By Georgina Parkin
Today I walked into the gym and, for the third time this week, one of the personal trainers asked me to go to his for dinner after my workout.
Just like the time before, and the time before that, I politely giggled, pretend I was flattered and proceed to come up with another imaginary reason as to why I cannot go. Then I dutifully agreed to DM him with an alternative day later, quickly put my headphones in and walked away.
I spent the rest of my workout trying to avoid eye contact, hoping he didn’t question the ‘busy schedule’ I claimed to have.
This is not the first time I have cowered away from rejecting a man and I’m sure it won’t be the last.
Every day before I walk into the gym I tell myself that if he asks again I’ll just say I'm not interested, yet every time I lose my nerve and make some joke about being a ‘busy lady’ or not liking vegan food.
Turns out he has an answer to all of my excuses, and every day I'm the one left feeling awkward and uncomfortable in a bid to protect his ego and avoid him feeling the exact same way.
The easy way out would be to lie and say I have a boyfriend, but then the fear sinks in that perhaps I’m being presumptuous and will be made to look like a fool when he says he just wanted to cook me vegan food as ‘friends’.
So instead I continue to dread walking into the gym, and protect his ego at my own expense.
I know I am not the only woman who has moved train carriages, walked out of a bar or taken their coffee to go because they have been made to feel uncomfortable by a man's unwanted advances.
Are we meant to be flattered? Are we meant to comply and hand over our numbers?
Or are we meant to be honest and tell them we aren’t interested?
Is it just me that finds the first two options much easier than the last?
I hate that I do. I hate that I would rather give them my number and reject them later or be unwantedly hit on every time I walk into the gym, instead of having the courage to reject a man to their face.
A few years ago when I was on a train, a man, probably ten years older than me and quite intoxicated, got on and asked if the seat next to me was taken, despite there being many empty rows in the carriage.
I couldn’t exactly say it was, so he sat down and proceeded to chat me up for the duration of my train journey. I felt trapped. Partly because I was on the inside seat so physically couldn’t get out and partly because I was on a moving train so where on earth could I go?
After half an hour of uncomfortable small talk and me wishing I was literally anywhere else, he asked for my number. Despite being completely uninterested I felt like I couldn't say no as I had unwillingly given him the green light by letting him sit next to me and engaging in conversation.
If I said no, had I been leading him on? Would he get angry?
I did what I thought was a genius move. I gave him a fake number. I’m sure I’d seen it done in a chick flick and in that moment it seemed like the best/only option. So, feeling pretty cunning and back in control, I reeled off some random digits making sure I said 11 and started with an 07 so it at least sounded legit.
He then said ‘let me text you so you have mine.’
I definitely did not see that one coming.
My heart was going pretty fast at this point and the feeling of control vanished. How was I going to explain that I had just fake numbered him!? I was full of regret and wanted more than anything to get off the train.
When the text didn't come through I claimed I must have dodgy signal and at that very moment the train stopped at my station. I couldn't have been more relieved. I quickly got up and said I had to go and hopefully the message would come through later. Of course it never did.
I had completely forgotten about drunken train man until creepy gym man started a few weeks ago and I realised that this was not the first time I had been too afraid to reject someone.
I started thinking it was my issue. It was me who was being a wuss. Too scared to reject them, too scared of what might happen if I do.
But that is not and will never be my problem. Women should not be put in a situation where they feel like the safest way out is to lie and say they’re taken or give them a fake or even real number just to get them to stop asking.
Thankfully, my gym is always busy and so far I have never felt scared, like on the not so busy train that night. But I have felt uncomfortable. Mostly because I know I have to see him every day.
Perhaps it’s easier to reject a guy in a bar who you know you will never see again. Even more reason why personal trainers should not be hitting on girls that take their exercise class.
I want to end with some advice, a fix for other women out there who are constantly being hit on by a colleague or cornered by a guy on the train.
I'd like to say- be upfront. Stop protecting their ego and tell them you’re not interested.
I know it’s not always that easy, and until I tell gym guy I don’t want him to cook me vegan food, I cannot claim that being upfront is the easiest way out.
Nevertheless, I hope that you are never made to feel scared or uncomfortable by a man. I hope that the fake number trick works better for you than it did for me, and I hope that men stop thinking it’s okay to keep asking until they get the answer they want.
The answer cannot be assumed yes in the absence of no.