I am a 29-year-old female belly dancer. My basic question: Should I accept money from perverts? The back story...
I recently traveled to another state to teach two dance workshops. This was the first time I have ever done this, my first mini-tour of sorts. It was a great opportunity and next step for me professionally. For one of my workshops, I was at a couple's home studio. This couple is in their early 70's. I met them previously at other dance-related events and have gotten to casually know them—they seemed cool. I stayed in their home for four days. I stayed there because it was free, I was teaching in their home studio, and they had gotten me performance opportunities, and they seemed like ok people. But pretty quickly both of them got pretty familiar...
She became clingy and invasive in a "Jesus Christ, lady, you're not my mom!" kind of way, while he was clingy and invasive in a "Jesus Christ, mister, you're not my boyfriend and, NO, I'm not calling you daddy!" kind of way. They went as far as calling me their honorary daughter! Twice! By the end of my stay, the vibe I was getting from the husband was increasingly sexual. Hugs that lingered too long, sitting next to me instead of his wife, catching him staring from across rooms, and utterances of how perfect I was. I never felt scared or threatened—he's just a stupid, gross old man.
One of my workshops was poorly attended, one person—obviously it was a loss financially. But like I said, professionally and overall, this was an important experience for me and I learned a lot from it. But at the end of the weekend, the couple wrote me a $500 check, $460 more then they owed me according to our original agreement. (My percentage of what the workshop made.) They said it was from both of them, to cover my expenses, but mostly that they wanted to "pay it forward" and that "they were at a point in their lives to give back" and wanted to support me as an artist. When they gave it to me I could feel how much they wanted this gift to mean to me.
My Question: Should I cash this check?
On the one hand, I feel like I earned this money. On the other hand, I cannot help but feel this money is gross. That it's emotionally entangled in some weird dynamic that I don't want to be a part of, like they're buying into my life and justifying their invasiveness. I didn't ask for it. I didn't expect it. While I would except this money in terms of payment for services rendered, they gave it in terms of a gift. It's a lot of money (to me), but not enough to change my life. I feel like cashing this check will create a social debt that will last till they die. So should I take the money and run with my middle finger swinging, or just never cash it?
Creepy Asshole Still Helps
Cash the fucking check, CASH.
Reasons why you should: It's a good amount of money. It could help fund a future "mini-tour." And you worked hard, despite a disappointing turnout. You could also think of the money as damages, i.e. money they owe you for the lingering hugs, stares, seating arrangements, etc.
And while this couple was definitely creepy, I wouldn't round them up to perverts. The guy gave hugs that lingered too long and would stare at you and tell you how perfect you are; the wife, I imagine, was aware of what was going on, CASH, which makes her complicit in the creeping. Together they made you supremely uncomfortable—that shit would make me uncomfortable—but cashing the check in no way obligates you to have a relationship with this couple going forward. You could cask that check and spend the money on lottery tickets and win $500 million, CASH, or splurge on a night in a nice hotel and meet your future husband in the lobby bar, and you're not even obligated to send those elderly creeps a thank-you note.
If you really feel morally compromised taking the money, CASH, then donate it. Give the $500 to a non-creepy, sex-positive, woman-run organization of your choice. Or use the $500 to lead your own non-creepy, sex-positive, woman-run dance workshop.