The trouble is, there’s no foolproof method for knowing which ones are and which one’s aren’t, because sometimes perpetrators masquerade as gentlemen, friendly and endearing, a breath of fresh air. When men, especially men much older than I and outside of my peer group, pay me more attention than customary, I find myself speaking to them, barely aware of what I am saying, while the dialogue in my head asks, ”Is this appropriate? Why is he being so friendly to me? Am I being paranoid?” I don’t want to think those things, I don’t relish in the scrutiny and questioning of men’s motives, but that’s a luxury most women aren’t afforded. We have to be aware, we have to be vigilant about our own safety, and many of us choose to be wary in our interactions with men, not because we enjoy doing so, but because it could spare us from assault, from violence, and violation.
Then again, it may not. Like I said, there’s no foolproof method.
The other day, coming home, there was a man looping through the low hanging leaves of a tree, and for a moment, his face enshrouded in the shadows, I thought he was my neighbor, so I smiled. As soon as I did, I realized he wasn’t my neighbor at all, but it was too late, and when he asked what I was so happy about, I should have said, “Sorry, I thought you were my neighbor,” but instead I found myself making a nonchalant remark about just being friendly. Then suddenly he’s asking if I live around there, asking for my name is, introducing himself and thrusting his open palm at me, which reluctantly, I shake. I decide to not walk up to where I live, but instead go across the street and meander around for a few minutes, seeing his figure disappearing southward, into the glare of the afternoon sun. All I want to do is go home, so I do, but as I climb the stairs, I glance to where he vanished, and see a figure, small and almost distinguishable, but clothed in the same color, stopped and looking down the block to where I stand. And I wonder, will he come back? Will he wait for me outside my building, and stalk me? All because I made a human mistake, thinking he was my neighbor, and smiled?
As a female, there’s danger to a smile in the streets. I long for the freedom, to greet even strangers with a friendly grin, and never have my heart squeeze nervously that I’ve just jeopardized my safety, or picked up a stalker.
I go where I wish, travel solo overseas, because I won’t let the bad guys win and keep me home, cowering in fear of them, but I do find myself on edge in conversations, analyzing the amounts of attention paid to me, by men I don’t know, looking for any threatening clues, that they do not have good intentions. When I am left alone, isolated amongst men I do not know, I’m acutely aware of how vulnerable I am. I know I’ll be hollered at when I’m walking home after dark, even if it’s on the street I live on, my home. In India, I was taunted and accused of racism when I refused to engage in what must have been the hundredth man on the streets striking up a conversation with me that day, because I had a migraine, and I was tired, and it was 120 degrees.
No woman should have to apologize for making her way, best as she can, in a world that is constantly made unsafe for her, where sometimes she is treated as no more than a weapon of war, a bargaining chip, an object, for the pleasure of men, something to be bought, sold, and owned. No woman.
"I like cancelled plans. And empty bookstores. I like rainy days and thunderstorms. And quiet coffee shops. I like messy beds and over-worn pajamas. Most of all, I like the small joys that a simple life brings."
— Notes To Myself (via wolfskinder)