11.12.2008

a man just followed me home

i know i should let some more time pass before i write this...but, it has been a couple of hours so at least i will be able to restrain my strong desire to litter this post with four-letter profanities.

a man followed me home from the metro. and wouldn't take no for an answer.

like so many of my friends, i am absolutely overwhelmed with schoolwork--borderline nervous breakdown. but im trying to git 'ir done, to cope. the last week or so i've spent every waking moment when im not in class doing homework, often in the library. i stay until just before the metro closes so i can spend the tiredest part of my day commuting (thus maximizing my alert hours for quality study.)

well i won't be doing that anymore.

i was metro-ing home like usual, listening to my ipod and trying not to fall asleep. it was reasonably crowded, a typical tuesday night. i got off at my stop and after passing through the ticket-taker and approaching the stairs, the man behind me stopped to ask, "are you an actress?"

oh, COME ON!!! first of all, im wearing what i wore to class today (jeans, boots, and a long sleeve, full length baggy down jacket. ok, a different hair accessory from the norm but aren't i entitled to wear a damn hat if i want without getting FOLLOWED HOME??? i felt like what my friend described on her trip to egypt, wishing she had a veil just so she wouldnt feel so exposed and unsafe all the time) second of all, who says that?

i said no, pointed to my books and said im a student. the escalator ride up he kept talking to me so i entertained it--nothing wrong with some neighborly chit-chat. i didnt want to stereotype and assume the only reason a man talks to a woman is for sex. but at the top of the escalator after several more stomach-churning compliments thrown my way i started to panic---he better follow my lead and part ways.

instead he decided to walk in my direction, toward the absolutely deserted, unlit, silent abyss that is 11:30 pm Q street--to continue hitting on me. and with every "no" from me came a new "but" from him.

-can we get coffee/go to the park/go dancing/go drinking/hang out sometime? can i have your number? i'd like to get to know you better.
-no, but thank you. it's inappropriate/i feel uncomfortable/i have a partner and this is inappropriate altogether
-but i won't tell him.
-im just not comfortable.
-make up your mind, make a decision.
-i did, i said no.
-can i have your number?
-no.
-how can we see each other again? its harmless.

and this is the part i f**king hate. the part where i get bullied into using excuses out of fear for my safety to diffuse the situation and explain/justify my "no." using my boyfriend as protection was bad enough, but then i used the reality of my thesis taking up my whole world to justify why i have no time to make a new friend. and then i said something even worse, out of nervous fear.

i said, with my phone grasped readily in my hand in my pocket:

-maybe we'll just run into each other one day.
-how can we run into each other without phone numbers?
-(silence.)
-i was thinking of going to the zoo this weekend...
-you should, it's good.
-yea, because i was thinking of going like saturday...
-(silence.)

IT GETS WORSE on my part.

as we approach the corner of 18th and Q i think fast--didn't want him to know where i live--and said that was my apartment ahead of us and that im going home. really it's where my friend lives.

he insisted on hugging me and kissing my cheek goodbye. i was just too scared to cause a stir, and wanted to do whatever it took to get him to go away, to ride away on his bike. why, oh WHY did i even let it go two blocks...so many things i would have done differently but i just kept thinking, "When did No stop meaning No? How much more direct does one have to be?"

My gut is to think it's my fault, my cowtowing to his power dominance and my engagement in this situation...i think this stuff is what makes men like him think what he does is ok and makes women like me just lay down and take it. But it's NOT my fault. I've been raised by society to think of myself and expect others to treat me like a fragile egg on a spoon being carried by a man on a tightrope--there for the taking and extremely fragile. and silent.

ok, weird analogy.

but isnt it amazing, that this situation also encourages me (a) never to walk alone ever and (b) assume every man that talks to me is trying to hit on me, harrass me, or take advantage of me. Is that fair to me or to 'them'???? no.

gosh, i just wanted him to disappear, disappear into another neighborhood, another city--and to return to me my feeling of safety. i told the doorman of my friend's building to please let me in because i was being followed. he did, and so i went up to talk to my friend.

i thought about it. maybe i was overreacting, maybe he was harmless, and maybe im just easy to scare. or maybe this is a primary example of what we at This is Ladies Night hope to bring to light and STOP.

maybe it was culture-clash...he recently immigrated from jamaica, maybe women there say "no" to be coy.

I say "no" to mean "no."

i sat with megan for a long time, trying to chat away the shakiness. i scrounged quarters around her apartment so i could take a $5 cab for the four blocks from her place to my place. i told the cab driver why i was cabbing such a short distance and he waited for me to be inside my front gate before driving off (nice guy.) now it's 2 am, my whole plan for productivity tomorrow is set back because i'll inevitably be tired, and im seriously thinking ill never commute home at night again (unless with a group, of course.) BTW, he lives a block from me, but he doesn't know that, of course.

why is this our status quo?

why doesn't "no" mean "no"?

i was seriously frightened.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

that's one of the scariest stories ever. I mean it's one thing to be at a bar and have a guy hit on you and keep asking for your number because you have a friend to run back to and do the "ew" thing with and then its over, but at 1am to be followed home on empty streets? thats ridic scary. (Not gonna lie, thats also a huge reason I live on campus...)

Anonymous said...

Women are taught to be nice. We always smile, and try to let others down easy. But there are times that you just can't be nice. Because nice doesn't allow someone to listen to what you are saying. They are reading your smile and sensing weakness. If a man actually wanted to cause you harm he sees this as opportunity. If you mena NO, its NO. If he persists, you have to be the a**hole. Yell NOT INTERESTED, and tell him seriously, look if you don't leave me alone I will call the police. If he persists, yell for help, and or dial the police. You are not overeacting. Someone who walks up to you that makes you feel threatened in ANY way needs to leave you alone, and you don't need to be nice about it. Everyone you meet is not nice, sadly, and you have to protect yourself. If he were a DECENT guy, he would just take no thanks and leave you alone. BE STRONG, GIRLS!

Julia said...

This brings up so many issues I do not know where to begin. I too was similarly harassed by a Jamaican man on the Metro when I lived in DC but luckily our stops were different. I just could not tell if he was being overly friendly, sexually aggressive, or if as you suggested culturally different. Women, or at least myself and some others, often reluctant to be what many would considered rude to strangers. Some people are just talkative, some are friendly, and some are lonely and just looking for a little conversation. But the fact is, in a city, people are alienated from strangers, and very few people approach someone without a motive. But I can't say if shutting him down right away would have changed the outcome, or if it would have for the worst. My way of dealing with it was to carry pepper spray and to bike home. For some reason I felt invincible on my bike even if it wasn't realistic. However the chances of being stopped are minimized when riding. I also provides a good escape tool. These days I live with my boyfriend in Buenos Aires, and the few times I have come home alone its always been in a cab. There is no way I would every walk home alone here (even if I did speak Spanish) and cab drivers here know to make sure you make it inside your door. Even in DC I once took a cab to my boyfriend's place that was only a ten minute walk away when it was raining and my bike was broken because it just made me too nervous to make the walk that late at night. The only advice I can give is to be resourceful and careful and avoid situations like that to begin with and in them take each one as it comes. The contradiction between the independence that some of us are raised with and the lack of independence we really have on the streets is one I'm really not sure how to deal with and have made obsolete for by living with a man, but its frustrating that it comes to that. I'm so glad you are ok Jill, that kind of situation often does not end so well. It that kind of thing that makes us remember just how venerable we are and how quickly things can go from bad to worse. While you can use 4ride and tell that story to convince the driver to take you the extra few blocks and be safe!!

LBora said...

oh wow. that's so intense. you never think about how these episodes can escalate. Like when you're at a bar and there is some guy who pulls you aside to talk to you, and you can giggle it off and have one of your friends "save" you (another whole story on why we have to have someone save us, why cant we just say no ourselves??) anyways, to then be followed and not have anyone to rely on... oh and what happens if that guy wasnt 'nice'? What if he got angry when he got offended and thought you were blowing him off and instead physically harmed you? There would be no way to stop it or anyone to witness it. Scary thoughts.

Erin said...

I agree with one of the earlier comments - women are definitely taught to be nice! Screw that! I'd rather be a bitch and have my non-raped status intact.

Sometimes guys just don't have the skills, and are totally inept and clueless. I hope that's what you were dealing with here. But sometimes, you just gotta stop, look him in the eye, say no, and hightail it to the nearest group of people.

I hope you never have another experience like this again!

This is Ladies Night said...

Thanks for your comments!! It's great to feel this kind of support and have access to this great range of input from the community.

Thank you thank you thank you!!

generic cialis 20mg said...

Hello, I do not agree with the previous commentator - not so simple

Anonymous said...

It started off as a beautiful day today, I live only 2 blocks from my local grocery store so I decided that I would take my twin toddlers out for a quick stroll to buy a few avocados. On our way back, I started to feel a man walking only a few steps behind me and that he was cat calling me and making me feel extremely uncomfortable. I crossed the street, he followed. I try to make eye contact with as many pedestrians as I could and mouthing help, in the hopes that someone would help out or say something. I walked past 7 men and it was extremely obvious how uncomfortable I was, but not one person said a thing. I reach in my purse, searching for my phone and realize that it's at home. I clasp my pepper spray and hope that if I do use it, it won't be near my toddlers. I cross the street again, he doesn't. I finally start to feel some relief but the moment I turned onto my street, he quickly crossed the street, quickened his pace and the "hey baby, come here. I just want to talk" continue. I'm mortified as I realize that there is no way I can get my two babies out of my stroller and into my house without giving him the chance to approach me and know where I live. I cross the street, quickly run thru my neighbors gate, push my stroller onto her front door and call out for her in the hopes that if he does do something, she can atleast get my children out of harms way. I turn around and see him standing inside the gate & only a few steps away from me. I am shaking, clasping so hard onto my fucken pepper spray, finger on the trigger. The man was homeless, glaring at me with a stupid smug grin. He called me "baby" one more time before Alex and Sonia opened their front door and realised what was happening. The homeless man ran past the gate as Alex chased him, Sonia wheeled my children in her home as she called the police. I can finally breathe a sigh of relief as the tears stream down my face. I have his voice drilled onto my memory and I can't stop seeing his face. I can't help but wonder why no one said a thing, they saw a homeless man harassing a 26 year old mother of 2 who was clearly asking for help. I keep blaming myself for having chosen to run instead of fighting the moment he made me feel uncomfortable.

this is ladies night

washington, dc, United States
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