I was excited to go home earlier than usual today.
I thought to myself: “I get to see some of the daylight before bed, it’s a beautiful day, and I can listen to my music as I walk through the city and wait for my bus.”
Then, as I’m sitting on the bus with my headphones on, I feel something hit my head. “Huh. Maybe it was a bug.”
Then, I feel it two more times. I turn around, and I see several pieces of paper on the ground and a man smiling at me – a man who is way too old to be thinking that a woman with her headphones on while riding the bus home alone wants to be flirted with by having shit thrown at her head.
I do that thing all people (especially women) do when they realize they’ve made eye contact when they didn’t want to: look away, pretend it didn’t happen, and chant internally “please don’t come over here, please don’t come over here…” on repeat.
Of course, that would have meant this dude had any ounce of self-awareness, and if the whole “grown man throwing paper at a complete stranger on the bus” interaction is any indication, hell no he doesn’t.
The man comes and stands right next to me, and he says “I just want to get to know you.” Visibly tired and immersed in My Own Dang Life Because It’s Public Transit, And You’re A Strange Man, I respond with “I’m sorry (why was I apologizing? Okay), but I’m tired, and I’m not interested.”
I quickly turn my music back on and look away, but not before I hear two words anyone can understand anywhere, even underwater (I’ve tested it):
…Welp, now I’m uncomfortable. To make matters worse, some other guys that know this man get on the bus. They start talking about me audibly using derogatory terms, and in just thirty minutes, my day went from “Hooray! The sun is out today, and I’m getting home early!” to “are you fucking kidding me?” to “who on this bus can I potentially ask for help if these guys try to get off at the same stop as me and follow me home? Who can I potentially sit next to if this escalates?”
If you’re one of the people who, like me, shared your #metoo story, I’m probably preaching to the choir. You, also like me, probably have at least one story like this, and it’s also likely not your worst story. You probably know that it’s the culmination of stories like these that make you feel unsafe in certain situations on a regular basis, and that’s why sharing this shit is so important.
Or maybe you’re one of the people who was dismissive of #metoo and felt, for some reason, that the people sharing their stories owed you more of an explanation than they gave. Maybe you thought that anything short of rape or physical assault wasn’t “enough” for someone to warrant sharing their experience. Maybe you just didn’t believe us, even though there are so many of us, and there’s so little to gain from sharing but a whole lot to lose in many instances.
In that case, at least for now, because I’m tired of being on guard all of the time in situations that should be innocuous. Because I’m tired of feeling like I don’t have autonomy over my own body on a daily basis. Because I’m not alone in feeling this way, not even a little. Because this should be rare, but it isn’t.
At least for now, other than “me too,” I have two words – not just for the dicks on the bus, but for people in the second category who feel like our stories aren’t enough for some reason. Two words you can even hear underwater:
(I’m me, so also I love you and believe you’re capable of doing better in the future, but yep, fuck you.)