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I turned my back to him and settled my attention on the musicians at the front of restaurant, feeling the music waft through my body. My neighbor let me be for a bit, but it wasn’t long before he asked from behind if he could buy me a drink!I told him “.” He tried to cover by saying that the establishment gives him free drinks, so he feels the need to pay it forward.That could explain why I have spent so much time at home the past year.I arrived in Charleston, South Carolina Wednesday evening and took a nice walk to check out the area.I nodded unbelieving and turned back around to watch the musicians.Perhaps that was supposed to make him appear special?Somehow, I happened upon a very cool little place called “5 Church” on Market St.I was lulled in by the music, originally thought it was actually a church, until I saw the dinner table outside.
I didn’t challenge him by asking where his son was on this Wednesday night as he sat drinking at the bar a block from his home, or why his most recent photo was of his son at 4. Needless to say, after entering this restaurant in soul awe, I left feeling violated, uncomfortable, and deflated.
That I should care and treat him differently because the employees there do? I was hard-pressed to figure out a way to tell this man that I didn’t want to talk to him, that I wanted him to leave me alone, that even though I was replying to him, I was not interested, that his advances and insinuations were not a compliment and were insulting.
It was certainly a comment meant to lend him credence. Needless to say, he gradually found more and more ways to work his way into my silence. Now, he was a pretty meek, unattractive older man, so my mind played awful tricks on me, wondering if perhaps he was being facetious, and I should laugh with him at his expense. I alternately wondered how on earth how I was going to tell him he was freaking me out (or that I was freaked out in the more NVC way of stating his), or trying to remember how often I had been in a similar position, or wondering if this really was as wrong as it felt to my mood, my body, my sense of safety in the world. We live in a society where for me to be direct and state my disinterest directly would have caused a scene and would have become even more uncomfortable.
I sat upright and far forward enough to make it clear that I was not there to be picked up on, happy to be on my own.
I was uncomfortable enough that I considered leaving, but I relaxed a bit when it seemed clear that the guy to my left was too into his computer to care, and the guy to my right did not make the expected approach or awkward comment.