Almost every time I talk to my mother on the phone, she wants to know, "Do you have a boyfriend yet?" When I tell her no, she often reminds me that I am getting older; I am an old maid; her friends' daughters (many of whom are younger than me) are now married with children.
I never told her about He-Who-I-Shall-Not-Name-Without-Spitting-on-The-Ground-and-Cursing. I haven't told her about most of the other guys I've dated, who are the reasons that chastity belts should make a comeback.
Recently, there was a controversy over a video that was made of a woman walking around and that featured all the men calling out to her. A lot of people criticized the video, because some of the men were "only" saying hello and therefore the woman should feel flattered, not upset. In all the years I've lived in Chicago, guys have tried to come on to me
in public on a regular basis. It doesn't make me feel flattered, attractive or
special. It makes me feel wary, annoyed, and scared.
Last week, I was walking home from the train station when I saw a guy walking towards me. I tried to step out of his way, but he blocked my path and jumped at me, arms outstretched, as he yelled something nonsensical at me. I stepped away again and he kept lunging at me, before walking off and saying, "Dumb bitch." I yelled after him something that rhymes with "Buck shoe." Maybe I shouldn't have, but I was angry that he thought it was okay to attack a stranger who hadn't even done anything to him.
One day I was on my way to a bookstore and a guy said, "Hello." I made the mistake of saying hello back, and he took that as an invitation to follow me down the street. When I ignored him, he started screaming at me and calling me a racist. (FYI: I am NOT a racist. I ignored him not because his ethnicity was different but because he was way too aggressive, which turned me off.)
That's happened to me before. When I reject or ignore creeps like that, they accuse me of being a racist, an idiot, a lesbian, a bitch, etc. It infuriates me that jerks think it's okay to harass women and then insult them when the women try to walk away. How would they feel if women did that to them? These losers just don't understand how scary and intimidating it can be when you're a woman walking alone, no matter what time of day it is, when you are well aware of what can happen (especially in a city like Chicago, which unfortunately is well-known for its violence).
I've seen women do it too, though to a lesser extent. Once I saw a woman trying to strike up a conversation with a guy who was at least fifteen years younger than her. He was polite but clearly not interested, and she clearly didn't get it. He finally told her that he just wanted to be left alone, and she walked away.
Sometimes, the guys aren't creepy so much as just clueless. I was studying in a coffee shop and one of the old men who are omnipresent in coffee shops (they're usually playing chess, reading the paper, or chatting with baristas) struck up a conversation with me. He invited me to have dinner with him sometime, and I politely declined, though I wanted to say, "If you weren't old enough to be my grandfather, I might say yes. But you are, so NO!"
I don't tell my parents about this. They'd just see it as more evidence of why I need to leave Chicago, because they want me to live in the same city as them, where they can control where I live, where I work, and even what kinds of groceries I should buy. I'd rather stay in a city that I chose, even if it means dealing with creeps on a regular basis.
I'm not saying it's never okay for men to approach women. It's just that there's a time and a place for everything. And if a woman makes it clear that she's not interested, then the guy should BACK OFF and not insult her.
The last guy I liked, who liked me back, wasn't someone I met online. He was someone who struck up a conversation with me one day, and we just kept talking. Unlike all those other guys I mentioned, he wasn't violent, insulting, creepy, or old enough to be my father (or grandfather). He seemed like a genuinely nice guy. He didn't show his true colors until much later.
What about you? Do you ever get harassed or approached by guys who think that hello or even just eye contact is an invitation? How do you deal with it?
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