It’s been really hot out lately, and so I’ve been wearing shorts and t-shirts all the time. This is the first year in a long time I’ve had the guts to wear shorts that are higher than my knees.
The problem with this, while walking and standing in public a lot is it is basically the same thing as wearing a sandwich board saying “please talk to me about my legs and touch my arms every second and then try to look down my shirt”.
I don’t want to beat a dead horse about the whole DON’T TOUCH PEOPLE WITHOUT THEIR PERMISSION thing but seriously, don’t.
Anyway so after work I walked to the bus stop. It’s not a long walk but it was hot out and I was wearing a backpack and had just finished a day of work where I had to talk to strangers all day. Basically not in a mood to suffer fools, if you get my drift.
So I’m sitting on the bench listening to a podcast and trying to relax when I saw somebody out of the corner of my eye. Standing in front of me. Facing me.
Here we go.
I chanced a glance at him and yes, he was staring at me in that weird way I’ve grown so used to over the past few years. It’s sort of the way a predator looks at prey. I know it sounds dramatic but it’s seriously how I feel. Normally when I get the look I instinctively take myself out of the firing zone. Mixing metaphors is my thing today I guess.
If I don’t move they will come over and ask me something inappropriate. I’m spot on probably ninety percent of the time. And yesterday I didn’t feel like moving so I chose the sunglasses on, looking the opposite direction, listening to my iPod method of ignoring people.
He started talking.
I kept looking away.
So he waved his hand in front of my face, which is fucking seriously the most annoying thing people do to me. Unless I am in physical danger do not wave your hand in front of my face to get my attention. I clearly don’t feel like engaging.
He wasn’t letting up so I took out my earbuds and said in my scary mom voice “pardon me?”. If you have a scary mom voice, try using it on stupid people! It counteracts the dumb lot of the time. But not this time, unfortunately.
“Are those real?”
I sat there for probably a good twenty seconds staring at him. I just do not want to encourage this type of behavior any more. I’m over it.
Finally I answered. “What did you say?”
“Are those real?”
I turned away, signalling the end of my part in this conversation. He went on for a bit, detailing the ones he liked the most. People do this to me all the time, they give me a list and it’s usually the same tattoos each time too. The “crowd pleasers” if you will.
“I love that skull. I like that…is that a my little pony? It’s so colorful! What’s that? A bear? Is that a dinosaur? I love the colors. I like that Ukrainian doll.” etc etc etc etc
I was just sitting there as he went on and on. And it wasn’t just that he was talking to me, listing my body parts, it was that he was bending right close to my shins, then walking to my side and bending down inches away from my bicep, then walking all the way to the other side of me, kneeling down to get a better look at my calves while I sat on the bench awkwardly. By this point I was ready to get up and leave but my bus would be there any minute and then I’d be stuck waiting another twenty minutes in that heat. So I stayed.
We had an audience of two twenty-something boys who were both kind of laughing behind their hands too about this weird encounter, and when I noticed them I realized I had to say something to stop this. Because maybe, even if this was a crazy person I was dealing with who wouldn’t get it, these two boys would hear me and understand that this is not okay behaviour.
So I stopped him mid-sentence with a “HEY.”
He stopped talking.
“You’re making me very uncomfortable.”
I said it in a loud, clear, strong voice to be sure he knew I meant business and so the other guys could hear.
He started muttering and then said out loud “SORRY” in a very un-sorry voice. But he left. And I was left with a racing heart, half-way to a panic attack. And I was proud of myself for being assertive.
Walking home from the bus that same day I was shouted at from a car window. I was gazing at the sidewalk ahead of me, listening to a podcast but I just know when it’s directed at me. I continued looking straight ahead but they were stopped at the light I had to stop at and started whistling to get my attention.
I looked up and it was a couple hispanic dudes, maybe in their fifties, or forties with skin damage. The car was all pimped and they were wearing tank tops so … I doubt Victoria has cholos but I would almost describe them that way. And I couldn’t hear what the guy in the passenger seat was saying but he gave me the thumbs up.