Yesterday I was walking down my street heading home, and right outside my apartment I passed by two guys in their twenties heading towards me. A couple of seconds after we had passed each other one of them yelled to me, “Put a smile on your face!”
I was caught off guard and I turned around to see his inane grin. I’m afraid I only replied in a meek and confused tone, “I don’t know you…don’t tell me what to do.”
This made me furious because for a week I had been anxious about my boyfriend and I splitting up. We were due to have a serious chat tonight. So a lot of things were on my mind. I don’t have to explain why a stranger telling me to smile ticked me off.
But LATER that night I was heading to the store for groceries when I passed a neighbor (who has never struck me as particularly friendly – more thuggish) in a wheelchair lounging with a group of friends on the sidewalk outside his apartment. As I approached, his friends signalled to him and he turned around and breathed “Hi, Baby” as I walked past. I gave a disgusted look but marched on. He continued with, “I said Hi… What the fuck.”
At this point I was really sick and tired of it. Why do these incidents occur more often when you are in a vulnerable emotional and mental state?
Well, it wasn’t over. Tonight I was on my WAY to the dreaded conversation with boyfriend and was walking out of the subway train on the platform towards the exit, deep in thought. Suddenly a voice very close over my shoulder says “Hi, How are you?” Startled, I stopped and turned around and saw a guy in his twenties in a dress shirt and suit pants, looking at me EXTREMELY INTENTLY. As I stared at him in evident confusion he defended himself with “Just saying “hi”. I said, alright, and backed up past him and exited through the nearest turnstile, picking up my pace. Ahead of me was an escalator and a row of two or three staircases. I picked the stairs on the far right because I didn’t look forward to having this character follow me or stand behind me on the escalator.
When I was almost at the top I heard a voice right behind me: “I want to talk to you”. It was him AGAIN! I shook my head and said, in a not friendly tone, “Maybe I don’t WANT to talk.”
I reach the outside of the station, and he’s right behind me, saying with much resentment: “Maybe you have a bad attitude.” I turn right and start heading in the direction of my meeting place. I turn around and, raising my voice, say “Maybe you’re a CREEP.” He starts responding, equally loudly, with an expletive here and there, but I’m no longer listening but walking away in a rage. I turn around and scream finally: “GET AWAY FROM ME, YOU FUCKING CREEP!” As I walk on, I hear that he has called after me one more time, so I give him the finger as a final parting gift.
When I find my bf, I tell him I need to take ten, because my Zen-like state which I found so necessary to have a calm conversation with the person I love about going our separate ways, had been ruined.
This was the first time I had responded this way to street harassment. And it didn’t make me feel immediately better, because I was pondering – did I overreact? Was it even effective in showing this guy that women have a right to be left alone in public? Should I have kept my voice calm and instead informed him that he should leave me alone, before freaking out like I did?
But posting here has been cathartic. NO. I did NOT overreact. Maybe I’m a crazy bitch. more likely, I’m having a bad day. Either way you do NOT know me and if you don’t want a bad reaction from a woman, DON’T FOLLOW STRANGERS!
Location: Bowling Green, NY