It’s November. And there is a lot of work for me to do. But something happened yesterday that I can’t get out of my head.
I was harassed for the first time–not ever, but the first time in Victoria. Harassed on the street by a stranger. I was waiting at my bus stop downtown, across from Tomley’s Market, where I’d just bought canned beans and ground beef, three stalks of celery, and some tomato juice. My phone had died and instead of cruising social media I was standing, thinking, staring into nothing, wondering, “Should I put chick peas in my chilli tonight?”
And some toothless asshole strolled by. He said something offensive to a girl waiting with me, and she did what women do when men are assholes–she ignored him. And then he turned his focus to me, the girl in a long Eddie Bauer raincoat and a tight topknot.
“Sexy bun,” he said, thrusting his pelvis towards me and opening his mouth into a gummy smile. I stared straight ahead. My jaw clenched, my face warm with shame. Shame at being objectified. Shame at my reflex to smile, because that might make him go away. Shame at feeling powerless. Shame. Shame. Shame. He continued to stand in front of me, too close. I wanted to take a step back. I wanted to wind up and sock him in his empty mouth. I wanted to protect myself. But I walk that thin line of being a bitch, when a man is just paying me a compliment.
So instead I slid my eyes over from nothing onto him. A dead stare into his happy face.
“Have a good night,” he said, and laughed as he walked away.
This isn’t the first time I’ve had a situation with a man like that. But this is the first time I’ve said anything like this about it. Normally, it’s a funny story to tell girlfriends and we can laugh at the shared inside joke. But this time, I’m mad. Madder than usual. I’m mad that I can’t go back to that bus stop, now. I’m mad that I’ll have to hoof it an extra block or so just to feel safe. I’m mad that I felt unsafe in the first place. I’m mad that he laughed. I’m mad that he called my bun sexy. I’m mad that he felt entitled to not only objectify me, but then wait for a goddamn response. I’m mad that I couldn’t do anything about it, and I’m mad that the next time I find myself in that situation, I might feel that exact same way. I’m mad at myself and I’m mad at the world and I don’t know what to do anymore.
I want to say that I’m done with being polite. But that’s not enough. And it won’t be enough on a darkened street. I want to say I’ll take a defence course, learn how to SING Miss Congeniality-style. But that’s not enough, either. Because for every knuckle I bust (in the event I land a punch on a misogynistic jawline), there will be another asshole in line. I am not enough to protect myself. And when that realization hits, anger dissipates. And I’m just sad.
I wish I had a happy ending for this, a subversion that twists the narrative back in my favour. But I don’t. I do, however, welcome suggestions on how other women deal with this behaviour. If you have any tips, tricks, or handy maneuvers–let me know. And if you have any stories you want–need–to share, pass those along too.