Mid-Day Grocery Run

I was running over to Safeway for some essentials around midday on a Wednesday. I descended the front staircase to my apartment complex in a typical afternoon frump outfit when my heart sank. I noticed a crowd of men hanging on the corner about 100 meters away. Some were sitting, some were standing, all were chatting excitedly. It’s not that I’m not neighborly, but my time spent walking these streets has trained me like Pavlov’s dog to expect what I now deem the inevitable: coos and calls and hoots and hollers, all unwanted attention.

As I suspected, I approached the corner of 15th and R and waited for a green light, while the men all stood up to give me the old ‘up and down’ and ask me where I’m going, what I’m doing, and can they come. As I also suspected, I evoked the presence of a man to “protect” myself, regain agency, regain control. I playfully responded, “I live with someone, boys, thanks though,” to which one of the men responded “Where’s he at? I’ll live with you.” I smiled and walked away from a sea of ‘come back here, baby’s and hit the grocery store aisles. On my way home from the shop I considered taking an out-of-my-way-route home to avoid the crowd and make it home in peace and quiet. But keeping quiet keeps me scared and keeps me controlled, so I braved the streets and headed home my normal route. I was relieved to discover the men had moved on by the time I arrived at my corner.

Was the episode seemingly innocent and playful? Yes. Did I need to respond, acknowledge the attention, evoke the presence of a man to “protect” or “explain” my disinterest and existence? I wish I didn’t. I wish I didn’t have to play into these discussions. Somehow I felt guilty playing into the discussion but taking charge and “participating” made me feel like I was more in charge. Like our poll from the first week of the blog, should we respond or ignore? Or should we ‘correct,’ tell the men to stop?

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this is ladies night

washington, dc, United States
Have you ever been walking down the street and been hollered at, or perhaps been beeped at by a car - or whistled at while waiting for your ride? We know what it feels like and we want YOU to know that WE'RE RIGHT THERE WITH YOU. Share your experiences here. Share your stories, your reactions, your reflections... maybe your message will help someone else.