And suddenly I got what the big deal was about kissing. How someone could suck on your bottom lip and make you come completely undone. That someone stroking the hair back from your face could make you swoon and someone sliding his hands underneath your top could make you feel wanted for the first time in your life.
Last night a man asked me for a dollar as I left the subway on my way home. I gave him one.
He then proceeded to start talking to me and followed me for ten minutes as I tried to walk home. He ignored my repeated attempts to part ways and made comments about my body, his body and allude to us having sex. He asked personal questions about my life. He asked if I was married. I told him that I had a boyfriend, not because I owed him any answer, but my past experience has shown that these type of men, when hearing you are ‘taken’ often will leave you alone out of respect, not for you of course, but for the man who already ‘has’ you.
He walked all the way to the block I lived, talking away, moving closer to my side while I clutched my keys, splayed out between my fingers in one pocket and my cell phone in the other, mind frantically going over my options to get out of this situation. How to get away from this man without angering him. How to get into my apartment without him seeing where I lived.
When I turned the corner of my block I saw that the bodega was open. I told him I had to go to the store and said, again, good night. He followed me into the store, where with witnesses and the store owner who knows my face I had to courage to tell him to stop following me. That I didn’t want him to know where I lived. To go away.
He called me a bitch.
The store owner made him stay in the store long enough for me to dart across the street, duck into my apartment, and lock the door behind me.
I’ve spent most of today going over in my head what I did wrong to get into this situation.
I was stupid to give him a dollar. To speak to him after. To let him walk with me so far. To be so concerned with being polite.
But what that really boils down to is that I, my entire life, have been told that being a woman in public is asking for attention, and once received it is my fault in some way.
I don’t owe anybody conversation, my number, my time. It’s not a complement.
The truly insidious thing about harassment is that in the moment, the potential violence, quiet, persistent and vague threat combine with a world of people telling you that if something bad happens to you it’s YOUR fault. The conditioning women receive to be ‘nice’, be polite, smile for goodness sake (lest, horrors of all horrors we become that horrendous monster, a bitch). All this is why we accept being uncomfortable, being afraid, why we consider how our keys could be used as a weapon.
The man called me a bitch, and my biggest regret today is that I wasn’t a bigger one.
|Jonathan, 55:||There is no such thing as “the only one”. You will meet lots of “the ones”. Only commit when the timing is right for the both of you – that can take years for some, and that’s okay.|
|Miranda, 24:||Drop pre-med.|
|Isaac, 48:||Deodorant does not count as a shower, and that haircut only looked good on Bon Jovi.|
|Anya, 42:||Make the conscious decision to be happy, and then stick with it. Society will do everything in its power to convince you that your personal happiness is dependent on something external – beauty, success, wealth, etc. – it isn’t.|
|Parker, 55:||60% of the things you think are important now won’t matter a whit to you by the time you reach 50. The trick is to figure out the important 40% and work it.|
|Megan, 34:||He doesn’t love you, and you will be okay.|
|Peter, 58:||Don’t let anything stand in your way of taking part (or all) of your junior year abroad. You’ll never again have quite the same opportunity to experience a foreign land, for an extended period of time, in your youth. It is destined to be one of the most memorable aspects of your life.|
|Eleanor, 67:||Talk less. Listen more.|
|Donald, 27:||There’s a huge difference between who you want to be and who everyone around you wants you to be. Figure out which is which.|
|Camille, 56:||Always remember: when falling off a horse, pull your tongue in.|
|Jackson, 57:||No one knows anything for sure. They’re all just doing the best they can with what they have, just like you.|
|Vicki, 47:||You’ll never have all the answers, so make every question count.|
|Donald, 38:||You don’t have to grow up to be the dad you never had.|
|Katelyn, 30:||Make the most out of college. You will never again be at a place where your only goal is to learn. Learn a lot, learn often, and learn with reckless abandon.|
|Joshua, 55:||Women love to laugh.|
|Annabelle, 38:||Drugs are not beautiful, glamorous or opulent. They are not a remedy, a solution, a cure-all, or a cure-anything.|
|Colin, 50:||You miss so much life when you sleep until 3 PM. Wake up to see sunrises; they are the most stunning of nature’s masterpieces.|
|Eleanor, 26:||Eating two pints of ice cream won’t make you happy. Neither will sprinting 10 miles. Be nice to yourself.|
|Aaron, 52:||Don’t forget to ask that girl in the Oberlin library what kind of perfume she’s wearing. You’ll buy it for her in 20 years.|
|Scarlett, 54:||Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Those that get you will love you, those that don’t, well, their loss. Just remember: Wherever you are, it’s a party.|
|Zack, 9:||I hope you’re awesome. And be nice to girls.|