Unfortunately, I had to wait until age fifty to experience this.
A few days ago, I had just parked my car and was walking toward my local ATM when I realized two men were blocking my way.
To reach the ATM, I had to walk up a ramp. Two men were blocking the ramp’s entryway. I couldn't get past them with them moving. As I walked toward them, I braced myself.
Tensing my shoulders, I thrust them back, puffing up my chest, adopting an aggressive stance. History has shown that in similar situations, more often than not, men weren't going to let me pass without bothering me.
If I was lucky, they'd simply ogle me. Or they'd engage in some unwanted conversation. “Hey, beautiful.” “Hi, baby.” Or the worst: “Why aren’t you smiling?”
Uh, because I just want to withdraw money in peace.
Worse, they'd play a little game with me. Maybe they'd continue to block my way so I couldn’t get past them. I'd have two options: giggle and play along, or get angry. The latter choice would just reward me with more harassment: “Can’t you take a joke? What’s your problem? We’re just playing.”
You know: it would be "my fault" for becoming incensed.
Men were always asking me to be "cool." I was sick of it. As such, I was ready to deal with whatever these men were going to give me.
Which was nothing.
As I neared the ramp’s entrance, I couldn't believe it. The men slid aside to let me pass. Not a word from either of them. Not another look in my direction. They went right back to talking to one another as if I wasn’t even there.
This was strange. Sure, I appreciated the way the stress quickly released from my body. But what was going on? Why was it so easy to get past these men to make it to the ATM?
It suddenly struck me. I’ve hit middle-age.
Men no longer bug me. They finally respect me.
Men bothered me incessantly when I was younger.
Some people might think I’m overreacting, but you have no idea how bad things used to be. As a younger woman, my reality was: leave the house, get harassed. Walk down the street, be bothered. I had to look over my shoulder when I walked to my car at night. I never knew what danger I might encounter.
I didn’t even have to even be wearing “she’s asking for it” clothing. I just had to commit the crime of being young, female, and alone.
Photo by Gokil.
In my twenties, I worked at a company with offices in Beverly Hills. The owners required we pay to park in their parking lot. Because I refused to pay my employers to park in a lot they owned, I parked in a neighborhood a half-mile away from the office.
Every day I had to walk down a major avenue in Beverly Hills to get to the office. I’d be dressed in my work clothes, which usually included heels. Each time I walked to the office from the neighborhood, at least one man in a passing car would howl at me from his window as he drove by.
More often than not I’d get howled at by a group of men. This was humiliating to me. There’s something about walking alone on the street and being yelled at from a car that makes you feel very exposed.
Photo by Mark Pan4ratte.
You can’t chase down the drivers and tell them to stop. People in cars have the upper hand. It’s also anonymous for the most part. Men can basically howl you with impunity.
Sometimes being yelled at startled me. Often it hurt my ears. Always it was obnoxious. Always it was something I disliked. Always it angered me.
So maybe you can understand why at the bank that day, I prepared myself for the worst. The least bad thing I expected to happen was to get leered at. Far worst would be to have my physical safety jeopardized.
But nothing. The men left me alone.
Why? I’m now middle-aged. Finally, men respect me.
At least it finally happened.