Appalachian Ohio, Athens GA, Atlanta, Berkeley, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Columbia MO, Des Moines, Fredericksburgh VA, Jacksonville NC, Los Angeles, New York City, NYU, Philadelphia, Palo Alto, Portland ME, Richmond VA, Rutgers University, San Francisco
I was walking up the street headed to my favorite little store when I saw a man on a bike … I had my earphones plugged into my phone and immediately called my brother, hoping to have a buffer because the guy started saying “Hey Sweetie! Sweetie!” as soon as I got close.
My brother didn’t pick up but I pretended to be talking to him — sometimes that sort of thing works; I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had pretend phone conversations when I felt uncomfortable in public. Anyway, I greeted and said my brother’s name as the guy continued to follow me, calling “Sweetie! Sweetie!” but when I said my brother’s name, the guy on the bike said, “That’s not my name, it’s [whatever it was, I was way too freaked out to recall, but it might've been Walt].”
About that time my brother actually called me back but in my distress and haste to answer I accidentally hung up on him. Walt, or whatever, picked up his rhetoric, saying “You know how I know you’re not a street woman?” and repeating it several times when I didn’t answer. He’d followed me for a couple blocks now, and I was starting to get scared, so I said, “Please leave me alone, I’m on the phone with my brother.”
Well, I got half through that and he started with the usual, “FUCK YOU BITCH” sort of thing; I tuned it out because he was finally riding away, I’d successfully dialed my brother by this time, and he answered about then. Luckily I was now at my destination, but I saw the man up ahead, beyond the store’s lot, and he appeared to be waiting for me. I ducked into the store, nervous, still on the phone with my brother.
I recounted to him what had happened and, as per the usual, he made a show of threatening the guy. Which, you know, I appreciate, but he lives in a different state, so not really useful in the here and now. Anyway, I talked to him about what’d happened and he actually was totally sympathetic — to the point where I was genuinely moved. I told him a little of what it was like to have someone follow you or have someone harass you and how a lot of times my male friends have said, “Oh, I would love it if someone complimented me!” and how infuriating that is.
And he totally got it.
Anyway, I spent about twenty minutes in the store hoping the guy wouldn’t wait around for me and wanting to murder my Catch The Bus ap because it was down and I couldn’t see when the next bus was coming — I had been hoping to jump on that just in case. Lucky for me, the guy was gone when I finally left the store, but I stayed on the phone with my brother just to sort of feel more secure as I walked home. As we chatted I told him that if he ever saw someone bothering a woman on the street to please intervene if possible, and he said that he absolutely would.
Honestly, what happened really sucked and freaked me out, but I am really thankful for the conversation I had with my brother and that I know he is both sympathetic to AND will stand up for any victims of street harassment that he sees.
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