As much as I loathe the winter and its accursed freezing darkness, all the warm layers provide extra protection against day-to-day molestation. It's a whole lot harder to assess whether an ass is grabbable when it's covered by a long, bulky coat. Summer may be the time for pretty dresses, sandals, and sunshine, but it's also the time for catcalls and groping. A small man with a Ron Jeremy mustache and a backpack was kind enough to slip his hand up my skirt yesterday as a friendly reminder of the change in seasons.
I took an informal poll of several female friends, all of whom have experienced varying degrees of harassment since moving to New York. Everyone agrees: dudes are going to say weird shit. My favorite comment came from Sunday afternoon, when a man shouted, "Damn, girl, I wanna wipe my sweat off on you!" at a friend as she walked into Target. The debate starts when it comes to the question of how to respond to unwanted groping, rubbing, and exposures. Only one friend can remember actually confronting someone who harassed her, and she readily admits that the jerks she shouted at were teenagers. Why is it so damn hard to turn around and slap some sleaze in the face?
I know the answers: patriarchy, shock, shame, the lingering fear that we may have somehow been asking for it., etc. I know that I could find a way to pretend they were the reason I simply turned away after I looked back and saw that creep leering, knowing he'd just gotten away with violating me(I've see the same look on the faces of a dangerously lecherous cab driver and a rapist). But I don't want to deduce the exact reason I chickened out. I want to wear my cute dresses and enjoy the part of my life where I'm not chubby and awkward and not wonder which Abercrombie-clad commuter is going to whip out his dick as the train pulls away. It shouldn't be MY problem. It shouldn't happen to me once a month. It just shouldn't happen.
I know it could be worse. I've dealt with worse. I read the story about the college student in CT who was assaulted while surrounded by a cheering crowd. I'm just tired of reminding myself that not all men do these things, that I can't let these experiences stop me from being my outspoken self, that I have to expect these things occasionally. Why can't one of these guys pass up a cheap, fleeting thrill, if for no other reason than that they wouldn't want someone doing the same thing to their mother?
I know that would be a magical utopia. There would probably be unicorns, and I could eat as much buttered popcorn as I want and never get fat. The only thing I can think to do is to throw my (totally undeserved but still present) shame and anger back at my (future) molesters. I'm furious with myself for not knocking Mr. Backpack and his stupid grin down the rest of those stairs. He knew he deserved it, and he knew I wasn't going to do a damn thing about it. I told myself the last time this happened, "Next time, there will be Hell to pay." Now that I have to look, again, to "next time," I finally understand why the first cab driver I ever had in New York gave me the advice he did: don't smile, and maybe carry a small knife. I like to smile. A lot. I guess that leaves the knife.