My name is Rhonda Robinson, and I lied.
It was for a good cause. You see, there was this really cool outfit, and I wanted it. A new fast-food joint was gearing up for opening day and looking to hire, so I applied for the job. The fact that I was only 13 wasn’t a problem for me, but I figured it wouldn’t look near as good on an application as 16 would.
After working only a few days, the manager called me into the office, my heart sunk. Certain that he’d figured it out, I braced myself for the worst and walked into the dusty back room. Cigarette smoke filled the room. Two men stood off to the side, one leaning on a wall of boxes, the other propping himself up with his foot on the seat of a chair. The boss sat behind the desk, leaning back and relaxed. Everyone seemed in a good mood.
“How old are you Ronnie?” He asked, right off the bat. Standing up just a little bit taller, I replied, “16.” The man leaned forward and held out a quarter. “Here” he said. As I slowly took the quarter pinched between fingers, he said with a bit of a nod, “Call me when you’re 18.” The two on the side busted out in laughter as if they’d been holding their breath the entire time.
I turned and walked out the door a bit confused and very relieved. “Boy, that was close!” I thought as I went back to work–completely clueless as to what just took place.
That memory has surfaced only twice in my life, the first time was many years later, as an adult when I realized why that manager actually called me in. All of a sudden it all came together and I thought, “Oh, that dirty old man!” It never occurred to me at the time, that a man the age of my father would think of me or look at me in that way.
The second time was when I read, Penelope Trunk’s opinion piece, “Why You Shouldn’t Report Sexual Harassment.”
“Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s conduct with women have come to the forefront in the debate over sexual harassment. Of course, sexual harassment is ubiquitous. It is so prevalent on the job that girls can expect to encounter workplace harassment the first summer they work during high school. And it continues for a long time.”
As teachers and parents, most of us spend a lot of time making sure girls know what harassment looks like. What’s okay and what’s not okay when it comes to dealing with boys and men.”
Yeah. I get that. Girls do need to be taught to be on guard, especially stepping into the workplace and the world of men. First teachers and parents better start letting boys and girls know that they are different.
Is the line that hard to see? Or are individuals getting what we collectively asked for?