I think today I’m emerging from a bit of a depressive episode. I’m actually having a four day weekend, because my org gave us off on Friday as a ‘sorry that COVID sucks’ day off, and of course today it’s memorial day.
Something happened on Saturday that really set me off, depression-wise. I needed to go to the pharmacy, and to pick up a few groceries. I dressed in my workout clothes (the only thing I wear now) and walked to the store. All my normal workout shirts were dirty, so I wore a University of Oregon shirt from a few years ago (this is important later). It was pretty nice weather, so no jacket required. Every time I walk anywhere, I wear sunglasses and earbuds, and my mask, which feels like three layers of protection. Sunglasses so no one feels like they can catch my eye, earbuds so no one thinks I can hear them talking to me, and the mask so that I don’t catch or spread a deadly virus.
What it’s like to be me is that a disturbing percentage of the time I go out, I get harassed by creeps. To me, this is ABSURD. It doesn’t matter what I’m wearing or how I’m dressed. It happens if I’m dressed well and looking cute, and it happens if I’m unshowered, no make-up, and in workout clothes. I think each look has its appeal with the creeps. I’ve wondered if I give off some victim energy, but I don’t think that I do? For one, I’m 5‘11” and not thin, so I can hold my own physically. Second, I have all the accessories to convey a message of “leave me the fuck alone”. And third, everyone who knows me knows that I take NO shit, so I don’t think I’m walking around with a vulnerable posture / energy. I am, however, pretty anxious every time I go out, so maybe that shows somehow?
I went to the pharmacy with no issue, then headed to the grocery store. I got my basket and the chopped fruit caught my eye - sometimes I like to contemplate buying pre-cut watermelon, even though I never do. I was staring into the case, when a weird looking guy, probably around 60, gets in between me and the fruit. He got right up close to me, and was NOT wearing a mask, and started saying something to me. I took out my earbud and he said “YEAH that’s right, you can talk to me”, like he was fucking shaming me for trying to mind my own business. Then he started to try to get all personal and was asking about my shirt, what school was it, what did I major in, when did I get it, etc. I mumbled a few answers and then realized where this was going, and just put my earbud back in and walked away. To be clear, this was not a normal friendly person just happy about my shirt. I’ve had that happen before too, and I can tell the difference between someone who is friendly, and someone who sees me as a piece of meat. The fucking sad thing is, this shirt has been a problem before. Give these creeps any identifying detail about yourself, and they’ll decide it’s an invitation to talk to you. I saw him a couple more times before leaving the store, and each time he made sure to know that he noticed me. I strategically joined a checkout line where he wouldn’t be able to get close to me again.
Like I said, this sort of thing happens to me all the time. Maybe.. 40% of all the times I leave the house alone? Happens when I’m on a run or a walk, it’s happened to me at that store several times before. It happens on public transit. It happens at the gas station, in the 5 minutes I’m out of my car to fill up. It happens when I’m walking from my car to a restaurant. It is the WORST fucking feeling to not be able to go out in the world without people deciding they have a right to insert themselves into your life in a decidedly creepy way.
And it’s not only that they make me uncomfortable, it’s that these things can escalate really quickly. A split second after sternly turning down a guy’s advances, he can fly into a rage. This has happened to me countless times. When these men see you as an object rather than a person, they are quick to anger when you don’t act how they want you to act. And I’ll also mention that this n-e-v-e-r happens to me when I’m out with a guy (guy friends included), because these predators are only interested in vulnerable women.
It never ends. I don’t know how to deal with it- it makes me sick. I can’t even tell you the amount of peace and safety I feel when I’m in a group of women… because guess what, women tend to not do this shit.
Given that this is not changing anytime soon, I need a way to deal with this better. I can’t live with this anxiety of going out. I can’t live with these shitty interactions ruining my day. The question is.. how?