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Thursday, September 02, 2010

Street harassment teaches us to be silent. I refuse to listen.

I thought I'd submit this because it happened a few days ago and I'm still pissed off about it. I wish I knew what I could have done to make it better. I don't know if you'll be able to use this or not, but here goes.

My three roommates and I are coming back from a wonderful late dinner. We're all girls in our early twenties. I keep writing defensive sentences about our appearance ("we weren't dressed as clubgoers, we're all pretty average schlumpy nerds actually") and I really hate that I feel the need to do that, but anyway. As one of us is getting out her keys to get into the building, some scrawny young dude in a white t-shirt walks up to us, alone. "Hey. Hey. Hi. Hi. Hello, girls. Hi."

There goes the residual happiness from our awesome dinner out! We all do the classic 'oh fuck' maneuver of putting our heads down, turning away, ignoring every word and hoping the unwanted stranger goes away. A sick feeling of tension spreads through the group because we are awkward and afraid. I get so ANGRY, though. I am FURIOUS. If we'd had even one guy with us, I bet this scrawny fuck wouldn't be talking shit because he'd be scared, but a group of four girls is nothing, right? (Even though we could so take him. I bet we could so take him.) But to him we're nothing, and the fact that there is zero conceivable reason that four young women would want to communicate with some random strange guy at midnight on the Upper East Side just hasn't penetrated this fellow's thick cranium. What the hell doesn't he get? Why does he think this is okay? Does he get off on knowing he frightens and alarms us? (Yeah, probably.)

And this always happens. You always shut up because you don't want to say anything just in case you're talking to some crazy dangerous guy who'll flip out. You don't want to cause a scene, you don't want to embarrass anybody, you don't want your attempt at defending yourself to backfire. You want to close your eyes and for the issue to go away and then later you think, "I wish I would have said something. I could have said something."

Well FUCK THAT. I'm so SICK of shutting up all the time, and I want him to know that his actions are bloody unwelcome, so I DO say something. "It is midnight, and we are trying to get into our apartment. Nobody wants to talk to you. Go away," I snap at him furiously. My friends are all still quiet as the one roommate fumbles her keys in her nervousness. No one backs me up.

"Aw, now how you gonna talk to me like that? What if I was crazy and had a gun or a knife? What if I was one of them crazy guys that would just go all crazy on you?"

So many responses spring to mind ("Yeah, you wanna be crazy around the corner from a packed bar? You wanna act crazy in the middle of the street? You wanna watch me dial three crazy numbers on my crazy cell phone, idiot? Yeah, if you had that shit, wouldn't you have used it by now?"), but the tension is so thick and sour in my throat. I don't want to give credence to this fool's statement by engaging him in conversation. He isn't worth any of my time. He's obviously not there for any reasonable reason. No debate will register with this one, no argument will work. I don't want to act sweet or nice. I want to be that one mean-faced Bronx bitch you don't fuck with 'cause she's obviously crazy (read: can and will defend herself). But the roommate finally gets the keys to work, and we pile inside, shutting the door behind his insipid questions and implicit threats.

None of us bring this up ever again. It was our last night at the apartment, by the way, and our last dinner as a group, because the lease expired and we were going our separate ways. And it was one of the girl's birthdays, to boot. She turned 20. I still wish I could have said or done something that shut his cravenly, smug face up and make him rethink EVER harassing ANY female EVER again. FUCK him.

Submitted by Nathalie