When I was in Orlando with my daughter and husband earlier this month, we ate at the poolside restaurant at the resort we were staying in. The first instance of creepy aggression from our waiter happened when I was taking a photo of my daughter as she oh-so-seriously studied the menu. Suddenly, right by my ear, I hear this voice say, “Nice picture.” I nearly jumped out of my skin, which led him to chuckle and say, “You gotta pay attention, or I’ll sneak up on you!”
I was flabbergasted by this comment and I’m ashamed to say I defaulted to the insecure chuckle women are taught at a young age.
As he started in on the specials, he snapped his fingers at my daughter (who is eight, by the way), leaned in close and say, “Hey now, little princess, look at me. I’m talking right now.” She stared up at him in shock. “You have to listen to me. If you don’t listen to me, then I’ll harass you your whole meal until you wished that you had listened to me.”
Again, it was so startling that my husband and I just looked at each other and did the nervous chuckle. My daughter, though, looked quite anxious and stared up at him while he gave a recitation of specials she’d never eat in her life time.
After he walked away, my husband and I discussed how inappropriate his behavior was and what to do about it. Eventually, we hoped it wouldn’t make another appearance and he’d just be a normal waiter when he came back. Alas, that wasn’t the case. As I was talking to my husband, he sneaked up behind my daughter and said, “Boo!” in her ear, so that she yelped and screamed.
He chuckled, saying, “That’s what you get for not paying attention to me when I was talking. You need to learn to listen when people are talking to you.”
He said it all with a grin on his face, but it wasn’t funny and it was creepy as fuck.
Looking back, I wish we’d just walked out at that moment, but we were all pretty stunned and really freaking hungry and wanted our meals. Looking back, I wish we’d complained to management, but we were exhausted and stupid from our day at the theme parks, and, quite frankly, I think, as a woman, I’m a little paralyzed from years of this kind of shit from men in one form or another.
When he came back to deliver our food, my daughter was visibly nervous and she asked him, “Are you going to scare me over and over through my meal?”
He said, “Well, that’s what you get when you–”
And I cut in, saying, “No. He won’t scare us again during this meal because WE DON’T WANT HIM TO.” I looked him in the eye. “Right? You’re not going to do that again.”
He laughed and chuckled and said, “Oh, I was just playing around, but sure, I won’t do it again.”
I’d like to say that after that he backed off, but he didn’t. He didn’t try to scare us anymore, but in an attempt to save his tip, maybe, he kept coming back and giving her necklaces and making little jokes and asking her questions.
BACK AWAY FROM MY KID, DUDE.
My daughter and I ate our meals quickly and then left, leaving my husband to pay. He didn’t leave a tip. He didn’t make a scene, though, he said, because he wasn’t sure if the guy was all right in the head, and since we were staying on the property, it felt risky to confront the guy.
I am going to send a letter, but I wanted to put this on the internet, too, because it just felt like like yet another example of the ways that women and girls are treated in creepy ways. This was over the top, sure, but there are always subtle demands of girls that they pay attention, that they laugh and take it, that if something bad or unwanted happens “that’s what they get for…” whatever behavior.
Looking back, I feel ashamed that I didn’t speak out sooner and that I modeled “nervous laughter” as a coping skill for my kid. Looking back, I wish we’d called the manager over, but I understand husband’s point of view, too, since we were staying at the property, it felt riskier somehow. All in all, I wish I’d done something different, sure, but I shouldn’t have to wish that.
I have no idea where I was going with this except to share it. So…there you go. I shared it.
(This was not a resort associated with any theme park!)