August 11, 2012 at 10:15 pm #36450
I’ve been laying low around here a little bit due to a pretty major depressive episode the last couple weeks (I will be indulging in some happy pills mid-week, though not yet due to my ridiculous health insurance that wants to be sure I’m taking Wellbutrin for depression rather than to quit smoking as that is a totally fake health concern). But I’m slowly resurfacing and gradually re-joining the land of the living.
Anyway, I’ve got this “friend,” Kenny. I met him on the last show I was working on, and at first I sort of assumed he was socially awkward – seemingly well-intended sarcasm, kind of a funny view on dating and relationships, rubs people the wrong way, but basically harmless. In between that show and the current show that’s playing at the same theatre, we kept in touch some. And it became clear that he’s seriously messed up in some ways that probably require therapy, but again, he wasn’t hurting me, and I assumed one of those “he’s really nice when you get to know him” attitudes. He was cast in the current show, which I worked on only briefly (painted a giant backdrop and that was it), and my mom is in the cast of that show, and it’s a pretty female-heavy show, most of them being under 30 and a few under 21.
Turns out, this guy is a Class-A creeper. Says inappropriate things to the young females, particularly onstage where they can’t get away or react in anger, repeatedly ignores boundaries, some of which are implied (pulling a girl out the back door to “comfort” her when she’s upset and then ending the conversation with a sexual joke to lighten the mood when she was reluctant to speak at all), some of which are pretty clearly enforced (one girl apparently started yelling not to touch her when he came up behind her and he focused on the fact that he hadn’t touched her and she was an uptight bitch for saying anything). And then on top of it all, he has been repeatedly nasty to my mom – she comes into the guys’ dressing room to say hi and he’ll say, “Oh, that’s PL’s Mom for you,” or one afternoon at a cast barbecue, he told her loudly in front of the whole group that no one in the theatre is listening to her song (there’s some scantily clad dancing happening at the same time) so it barely even matters if she’s even singing.
This guy has had a rough few months. I understand that – his mom passed away after a prolonged illness, he ended a long-term relationship, his acting career has taken a huge hit because he came home from LA to take care of stuff while his mom was dying. I get that. I started hanging out with him earlier in the summer because it seemed like he needed a friend, and he has been nothing but decent to me personally, but I’ve heard all of these horror stories about him from my mom and the other actors, many of whom I’ve been friends with for years. We had a long conversation one day about his need to respect boundaries, his treatment of women, and his need to provoke people, and I told him as bluntly as I’m capable of that I have massive problems with men who treat women badly. He replied with a story about how he was humiliated in front of an acting class by his scene partner who said he’d been sexually harassing her while they were rehearsing a romantic scene. And then he’s continued harassing the women in this cast.
So, the dilemma: I’ve been ignoring his texts for about two weeks. I don’t know how to reply, and I don’t know if anything I say will make any difference at this point. But I’ve been invited to the cast party, and I like a bunch of these people and they’re going to be watching one of my favorite movies on the projector screen in the theatre. Which, awesome. But of course Kenny’s going to be there. And I don’t know how to handle myself around him. Avoid and ignore? Pretend nothing’s wrong? Or tell him exactly what’s wrong? I could do that without enumerating each and every one of his offenses, thus making it less awkward for the people who have told me these things, and just simply say, “You’re not getting that your behavior is a problem. It’s creepy and inappropriate and the stuff I’ve heard makes me think you’re not a good person, and I make it a policy not to be friends with people who aren’t good people. I’m not going into details, because at 35 years old I can’t explain to you how not to come across as someone unsafe, and you will also have every excuse in the world about how these women are humorless bitches and the problem is them for being uncomfortable and not you for being creepy, except it’s you, and you can either go home or ignore me, but I don’t want to talk to you anymore, starting now.”
Yes, I’ve been thinking about it a lot. Walter has offered to step in for me, even. I don’t know how I feel about saying all of that, and I don’t know how I’ll feel if I say something vs. saying nothing. I doubt anything I say will make any difference, so it’s sort of about how I’ll feel, I guess. Part of me feels like I’ll feel better for having spoken out, and then part of me feels like it’s not my damn job and I just don’t want to deal with explaining to a fully grown man how not to be an awful person. So, your thoughts, o wise DW community?August 11, 2012 at 10:19 pm #36451
Yeesh. Long post. Also forgot, show closes tonight, cast party will be in a few hours.August 11, 2012 at 11:43 pm #36452
So, I’m about to head to bed, but here are my two cents. Go with Avoid and Ignore tonight, enjoy yourself (it really sounds like you could use something fun and happy to look forward to), and don’t feel obligated to make a stance. If he comes over to you, walk away.
Then, tomorrow write him an email explaining to him why you will no longer hang out with him. Then delete him from your phone and be done with it. If he responds poorly, don’t take it personally, he’s clearly in the wrong (I mean, he insulted your mom!) and you’re right. Move on and don’t dwell too much on the situation (I’m mentioning this because I’m a Class A dweller and I know that its not helpful for me mentally).
Good luck tonight and try and have a good time!August 12, 2012 at 12:17 am #36453
I’m not sure what more I can add to Eagle Eye’s response, except I would maybe save a copy of the email you send him and any if he responds back, that way you have some kind of documentation if god forbid, he tries to escalate things.
And when you confronted him already about his harassing behavior (which it totally was) I can’t help but get the impression that he was being pretty manipulative when he said he was humiliated in front of his acting class by the girl who accused him, it just sounds like he’s trying to paint himself in a more sympathetic light. When there has been problem after problem with this guy, and multiple people are saying the same thing about him, he is the common denominator, he just doesn’t want to admit it.
Just don’t take this guys crap. You have tried to be kind given what he has been through, but frankly its no excuse for him to act like a creepy jerk.August 13, 2012 at 10:43 am #36627
I’m sorry you’re going through a rough time, and that you’ve got a creeper in the house. While this is late and you probably have it resolved by now, I just wanted to voice my support for you. Also I wanted to point out that you have very little to lose in this situation whichever way you decide to handle it. You either end the friendship on fade out terms, or you’re explicit with the fact that you think he’s an entitled dirtbag who doesn’t respect women and their decision not to be manhandled by coworkers. Either way, you win, because you don’t have to see him anymore or feel like you’re somehow condoning his behavior by turning a blind eye. So don’t stress out about this one too much. What he does or does not do is not your decision or responsibility.August 13, 2012 at 10:59 am #36628
I think Captain Awkward was correct in saying that ignoring this kind of behavior allows it to keep happening. At the same time she also said that sometimes you won’t feel safe in confronting the creeper. You’ll have to decide how safe you feel and how far you feel you can go with your statement. Having Walter stand by you and help you could be good because he is backup and support and security and makes a statement that men also disapprove of this behavior and don’t accept it. See if you can get other men and women to also make statements to Kenny. A united front will have more success even if it just means that he moves on to another theater. He will know that his behavior is unacceptable at your theater.
Do the directors at the theater all know about Kenny and his behavior. Can they agree to not cast him in any future productions? If they don’t know you need to have a group from these shows go to the directors of the next shows and talk to them. Make it clear that it will be difficult to cast a show if Kenny is in it. Sexual harrassment is serious and they probably don’t want their theater to be bogged down with bad publicity and probably also don’t want to lose their actresses over one actor. I think you should personally refuse to work in any production that includes Kenny. Encourage others to make the same stand. You can make your theater one in which everyone feels safe. Every man and woman involved in your theater should be called on to make a stand.August 13, 2012 at 7:24 pm #36702
I don’t think she’s required to organize a public shunning, or that failing to do so constitutes some sort of condoning of his creeping. The only person responsible for Kenny`s behavior is Kenny.August 13, 2012 at 9:06 pm #36708
Thanks so much for the input, everyone.
I decided to Ignore/Avoid as was recommended during the party, and…I’m still on the fence as to whether I should call him out. He’s texted me a few times since the party to ask why I was avoiding him, you know, “Did I do something? I’m soooo confused!” which honestly makes me want to slug him. Dude, you insulted my MOM. All other clueless creeper BS aside, it’s my MOM.
I don’t think for a second I’m required to be the voice of reason, though I kind of feel like if I can do so and feel safe (I’m actually really sure he isn’t going to do anything), then I should, by email or phone. I’m just sort of waiting till I’m in a little calmer place, honestly, because I’m not sure right now would be the best moment to handle this in a way that’s healthy for me as well as gets the message across to him.
Again, seriously, thanks for everyone’s input.
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