How not to react, Part II: Scary dirtbag edition

24 Sep

OK. So I did something very stupid, and I only share this story so you don’t repeat my mistake.

Recently I wrote about personal safety and how you should never talk back or respond when someone catcalls you. And, even more recently, I ignored my own advice.

A couple days ago, I was up early for the gym. I was in a great mood, heading up the street to sweat it out on the eliptical when:

“Guhhhmornin’, beautiful.”

It was less derogatory than it could have been, and I was angry, but I didn’t react, turn or even flinch. As I waited at the corner for the light to change, the guy passed me. I had sidled up next to a cop, so feeling safe, I turned to see who it was. No shock that he was your strung out, garden-variety idiot.

But he saw me look at him. And then? I glared. I gave him the angriest face I could create. Mouth slightly open, lower jaw hinged forward, eyes small and transfixed. A look that said (and this is the tame version):

You, pal, are the decay of society. A slime. Disgusting. How dare you.

And then? He glared back, matching my expression if not beating it. I became extremely nervous, that feeling where your brain thumps and your chest feels steamy and your heart speeds up. I have provoked him now, I thought. This is not good.

AND THEN? I glared back AGAIN. We were now in a contest: Who could hate whom more with their death stare? (The cop either didn’t see this or ignored it. Unfortunately, being a dirtbag is legal.) Out of my peripheral vision, I saw the catcaller, while still walking away from me, had turned to glare at me once more. You little bitch, his eyes said. I’ll show you.

I immediately thought, This is why you don’t do this, because now this guy is going to go home, get a gun, follow me home from the gym and shoot me.

So anyway, personal safety blah blah blah moral highground, I screwed up. For the rest of the day, I was paranoid, and it reminded me just how hard it is not to react in those moments. We are degraded and stripped of power, unable to defend against that which doesn’t happen when we’re accompanied by a male. When we’re solo, it a dirtbag’s free-for-all. And it’s not effing fair.

It was scary, but it was mostly my fault that I let it get scary. Not worth it, people. Not worth it. I’m sorry I did it, and I hope you never will. Thanks for letting me tell this story today.

Previously: How not to react when you’re hit on or spit on

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