Wednesday, November 12, 2014

You Look Really Pretty When You Smile.

When I was a little girl, I was terrified of men. In my only professional photograph, taken at age two, I'm smiling, but my eyes are and swollen. My mom attributes this to the photographer's maleness. I remember feeling afraid of men. Not my dad--well, a little bit--or my brothers, but strange men. Santa Clauses in the mall, photographers, and so on.

My super intense awareness saved me many times, once from a gymnastics coach who tried to convince me to go to the store with him so he could buy me a stuffed animal. For real. I was 9. He was a textbook predator.

I never completely got over that fear. Dr. K, someday when I make it for my appointment, you can undoubtedly help. Feel free to put in my growing file :)

As I got older, I wasn't so much afraid of men as ... uncomfortable. In fact, there are few men in my life with whom I'm really comfortable. I can count them on one hand and a few fingers. The aforementioned physician is an enigma being a virtual stranger and a man with whom I'm comfortable.

Recently articles and videos have shed light on veiled harassment, men telling women to smile, or whistling, cat-calling and more. My dad was a horrible harasser, but he would say he meant it as a compliment, and I genuinely believe his harassment was without malice. I also really loved him so this might be an excuse. He did embarrass me many times by flirting with my friends, waitresses and cashiers.

While I've always been hyper-aware of this behavior, my discomfort doesn't rest on a whistle, wink, sideward glance or whatever. I rarely make eye contact with men (other than the aforementioned ones, my magnificent 7) because I feel like it is an invitation; my eyes give a lot away. This sounds unkind, but I doubt people would judge me if they know what it feels like to walk away from a conversation feeling as if they've been licked all over. You might never have expressed it in such vulgar terms, but I'm willing to bet lots of women know that feeling.

Like the scene from pretty woman where George Costanza tries to rape Julia Roberts. That's an extreme example, but it's the feeling. The weird, uncomfortable, having someone look at you as if you're a meal. The I-wish-I-had-another-button-or-maybe-a-taser feeling.

It is this feeling that makes me despise a few run-of-the-mill tasks: Taking my car for any sort of maintenance, going to a car dealership, taking aluminum cans to the scrap yard; basically anything involving close contact with men who are outside of my circle of comfort.

Recently, I was harassed picking up my daughter from school. One divorced dad decided of all the people standing in line looking at their phones to avoid small talk, he would make small talk with me. As the days wore on, he began seeking me out, commenting on my gym card on my key ring and even asking me when I went, what I did there and so forth. My keys were in my left hand which also bears my WEDDING RING, which he did not mention. Ugh.

Once, I was pursued by a "lonely widower" in Walmart who followed me around the store for about a half hour striking up conversations despite my repeatedly walking away from him. He continued to follow me until I finally said, "You are making me very uncomfortable. I'm walking away, and I'm going to call security if you follow me." Lest there be any doubt.

Not long ago in church, I saved a seat with my purse, and a creepy dude sat there. In church. Calling him creepy might be a sin, but Jesus knows that I tried to be kind. I sat next to him. He leaned up against me and elbowed me when my pastor/brother-in-law made a joke. Said pastor/brother-in-law is really funny (also in my Magnificent 7), so there were lots of jokes and subsequent elbowing and leaning in and, ughhhhh, it was weird. My husband was sitting right behind me perfectly calm as this guy was trying to get to first base. Go figure. "I was right there, babe. You didn't have anything to worry about." But he was annoyed a week later when some creepy guy stared at me.

I'm not picking on men; well, I am picking on men who harass women in church or Walmart or elementary schools or ANYWHERE. My magnificent 7 would not accost anyone in Walmart. I doubt they make women uncomfortable. They are husbands and fathers and probably would not approach a strange woman in a store or parking lot because it could be creepy. And they've heard enough from their wives about creepy men.

Now, I have stopped going to the gym; I'm going to blame it on school-pick-up guy, but that might be a convenient excuse. I schedule any and all stuff that involves a repair man coming into my house to occur only when Brad Bell is here (except for WiFi repairs, but those repair guys are very nice and not creepy--good for you, Time Warner). I still go to Walmart, but I avoid eye contact with just about everyone. And when I pick Lily up from school, I wait til the last minute so I don't have to wait in line and subject myself to any creepiness.

I've got a lot more creepy guy stories; what about you? Have you ever felt uncomfortable, objectified, or like you've been licked all over? Tell me about it, sister.

2 comments:

  1. I worked on Broadway or 15 years. Are you kidding? I felt like a piece of meat ALL THE TIME. Please, a Pulitzer Prize winner tried to stick his hand down my pants.

    Father was from a different time and culture where such things were both expected and accepted. Watch a "His Gal Friday" or anything from the 40s. That said, I do recall a friend of your opining, "I've known your dad since I was a freshman in high school and I don't think we have had a single conversation that didn't involve sex."

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