My father and his army buddy are co-owners of a successful pub and restaurant. During the summer, when I’m home from college, I work there as a host and wait on tables when it’s extra busy. At closing time a few nights ago, while my dad was taking a rare night off, his partner walked up to me, clearly intoxicated. He said, “Hey, gorgeous!” and caressed my butt. He then kept walking as if this was no big deal. I was too flabbergasted to say or do anything other than finish up and leave.
Abby, I am genuinely torn as to what to do. I have known this man my whole life. He is married and (I thought) straight. He and my dad share a deep bond that they say only fellow soldiers understand. I don’t want to do anything to damage that. At the same time, this has made me very squeamish about wanting to continue working there. Should I tell my dad, or should I confront his buddy in private? I also wonder if I should possibly let it go as long as it doesn’t happen again.
Long Summer in Long Beach
Dear Long Summer,
Mom had to explain to me why you are upset. She said that there were two things going on in your letter that I would have seen very differently, and I am glad she told me these things, otherwise, my advice would have been more like my kitty Max’s, which is not very good.
First of all, if one of my dad’s friends called me gorgeous while caressing my back end, I would be thrilled. Mom said that dogs are very different when it comes to being petted, and that this was probably not something you are used to or that you would invite. I still do not fully understand, but mom said it would kind of be like when a strange kid pulls on my ears. I do not like having my ears pulled, so if caressing your butt is not something that you would enjoy having done to you by this man, then I guess that is the closest I can get to understanding why you were upset.
Mom also explained that you are a man, and you are not gay, so having another man touch you in this way and call you gorgeous was uncomfortable. Mom and Dad have lots of gay friends, and I do not care whether they are boys or girls when they pet me, but Mom said this is different for you, too. She said that, even if you were gay, you would still be upset because this man touched you in a familiar way that you did not invite. We talked it over, and finally agreed that this would be like the time we babysat a friend’s dog and he ate all of my food without asking! I thought he was rude and a little mean, and Mom said that is what this man was to you.
You said that he was drunk when this happened. This may be enough to explain the whole situation. I know that when Mom drinks too much wine, she has done silly things like throwing my ball directly under the couch, or forgetting to take walkies altogether! Dad does this dumb thing where he makes fun of me for paying too close of attention to my ball, and he will hold it over my head while singing songs or laughing at me without ever throwing it, until Mom yells at him. Maybe this man forgot that he was a man, or that you were, or he thought he was making a joke and it was just a dumb thing. I still love my Mom and Dad because they love me and treat me very good almost all of the time. If they make mistakes, they say they are sorry and they mean it.
If this man was drunk and he just made a mistake that he does not remember, then I would let it go but still pay attention to what he does when he is around. We dogs can tell a LOT about a person through eye contact and body language, so see how he reacts to you making eye contact. If there is no shame or recognition there, then it was just a terrible mistake that he made and it most likely will never happen again. For instance, mom has not brought up housetraining since I figured out the doggy door. I do not make those mistakes anymore, so it is not an issue we discuss. Do not embarrass him or your dad by bringing it up, especially if he does not remember it.
If you see fear or shame in his eyes and his actions, then take him aside and speak about it honestly with just him. Let him either explain or apologize, and if it was a one-time thing that he is sorry for, forgive him and let it go. Let him know that you forgive him, too. There is no need to involve your father unless this is an ongoing issue with you or others.
If you see something else in his eyes or actions, or he tries anything else, like pulling your ears or stealing your food, then it is time to tell him NO, very clearly, and see how he reacts. How he reacts will determine whether you will have to talk to your father. While he is your father’s friend, your father is not in charge of this man’s actions. He is a grown man and is in charge of his own, as are you. He must take responsibility for his own actions, and this is not something that your father can do for him. That being said, your father should know at this point that this man is not safe and you are choosing to not be around him. Be very gentle with your father, because this is going to hurt him as much as it hurt you — maybe more. Your father may get angry with you, or even feel guilt, or a combination of many things. You know your father better than I do, so approach him the best way you know how, but also be ready for anything.
Mom said to add one more thing. You did nothing wrong. She said to remember to be kind AND firm.
Good luck, and with love,