How My Fast-Food Job Changed My Relationship With Men

CW: Harassment

It’s been said before and it will be said again that people are responsible for their own actions. Our society is becoming more vocal, active and outspoken when issues surface. This is what we need, because accountability for words is just as important as accountability for actions. My casual job during this ongoing pandemic has been working in a well-known sandwich shop. This job has shown me many things. Having worked numerous jobs in hospitality, I’ve had numerous interactions with customers that have been difficult to handle and to process.

Seemingly, just existing as a girl for the past 21 years means I unfortunately have been no stranger to inappropriate or uncomfortable remarks and situations with strangers. I can be fairly blasé about past events now, that at the time were frightening and intimidating, but working in this fast-food job has significantly changed my relationship with men for the worse. I hate to speak generally, because I am aware this is regarding a small sector of the population and that men, on the whole, are not something you can squish into one category because every person is so drastically different.

However, in the matter of months I’ve been at my part-time job, I’ve experienced so many borderline comments that my respect and trust in men has begun to fall flat. Why men specifically? Because not one has been from a woman so far. This may largely be due to the customer demographic for our store being approximately 90% men. As a young adult, aware of the potential dangers that some men present, it baffles me every day that as I’ve grown up, I’ve only gotten more concerned than reassured. I can no longer count the number of times I’ve been asked if I’m in the shop alone, if I’m single, how I get home, which days I work, whether I can handle his 6-inch, and many more.

It’s not the poor flirting or the ‘cheeky chappy’ innuendos, it’s the ones that make me feel unsafe when I’m alone on my shift, unsafe when walking to my car, scared enough to check the backdoor when I serve them, or that when they leave the shop they’ve actually driven away and are not lingering outside. Most of the times, it is not even the questions, it’s the manner or tone they are asked in. It is the fact they are asked when I am blatantly working alone, and a large group of guys much bigger and older than me think it is okay to act so intimidating and not think twice about it later.

Do you know what’s funny about this? The first thing people will think or say – why don’t you leave? A valid question indeed. Why don’t I leave my part-time job, that I have to earn money, that I actually quite enjoy, with my friendly colleagues and flexible hours? Maybe for once, the finger should be pointed back and the question should be: Why is it still okay to verbally harass people and not hold any accountability? Why should I leave my job? Because the reality is, wherever I work, there will always be an issue so long as these people remain unaccountable.

I’m so disheartened when these situations happen, because what am I supposed to do… call the police? And say this guy asked me some questions that made me feel uncomfortable? Really, it doesn’t feel like that will achieve anything, and I’m well aware that there are far more pressing matters at the moment. All I want is to see some change, which I know is a big ask. But maybe by the time I’m 31, not 21, I can hope that we continue to vocalise how uncomfortable and unacceptable this behaviour is. Then there is the possibility that with time, it will not be up to me to leave my job, it will be up to them to show a little more caution and consideration for how the other person might feel.  

After this spiel, in the words of Eminem, I stan a lot of men. I know this issue extends much further than my own experiences, but it makes me sad that I cannot name one female friend my age that hasn’t had some form of mild to serious harassment or uncomfortable situation in their lifetime – of which 86% was their childhood. Just something to bear in mind.

P.S. always be nice to your server 😊

Image courtesy of Andy Falconer.

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