I am a female. I was hit by a truck several weeks ago while riding my bicycle and I'm now getting physical therapy. I have been going twice a week for a month and all is fine until a week ago when the young receptionist was booking my next appointment. She was wearing a brown patterned blouse that reminded me of something that my mother used to wear. I went back to that time (which was not a good time as life with my mother was hell) and zoned out and did not even realize that I was doing this—staring at her blouse—until the receptionist handed me a receipt. Then she quickly closed her sweater over her blouse.

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Someone else was at the desk the next time I came in, which I was glad of because now I don't want to be accused of anything improper. As I was leaving, the young receptionist was standing behind the person at the desk giving me the dirtiest look I have ever encountered. I looked away and tried not to make eye contact with her. Hell, ever since this happened, I barely make eye contact with anyone at this place. I am supposed to be going twice a week but I cancelled last week.

I went in today, and she was at the desk, but she did not talk to me as she always did before this incident. When I was done with my appointment I walked back out to pay and the assistant was at the desk and the receptionist was in the back. The assistant had to ask the receptionist something and that's when I heard the assistant say, "I understand." Yeah, at that point, I understood as well.

I am going to make up some bullshit excuse to go to another clinic.

I am not even slightly gay. Even if I were a lesbian I would not be interested in this young woman as she is young enough to be my daughter. I am 40, and she is probably 25. I've also been exclusively attracted to older partners throughout my life. But most importantly, regardless of my sexual orientation, I would never demean someone in this way. You can go back the past forty years of my life and no other person would level such a complaint against me. I feel like I have been falsely accused of sexual harassment, even though no one has accused me. But I know the deal: she does not want to be around me. And now, I do not want to go back. Fine.

However, I feel like shit. I now feel self-conscious when I talk to people that I barely know, and I am not even making eye contact when I talk to strangers and acquaintances because I do not want to be accused of sexual harassment or labeled as a predator.

My husband said that I should try to talk to her, but the two occasions that I have gone back, I have not had the opportunity. The damage is done at this point. I guess what I am asking from you is some perspective on the situation. Sign me...

Whatever You Decide To Make Up

My response after the jump...

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Your letter reminded me of something that happened at the gym about a decade ago.

So there I was sitting on a bench, absentmindedly staring off into space, wishing I was dead and minding—or so I thought—my own business. When suddenly... and without warning... the space I happened to be staring off into suddenly turned around and spoke to me.

The space I had been staring off into wasn't space. It was the ass of a woman standing in front of me.

I'm not so interested in women's asses but I was zoning out and this woman was wearing yoga pants with an Escher print on them and, well, my tired eyes went to the Escher and stayed on the Escher. She told me I was being very, very rude—checking out her ass so blatantly—and I told her 1. that I was very, very sorry, 2. that I am very, very gay, and 3. that she was very, very wearing an Escher print on her ass. It didn't excuse my absentminded staring, of course, and I honestly felt bad for making her feel uncomfortable, but Escher prints! They catch the eye! Yours caught mine! And, hey, maybe someone who feels so strongly about people checking out their ass—someone who finds that very, very rude—might wanna go with some other pattern? Or maybe a solid? Something a little less eye-catching?

We spoke for a few minutes, pretty soon we were laughing about the misunderstanding, and for years we said hey whenever we saw each other at the gym. Then I switched gyms and we lost touch.

Fin.

Anyway, WYDTMU, I think you should speak to the receptionist before switching to another clinic. If you can't bring yourself to speak to her, drop off a note.

Don't mention your abusive mother or that triggering blouse—you don't want to sound like you're making a bid for her sympathy—just tell her that you have a bad habit of fixing your eyes on something and briefly zoning out. Tell her it was her blouse, not her breasts, that you were looking at when you zoned out after your (presumably exhausting) physical therapy session. Add that you would probably have reacted the same way she did had you been on the receiving end of your zoning out. Mention that you're straight—no need to TMI her with info about how you've always been attracted to older people—and then apologize profusely for making her feel uncomfortable at her place of work. Close by offering to switch to another clinic if your presence will continue to upset her.

With any luck you'll soon be laughing about the misunderstanding, WYDTMU, and there won't be a need to switch clinics.