Warning: Big post. The biggest I’ve written. On a very serious topic. And it’s also has some feminism, too.
Last Monday, on the eleventh of August, I ate dim sum with my friends from high school, who I haven’t seen in ages. With my stomach full of tender shumai, sweet pork buns, and all the delicious Chinese awesomeness that you can think of, we tried to think of what we wanted to do next. My friend suggested we visit the huge library downtown, and of course, being the like minded, bright young women we are, we go giddy at the thought. With my girls with me, my stomach stuffed with dim sum, wearing my new shirt and new jeans, and visiting the beautiful library, I was feeling pretty good that day.
So, we take the bus there. We’re all lined up on one side, and I am near the end. And a woman sitting next to me gets off, and a man takes her place. As he sits down, I do the polite thing by giving him some room, scooting over a bit by an inch so that my purse doesn’t get in his way. I’d developed that habit by riding the bus at the university I go to. Many times, I’ve had it happen where my stuff is pinned underneath the person next to me, only to result in embarrassment for both of us as I ask them to move.
But at the same time, I register that it’s a man sitting beside me. Being a woman, I can’t help my guard go up a tick.
When I do this shift of my purse and jack, the man must sense my discomfort, because he tells me with a small laugh, “I only sat next to you because you’re so beautiful, you see.”
I don’t comment back, but my mouth twitches in a wry smirk to match his chuckling involuntarily. Yeah, right, I think.
At this point, I haven’t made eye contact with him. I know he’s been standing on the bus hanging on to the rail, waiting for a seat. I know that he’s on the bus with me. But that’s all that I need to know. I don’t need to make eye contact with him at all. I’m not being rude to him in the slightest. I acknowledge his presence when I shift a little to the side. I have somewhere I need to be with my friends. I don’t have to give him my eye contact just because he’s complimented me.
“How are you?” he asks.
“Fine. You?” I answer. And I answer because I was raised to be polite.
“Good,” he says.
And that’s that.
He doesn’t say another word to me. And for the rest of the ride, I don’t look at him, or turn to peer down the bus to chat with my friends, not looking at him. I’m not interested in further contact with him, and he doesn’t pursue any further contact with me.
I get off the bus with my friends heading to the library, and that’s the last I see of him. Relief hits me.
And you might be thinking one or more of these things:
Oh, my God! He sexually harassed you! You should have totally reported him!
Well, that was a nice thing for him to say. What are you so upset about?
Thank goodness. I’m glad that didn’t escalate into anything nasty.
To all of these thoughts, I have multiple things to say.