Update: I initially blocked commenting on this post because I didn’t want a drove of “Oh I’m so sorry” comments. Not that I don’t appreciate your concern. I just think the point is bigger – that it’s simply a frustrating thing. I’ve lifted the block because friends have brought up good points regarding urban public safety that are worth sharing.
This is not a pity party post. It is simply an “is what it is” post – which I know is everyone’s favorite meaningless conversation-ender.
A couple of weeks ago I drove up to San Francisco after work to meet Bill for an art show opening. Before you grow any more concerned, the show was really good. I love Dice Tsutsumi’s work. We also discovered Nob Hill Grille, which has one of my top two mac and cheeses I have ever eaten. It wasn’t just mac and cheese. It was Magic Mac. “What makes the Magic Mac magic?” I asked. “There’s bacon in it.” And there you go. (The other contender for the top spot is Front Porch’s mac and cheese. It comes out sizzling in a mighty hot pan!)
I parked my car just a block away from 1988. It being six or so in the spring evening, there wasn’t a hint of night coming up on the city. I crossed one couple as I walked down the slope of Polk. Ahead of me, the only other soul on the sidewalk was a tall Caucasian man, dirty, three full garbage bags hoisted over his shoulder. I kept walking downhill, newsstands on my right and the homeless man about to pass me on my left.
I saw him eye me in the most blatantly lecherous way possible. Having made the unfortunate mistake of making eye contact, I immediately shifted my eyes back to the sidewalk. He edged more toward the center of the sidewalk, though. I moved more to the right. I was just about to graze the sleeve of my lace cardigan against the grimy handles of the kiosks when he reached his left hand out and grabbed my crotch.
I had a bag hanging off my left arm, so he didn’t have such an open shot on me. I just kept walking, though. Didn’t turn around. Just went straight to the gallery.
I saw a group of Bill’s friends outside, but did not signal any recognition. I called Bill, asking hastily where he was. He asked me to go inside, but I insisted he come outside. I saw him wave to me from the very back of the studio, and I hissed for him, “No, come outside!” I was vaguely aware that two Asian girls’ heads quickly turned toward me as I stammered out “I just got groped on the street!” Meanwhile, Bill headed toward the door and I knew with the packed house around him, he couldn’t hear what I had just said.
The only thing I could have been more grateful for than Bill that night would have been a dog. Particularly a big one that you can give a significant, meaty hug around the neck.
I think as a “modern day” woman, it’s really frustrating to believe that walking away is the best thing you can do. It’s absolutely true that I’m lucky nothing more happened, but you can never know for sure if fumbling for mace or screaming from the sternum or whirling around a purse is actually going to teach someone anything, get them to stop, or if it’s just going to engage the culprit in more. Sometimes I hate being a girl who walks alone once in a while. Dressed scrubbily, dressed up, it doesn’t always matter. I don’t consider myself a proactive feminist, but it’s moments like these that make me want to tuck into a diatribe on the objectification of women. As if me reading it will make the surrounding world a better place.
When I was rolling myself up in Bill, in the back of my head I was hoping “Please don’t say something creepy. Please don’t say something creepy.” How inappropriate would it be for a consoling voice to offer something along the lines of “Well, at least you’re hot enough.” He didn’t, but I think some portion of the population out there thinks it would be appropriate.
There isn’t much sense to be made of what happened, who gets targeted, why someone thinks it’s okay to do so. There are too many answers to those questions. He’s crazy, he’s sick, he’s drunk, he’s forgotten.
The constant is that it’s frustrating as Hell.