Friday, October 11, 2013

Not Interested

Being downtown every day is really affecting the sorts or interactions I've been having with people. Mostly it's been positive but there have been some certain negative aspects.

Consider this conversation I had on Nicollet Mall the other day:

*guy comes up to me*
Guy: Hi, miss, I'm doing this survey- you are so cute!
Me: *indistinct noises*
Guy: It consists of four words- wow, you have pretty eyes!
Me: Thanks?!
Guy: Would you be interested in taking part in it.
Me: I actually have a meeting to go to...
Guy: What? Why? Ah, would you ever consider going out with a guy like me? *says something about not being scary*
Me: I actually have a boyfriend.
Guy: What?! He's so lucky! Well, high five! You better marry him!
Me: *high fives him and walks away to revel in awkwardness at Panara*

At first I couldn't decide if I had become some part of a social experiment or if I actually got hit on. Or both. I wasn't pleased with my reaction and after I made a status about the situation on Facebook and my friend Emma linked me to this article, I understood why. Give the piece a read - it's brilliant.
I hate using the excuse I used to get out of situations like that, but I did it because I was in a rush and I wanted to get away quickly. I knew that it was the fastest way to deter someone like that - but it's also dishonest, and it also simply reinforces the sexist society that surrounds us. Instead of just being honest and saying, "No, I'm really not interested," and leaving it at that, I feel pressured to state a reason to not be interested. Simply expressing my own opinion doesn't feel like enough and instead of arguing my point, I weaken myself and fall back on something else, a default that, while it works, doesn't do any good to lessen the situation. 

No more. I have been hit on four times in the last week, possibly five if the guy who kept shifting around, dropping stuff, and pushing/throwing his water bottle towards me while I was sitting outside reading, as if he were trying to get my attention, then said, "Have a good day, ma'am" and mumbled something else when I left because he was making me uncomfortable counts (because I have no idea what he mumbled as I'd told him to have a good day too and had begun to walk away). It's becoming a daily thing. 

I feel like a pretty awkward individual most of the time anyway when it comes to human interaction, so deterring those who hit on me isn't easy especially as I'm not quick-thinking in these situations. But I have to do something. I don't know if it's simply being downtown, if I'm doing something different, or if society is changing and this sort of behavior is making a resurgence (thanks for that, Robin Thicke). But I'd just appreciate it if I could walk in downtown Minneapolis and have a better grasp of how to deal with unsolicited romantic attention. It's unwarranted and more than complimentary. It's uncomfortable. And yet I deal with it by saying I have a boyfriend and feel vaguely embarrassingly flattered and mostly annoyed. And I don't know how to respond when people I complain to say it's because I'm attractive or recommend that I work it. I don't want to work it. I want to be able to walk down a street and not be treated differently because of my gender.

I came across this post on Tumblr and thought it was fitting and thought I'd end this post with it.
I think this wonderfully articulates this issue. In a fed-up text to my mother, I said that men never get uncomfortable like I have (well, not never, but far less frequently) and said they should get a taste of their own medicine. I don't really mean that - an eye for an eye will solve nothing. But I shouldn't be afraid to make them feel awkward or embarrassed when they hit on me and I tell them to stop or say I'm not interested. I shouldn't be afraid to express my own opinion and assert myself.
What's more, I hate these interactions because they weaken my trust with people. I feel more unlikely to engage in conversation with strangers. I feel reluctant to sit outside alone in public places. I feel afraid and worry about what to do if this sort of situation arises at work where I have to be polite and keep a certain customer-focused attitude. It makes me distrust and hate people. And I hate that it does that to me.

I know compared to all of the other issues that women face, especially queer women and women of color, my complaints are rather petty. But if I have problems, then what other women face is far, far worse. I live in a safe area in a relatively safe town with a privileged background and a lot of blessings. So many other women don't have that. It's not to delegitimize my problems, but to put them into perspective. It's a real problem and has nothing to do with appearance or attire - I have been hit on in a nice dress, I have been hit on in my Target work clothes, I have been hit on walking home in the pouring rain with mascara smeared all of my face and looking like a drowned rat. I'm used to it. But I'm not okay with it. And never again I will I lie to get out of an awkward situation. I will tell the truth and respect my own opinion. I at least owe myself that much.

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