This blog was originally published on WritingOurOwnNarratives.wordpress.com
Walking, breathing...walking faster, breathing harder, heart beating...change pace, go across the street, locate an open store, call a friend, grab your keys, walk faster, run, don't be afraid. These are the thoughts of a woman when walking the streets alone. No matter where the woman is-she must always pay attention to where she is, who she is with, who is around her, and control her every move.
But where does this all begin? Did it begin the first time you had to create a fake name when a man approached you in a way that he did not take kindly to your decline? My very first fake name was Ashley. I may have been around 12 years old and he followed me from the bus stop and chased after me in broad daylight. After catching up to me he told me he was in his 20s but did not bother to ask me my age. I lived 2 blocks from the bus stop but I walked block after block simply so this man would not know where I lived. I couldn't lead this man to my residence but I also could not tell him to simply to go away. Now, surprisingly, women encounter this on a daily basis-men following them, cat calling them, and ultimately making them feel like meat. The harassing moment while being chased and hearing "baby you fine, hey honey bun, look at them *insert body parts of your choosing*". If you don't believe me- take a look at this clip of a woman being cat called throughout New York.
Now what prompted me to this blog is...on March 25th, I was heading to visit a friend in a nearby area. I came across a red light and a car pulled up next to me and I continued to sing Adele at the top of my lungs in my car at night- did I notice the man in the car staring at me? Of course I did, but him being in his car and me being in mine means he has no access to me right? I am safe. Until, I go to park my car several miles away from this stop light and a car has been slowly following me (first thought: it gots to be the feds, only they tail people waiting for you to speed), but to my surprise it was not the feds. My mother always told me to pay attention to your surroundings. Hear the footsteps behind you, look behind you every few feet, cross the street, never take the same path home everyday, switch up your schedule, be cautious, and run like a mad woman if you need to.
So I waited in the car, breathing- planning my escape plan, keys in the ignition, one hand on my wheel another hand ready to pump into drive and speed off. The car stops, headlights turn off, hazards come on and out comes a man- who boldly walks up to my car window to tell me he is sorry he followed me ( my first thoughts- I am sorry you followed me too) but I was so beautiful at this red light and he was trying to get my attention as he drove home from his job to Maryland that he simply had to see me. I said thank you- in an effort to be polite and to not upset or anger him but to hopefully appease him. What is a woman if we are not navigating the crooked room we stand in by trying to appease the men around us, letting them down easily, gently, with words that do not upset or anger them. The unfortunate part of being in a crooked room and navigating it is no matter how uncomfortable I am, no matter how much I try to understand the jagged edges, the tilted images, the painful view, I must still comfort those around me despite my discomfort.
According to this room I must place you first and navigate me second because I am a woman, a Black woman trying to stand up straight in a never ending cycle of crookedness. This man has now blocked my way of egress, by blocking my car door, and I am looking around a very empty neighborhood hoping someone can see the concern in my eyes and see me...and save me. He asks for my phone number (approximately 9 times) and talked to me for about 15 minutes- asking me my name, where I am from, if I lived near by and to all these questions I had to lie. I had to lie because for every time I said no- the questions were simply repeated in the same way and more persistent. No was not the answer he wanted to hear and I was not prepared to know what too many "no"s would lead to. So I gave him my phone number- and yes I gave him the right phone number knowing that a persistent man who follows you for several miles would not take a fake number and walk away. (Thank you apple for allowing me to block people)
I am not saying that talking to a woman, asking her out, or approaching her is a bad thing. But what I do want to say is- women on a daily basis worry. We go to the bathroom in groups, we text our friends to say we made it home, we call on the phone to ignore all the men drooling at us, we keep our car keys in between our fingers in hopes of stabbing someone who gets to close. We are nervous about every man in front of us, behind us and next to us. We are in a hyper world of sensitivity to our environment because if we aren't it could be life, death, sexual assault, or just being called a bitch by some guy who couldn't get your number. But the next time someone says no...just take the no and say have a good day. No, will not kill your ego, or harm you in anyway. No is no, she is not interested. Respect women, protect women, love women, see women for women.
Always trying to navigate a crooked room,