I Shook My Head “No.” at Him

That’s right, today, in Seattle (Greenwood to be exact) when I walked by that man, the one asking for money as he casually zipped up his pants and asked me for money, I shook my head “NO.” as I walked past him to the coffee shop.

Ew. I realized that on some level, this is related to the drama of the 10m walking video and what makes some men feel they have the right to what, urinate and then ask me for money? I was carrying my 3yo son at the same time and I in my head prayed that my son would never dream of doing anything like that.

For those that don’t know, Greenwood is a neighborhood in Seattle that is akin to Smith street in Brooklyn, it is a cute little area but it isn’t THE area for shopping. I counted and from one angle there were 5 storefronts for lease so I’m not sure it is getting any better, but the coffee shop that I was walking to at the time of this incident today is technically a non-profit, or they seem to be according to their signage.

But anyway, back to that 10m video edited way down, I have some serious feedback on it. Speaking as a relatively young woman who was definitely a young woman when I lived in Brooklyn/NYC from 1999-2006 I can DEFINITELY confirm that is the experience of walking down the streets in NYC. I got VERY well trained in kindly acknowledging guys ‘just enough’ so that they felt that I appreciated their compliments, and didn’t ESCALATE.

Escalate…what do I mean by escalate…well, there was that one guy. When I was pregnant with my oldest daughter, I was living in a brownstone in Brooklyn and at some point I needed to pee (surprising right?) and so I went to walk to the corner store. The store I was walking to was approximately a block from my house, one half a block south and one half a block east. On this particular day, I was speaking to my mother on the phone as I walked to the store to handle my business. I walked the first 1/2 block, and turned, then a guy was trying to talk to me. I shook my head no (I didn’t say anything as I was on the phone) and then…despite my big pregnant belly and me being on the phone…he started yelling at me. He started yelling at me and saying horrible things about how I was basically “racist” because I wasn’t talking to him, a bitch, etc. etc.

Now let me remind you. I was PREGNANT, obviously so at this point and I needed to PEE. I did end up basically yelling back, and telling him this much, terrifying my mother (who I was speaking to) and lucky for him (or me?) a neighbor eventually called him over to talk. I assume on some level that the neighbor was confirming that I was a resident of the neighborhood or something, but it de-escalated at that point.

I was able to get my toilet paper and go home.

Another time, I was on the subway, I was on the subway a lot during my time in NY because in 1999 I had a stroke and for at least a year I was going back to NYU Medical center to get my Protimes tested. This particular time it was crowded though, so imagine a subway filled with folks. People sit right next to each other on the subway, and there are people standing in front of you when it happens. In this instance, the guy who sat next to me felt the need to, I don’t know, measure the space between us or something? He stuck his hand, between my thigh and his, and basically tried to ‘creep’ it towards you know where, between my legs. That was another awkward incident.

Then there was that time in the club…I think it was closing. I was young, pretty sure I was 18 but yes in a club, and with a date, and the crowd was so thick that it basically ‘allowed’ a gentleman who was walking ‘by’ me to reach his creepy little hand UP my skirt enough to fiddle with my underwear. This was in a crowded enough place that I could NOT tell who this was, nor even really say anything because the noise was so loud.

I share all this so that people know that these ‘situations’ where we women feel uncomfortable…DO escalate. If that neighbor hadn’t stepped in, if I didn’t have a date at that club, and so forth, I’m sure I could be telling a much more horrific story.

I can not even estimate the number of times I was told to smile (and probably did so as not to escalate), the number of times someone “complimented” me and I said “thank you” (so as not to escalate) or the number of times someone begged for just a minute to talk and I claimed I had some really important place to go (so as not to escalate).

I actually do have worse stories but I’m not going to go into those right now.

MEN if you are offended by these videos, then speak up when another dude pulls this crap, and when it stops you MIGHT have half a leg to stand on when you say it isn’t a problem.

As a woman I don’t feel safe to wear what I might wear if I felt safe. I think about who I will be with, if a man will be with me to ‘protect’ me, and if I’ll have a safe way to get home before I consider anything other than jeans.

Seeing the guy non-nonchalantly pulling his zipper up in front if me today after peeing on a storefront on a main street only confirmed that I should still be careful. I was glad I wasn’t “too sexy” today.

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