“I’ll tell you I love you”

This one’s from back in January.

I went to Sam’s Club today to get a box of the Atkins shakes that I have for breakfast on the way to work. When I got to the checkout, I had just that box and a bag of cheese sticks in my cart. I had to wait a while in the checkout line, and when I got to the point where my cart had just reached the conveyor belt, an older man – maybe late 70’s, mid 80’s, approached the end of the conveyor belt. Instead of getting in line behind me, he looked instead like he was planning to cut in front of me. I hesitated for a few seconds, but he didn’t move to get in front of me, so I pushed my cart forward. He continued to stand next to me until I got along enough that I could put my things on the conveyor, but he stayed way too close.

He gestured with his package of steaks and said “I’m glad to see I’m not the only one that comes to Sam’s for just one or two things!” I smiled and agreed. That wasn’t the problem.

Then he poked the box of Atkin’s shakes and said “what’s that?” Annoying, but also not the problem. I had to repeat myself several times because he seemed to not hear me. Again, not the problem. He was still *right there* – right up against my cart, his package of steaks just a few inches from my stuff.

The cashier tossed the conveyor divider down the belt, on the other side of his steaks. I moved it between.

He said “You need to move that…unless you want to pay for them!”

I demurred.

Then he said “I’d tell you that I love you!”

That’s when I froze. That was an . . . odd . . . and intrusive thing to say. Sure, if we were friends, that would be funny. But he was a stranger and he was creeping me out, and I didn’t know what to say. How does one gently play off a comment like that?

When I got to the cashier, I had to surrender my cart so she could pull it around to the end, and once again he was right next to me. When I took one step over after running my credit card, he immediately stepped up to the register with his checkbook.

As I turned to leave, the cashier asked for the Sam’s card for him . . . and looked at me. She read his body language as being *with me*. That’s how close and assuming he’d been.

I wasted no time getting out of there. The entire way to the parking lot, I looked to make sure he wasn’t behind me. It doesn’t make a difference that I’m a grown woman and he appeared to be old enough to actually cause me any physical harm. But I don’t want to be the crazy lady who yells at a “nice” old man in the parking lot. I don’t need that emotional load and I didn’t ask for it.

Encounters like this are difficult to explain to someone that’s never experienced anything like it. On its face, it doesn’t sound that bad. But we deal with crap like this every day. The construct “If you do x, then I’ll do/say y” where the speaker thinks that “y” is something the woman wants to hear . . . . And women, who are supposed to be “nice,” smile and nod and hope they aren’t followed.

Tonight at the Y

Tonight at the Y: I was headed to the women’s locker room after Yoga class in a safe, well-lighted space. I got about 10 feet from the hallway (wide and also well-lighted) when I noticed three muscular young men turning into the hallway. My immediate first response was to stop (although I’m sure it was barely noticeable to anyone who may have been watching me-just a hiccup, not a breaking of stride) and think quickly about whether or not it was “safe” to enter the hallway with three unknown men. The barely noticeable hiccup was because it’s a safe, well-lighted space with room to move.

This is what it’s like to be a woman.

The women’s locker room was pretty deserted and I had my pick of showers. As I was shampooing my hair with my eyes closed, I heard someone moving around a few feet away, and although I knew it was probably someone that was supposed to be there, I quickly washed the soap off of my face so that I could see and be able to defend myself.

This is what it’s like to be a woman.

It’s not like I walk around looking furtively into every dark corner; I don’t. I don’t worry incessantly about being attacked and distrust everyone I meet. But society has taught me that if something *does* happen to me, I’d better make damned sure that there’s no way I can possibly have been construed to be at fault for not being careful enough. It’s my job to make sure I’m not vulnerable in any situation. You can’t make that kind of demand of a human being and then expect them to not live this way.

This is what it’s like to be a woman.

This is what it’s like to be a woman.

I’d love to be able to write some kind of brilliant intro, but I’m more interested in giving myself enough time to work on the article I’m revising, so instead I’ll get right to it:

a lot of good men don’t understand what the big deal is.

They get that rape is bad. They get that rape is complicated. But they can’t understand why women sometimes agree to sex that they don’t really want to have, why a woman might engage in other forms of sexual activity and feel violated, or why – god help them – women go to the bathroom in groups and otherwise travel in packs. They have absolutely no idea what it’s like to walk around in a female body.

I realized shortly after #metoo started trending and so many women started sharing their stories that I am so used to being vigilant about my safety that I’d stopped noticing it. I started saying things like “I’ve never experienced . . . . well, wait a minute.” It’s so much a part of my daily existence as a woman that it’s become part of the wallpaper.

So this thread is my chronicle of those simple, everyday little moments that would otherwise sink below the surface of consciousness in my daily routine. This is mostly for me . . . but if it helps someone else, that’s a great bonus.

Stupid, trolling, nasty, and abusive comments will not be tolerated. I just don’t have time for you.