My partner and I were on vacation in New Orleans the week after Christmas. Having left snowstorms behind us at home, we were enjoying the sunshine and wearing jeans and t-shirts.
One morning, we were sitting waiting for the street car at the stop by the French Market when a man approached me and very cordially asked me, “What type of shoes are those?”
He was about middle aged, looked clean enough, and seemed friendly. I was wearing plain black leather loafers, but the brand name escaped me. I guess I assumed he was looking for something similar for his wife or daughter. I smiled, slipped off my shoe and read him the brand. He asked if the leather was soft. Alarm bells should’ve gone off when he knelt at my side and took the shoe from my hand, but he just seemed so genuine. He noted the padded insert and asked if I had high arches.
Suddenly he had my foot in his hand and was squeezing it in different places. I was starting to get nervous, but he was calmly going on about being a reflexologist and I was caught between stunned silence and naive belief. It wasn’t until he painfully pressed down on a bone in my foot I’ve broken twice in the past that I was jolted back to my senses. With his hands still on my foot, he started asking my girlfriend about her feet. I pulled my foot away, still smiling and trying to be polite.
Then, without either of us even saying anything to him to end the encounter, he was just gone. I suppose he’s done this enough times to know when the game is over, because he completely disappeared the instant before either of us became confrontational.
In retrospect, I’m upset with myself for doing nothing. I’ve told cat-callers to fuck off more times than I can count, called supervisors of men who’ve harassed me while they were on the job, and I read blogs like this one regularly. I KNOW better. I stick up for myself and others when I see or experience street harassment. But here was a man TOUCHING me and trying to touch my girlfriend, and I smiled and nodded while it went on for several minutes. The whole experience left me feeling disgusting and was really triggering for me as a sexual assault survivor.
Location: New Orleans, LA, near the French Market