Three days ago I went to get some work done alone at Starbucks. Within seconds after ordering my drink and putting my bags down, a 30-something-year-old man cornered me and started asking me questions. He asked me about where I grew up and about my favorite foods to see if we were “snack compatible.” He left no room for silence and would interrupt me before I could finish a sentence. I would take a step back and he’d take another step forward. It took me a good ten minutes before I could break away to see if my coffee was ready, and when I turned around he was sitting at my table next to my bags. I wish I could say that by this point in my life I’ve learned how to tell someone to fuck off, but I couldn’t. You fantasize about moments like this where you get to put a man in his place, but when it’s actually happening, all you want is to not provoke him.

I started to leave but he grabbed my arm to ask for my number to “see where things go.” I typed a fake number into his phone and tried to walk away as he shouted to me from across the room asking me when I was available. I rushed out and walked 10 minutes down the street to another Starbucks. My night ended with another voice yelling: “Hey cutie, watchu doin out so late?”

Another fun anecdote: Last October, I was walking downtown back to my car around 7:00pm. I suddenly felt a stranger’s two arms move tightly around my waist, almost lifting me off the ground. I was overcome with fear and panic and before I could even process it, he screamed in a loud, spooky, monster voice, “HAPPY HALLOWEEEEEEEN!!!!” and quickly ran away. I whipped around, prepared to say something, and he yelled, “Get a sense of humor!”

Sure, of course not all men are that pushy or disrespectful or scary. But enough are that even fleeting eye contact with a male stranger makes my insides crawl with unease. Enough that when I go out past dark for milk or toilet paper, I carry my keys in hand and I mimic a man’s gait. Women, whether we’ve been raped or harassed or simply disrespected, live with an anxiety that someone could put their hands on us regardless of our feelings on the matter and we now view that as normal. We live in a world where this cynical overcaution is the only thing that ensures our safety. I’m not just going to brush it off and continue with my day when these people cause me a kind of nervousness that I will never be able to cause them. It’s unfair, it’s bullshit, and it’s not okay.

So, this is just a reminder: A woman sitting alone is not waiting for you. A woman walking alone is not asking for your attention. Your weird comments do not flatter her. She is not there to feed your ego.

In the words of Paris Gellar,

“I’m not your mother or your hugger. If you need some love, get a hooker.”

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