hell do I say to them? The fact that management of most businesses and industries are made up of men of a certain age means I have to get my shit together and learn to talk to them quick.I’m trying to trace the source of this discomfort. It’s not an anxiety per se; more like a disconnect, and a wariness. I don’t trust them.
I remember watching an episode of the Oprah Winfrey show where she had an expert say if you were a child separated from your family, the best plan was to run to a woman not a man. That news piece burnt into my scalp; men aren’t to be trusted. I have tried to keep that prejudice at bay but it is hard to do.
There was this one time at church. I think I was 10 or 11 years old. After the main service, we all go out of the building in one file, greeting all the church members. One of the men, probably between 30-40 years old, tickled the palm of my hand while I greeted him. He also had a peculiar smile on his face. Immediately I pulled my hand from him because it made me feel grimy. Later on I found out that the hand signal means that the sender wants to sleep with the recipient. And so I have my alarm system on amber alert at all times, preferring to overreact than underestimating the situation.
Maybe I have just had bad experiences. Earlier, in May, I was home helping around the house after Granddad‘s stroke. His deputy at the company, SecondInCommand, would come over to get important documents signed and what not. The man is odd and that’s putting it mildly. At best. He’s like 1.7m tall; he has a thick short afro, quite dark Zambian man, with a moustache somewhere between Hitler and Tom Selleck.
His main fault is he lingers. Overstay any courtesy given to him. Often he would greet me (and even MyTribe has mentioned this) and after I have done the customary two shake, I will try to get my hand back but SecondInCommand will clamp onto my hand and basically claim it for his own. One day he asked for my cellphone number, claiming it was to get in contact when he was coming over to see Granddad. My alarm system was on red alert.
What are you getting me involved for? So I gave the man a wrong number and was done with it. He hasn’t called me out on it since.
In 2014 I became a resident advisor (RA). It was a good job where i was the first point of contact for American foreign exchange students. In exchange, I got free accommodation for the year and fully paid trips to Kruger and other tourist destinations. I got one of the more chilled accommodations, an apartment building, Suites, where I was in charge of 11 people, split among 6 apartments. I also had to speak with the day manager, which was a rotating position shared between 4 people, and the landlord, TheLandLord. We had a good rhetoric. For the most part any maintenance items were done within that week.
The day managers were all friendly and efficient, for the most part. And I hardly interacted with TheLandLord. He came over on big days like day before arrival of the students. He seemed quite cheerful talking about how his daughter had married a Greek man, or how naughty his grandchildren were. One day, when he gave me a lift, he asked what I would be doing the next year. I told him that I was looking for a job. So he generously offered to link me with one of his friends for work. At this point my gut feeling was on yellow alert. Why does this stranger want to help me?
Nothing happened. I went and saw the guy. He was not really helpful since he wasn’t hiring. TheLandLord had just strong armed him into the meeting.
But c’est la vie.
By the June of 2015, I had been assigned Suites 4 times, once every semester. When it came to the fall group of 2015, there was a smaller group so I and a few other RAs weren’t picked to do the job. So we negotiated for a subsidised price on an apartment at the Suites. I ended up with one of the zimbos, V.
The agreement was that we were supposed to leave on 30th November. But then Exchange Company said a week before the date that the lease was for the 15th of November.
So we started to speak to the company and day manager about extending the lease by 2 weeks, but they said it would cost us (the students) 2 months’ rent for 14 day extension.
So V and I started to speak with TheLandLord about it. Surely we could make a suitable arrangement seeing as we were informed late. We were not at fault about the lease termination date, and there was no one coming in December. Plus we were hoping that some of the goodwill of working with these people for 18 months would count for something.
Now TheLandLord was kinda coy. He said we could make a suitable arrangement but he said he would come over to discuss he never showed. V and I would wait and then nothing. Eventually he showed one day when V had gone to campus early. I didn’t have class that day so I was in leggings and an oversized T-shirt. I think I may have even been deep conditioning so I had my doek on.
Anyway TheLandLord came over to my tiny 4 roomed apartment to say that he had agreed to V and I to staying and paying for 2weeks and not a month. I was extremely relieved which TheLandLord told me. “You are too stressed. A young girl like you should not be stressed.”
He then proceeded to massage my shoulders. And my usual yellow alert was off. But a gut feeling was saying i should turn it on.
Then his hands started to move elsewhere, down my back to my chest. At this point it was like I was trapped in my own body and having an out of body experience. I was seeing the situation knowing it was wrong and telling myself to do something but I couldn’t. I think I was just confused about what was happening. The adrenaline had me in shock instead of flight.
Eventually my alarm system went back on. My usual buffer time was over and I somehow got myself out of that situation saying I needed to call V and tell her. But then he kinda followed me to the door of my room. And then my alarm system had gone into overdrive. This is the landlord to the apartment building you are staying. I am a foreigner and he is a respectable Englishman.
“Dude! What do you do if this fucker enters the room?!”
“Do you have something to defend yourself? Would anyone be able to hear me scream? Would anyone come even if they did?”
Thankfully he didn’t. And after he left I just went to my bed and proceeded to binge Season 1 of American Crime Story.
When V came home I told her the good news, we had a roof over our heads for the next 2 weeks. And then I told her that I may have just been molested. I know that it was inappropriate to say the least but I can’t believe I sat there asking myself to do something.
But all this still leaves me in a dilemma. How do I talk to old men? I barely trust men (don’t let TheCameroonian or TheSwiss fool you) as is it is but old men, they will always be wolves in sheep’s clothing.
Please leave comments below on what you do to talk to old men without giving the wrong impression? Or if something similar has ever happened to you.
Pictures from Google Search