by Bob Branco
Throughout my life, I’ve been complimented many times. People have told me what a sharp dresser I am, how good I smell, how my hair is combed, and how I look younger than my age. At the same time, I compliment other people. In all honesty, who wouldn’t want to be complimented this way? It sounds good, and sends a positive message. When I was younger, my parents raised me to thank people who pay me compliments. After all, it is the right thing to do. When someone says something nice about you, you thank that person. You would probably not read anything else into the compliment that was given you other than what was intended.
While there are people who pay compliments, there are those who take it a step further. There is physical contact; some of which may not be appropriate. I’d like to think I know where to draw the line as to what is or isn’t appropriate, but there are those who regard every verbal and physical advance as inappropriate in today’s society. Thus, the term Sexual Harassment is overused.
With all the sexual harassment already going on which is magnified by the existence of social media, many people are reading more into things than they should. If I tell my female co-worker how nice she looks or how efficient she is on the computer, I would probably have to look over my shoulder wondering if she will charge me with sexual harassment. I’m sure many of you have called people “sweetheart”, “honey”, and “dear”, as I’m sure they’ve expressed the same terms to you. Nurses have called me “honey”. Senior Citizens have called me dear. My own mother used to call me sweetheart when I was a kid. Was I supposed to lock all these people up? When I was a child, I kissed a little girl. I guess I ought to be in jail, right? What’s next? Should married couples be worried that one partner will charge the other with sexual harassment during pillow talk?
As a blind person, I rely on the sighted guide technique to assist me in travel if I am unfamiliar with my surroundings. This technique, which is taught by orientation and mobility instructors, allows the blind person to put his hand above the sighted guide’s elbow. What if the blind person accidentally touches part of the sighted guide’s breast while trying to find her upper arm? Oops! Sexual Harassment! I know it isn’t, but a center for independent living discouraged the use of the sighted guide technique because of the implication of sexual harassment based on what a blind person has to do in order to be assisted.
Psychologists say we need to be complimented and hugged on a regular basis. Yet it doesn’t seem to matter what our intentions are, how old we are, or why we make people feel better. I’ve heard of little children charged with sexual harassment because they either kissed other little children or paid their teacher a nice compliment.
This morning, I had my hair cut. Should I now charge everyone with sexual harassment who tells me how nice my hair looks? If I wear a nice suit to dinner at a restaurant, should I bring a bunch of handcuffs with me in order to make citizens’ arrests when people tell me how nice I’m dressed?
Yes, some people behave inappropriately, but I think we should be smart enough to know what’s inappropriate and what isn’t. All we have to do is follow tradition, understand right from wrong, and not overthink what’s going on. There is enough verbal abuse, rape, child abuse, and other forms of inappropriate behavior taking place in this world without innocent people being falsely accused of stuff. At this point, we will all be so tense that this country will become a frightened country, which isn’t good for our future.
About the Author
Robert T. Branco resides in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and is the author of five self-published books. He is a community organizer, tutors persons with visual impairments, has written columns for local and international organizations, and publishes a monthly online newsletter, The Consumer Vision. Bob’s website, with full information about his books, is http://www.dldbooks.com/robertbranco/.