I am not one of those women who get annoyed when a man says good morning/afternoon/hello to me as I’m walking down the street. Maybe it’s the Southern in me. I’m programmed to smile, return their greeting, and keep it moving. I know that’s not the same as some of the unwanted attention, harassment, and catcalling that women sometimes deal with. And I’m woman enough to admit that if that greeting includes a “beautiful,” I’m flattered and will put a bit of pep in my step (I honestly don’t think I’m beautiful, but whatever. That’s not to say I think I’m ugly. I don’t believe in false modesty either).
But, if I’m standing on a subway platform, not in any way interacting with you or anyone for that matter… If I’m in fact listening to Spotify on my ear buds, not smiling, not making eye contact, that is not an invitation to approach me.
If I then proceed to say hello and go back to listening to my music, I am not being coy or flirtatious or playing hard to get. That is not me wanting you to move into my personal space.
If I then tell you plainly that I am not interested, that should not give you cause to think it acceptable to sit next to me on the subway when there are plenty of empty seats nearby.
If I tell you no again, that should be the end of it.
This is where the fear comes in.
Certain people think I have issues with being touched. Sometimes. In this instance, it absolutely was true. Because this person was sitting unnecessarily close to me. Connected from shoulders to knees. Of course I would be decidedly uncomfortable with this stranger touching my body, I’m assuming purposely. I stood to get off at the next stop. which thankfully was my own.
And then he stood and followed me.
Intimidation? Maybe. Probably.
Thank God, that’s finally where it ended. He went one way, and I another. But the fear, however brief, was real. And now I’m haunted with what ifs.
What if he continued to follow me?
What if I wasn’t getting off in a busy part of town?
What if it hadn’t been the middle of the day?
What if this had been my stop to get home, where the long NYC block I walk is nothing but empty warehouses?
This is a male who obviously doesn’t take no for an answer. What circumstance would have encouraged him to take it too far?
What if the next woman isn’t as lucky?