Saturday, July 14, 2007

Learning to Feign Deafness

I thought I was used to catcalls and come-ons by now. I'm in my 30's and it's been happening to me for over 20 years, so I thought I was at the point where I could roll my eyes and brush it off, but I guess I'm not.

Yesterday evening, we ran to Target to get a new swimsuit for Little Circus. I hate looking for clothes (for anyone), so MrCircus took the kid to the children's department, and I headed straight for the pharmacy so I could find insoles for my new boots. After I settled on the ones I needed (the men's ones, since the women's all seemed designed for high heels) I cut back through a few aisles rather than go out to the front of the store.

I stopped to pick up a few of those little bags of Jelly Bellys for Little Circus to take to school for special treats (located on the lowest shelf, of course), and heard footsteps come up behind me.

"Ooh, those are my favorite!" (sound of bin opening)

I stood up, turned, and found myself face to face with 2 boys around 16, pilfering gummy bears and looking pissed that I saw them. I couldn't care less that they were absconding with gummy bears, I just wanted to find the rest of my family so we could go home and I could take a hot bath and try to relax.

I walked past them, towards the children's section, and heard one of them say, in that "I don't know if I really want you to hear this, but I definitely want my friend to so I can prove what a badass I am" tone that most woman can identify, "Hey baby, wanna fuck?"

I kept walking, a million scenarios running through my head in a matter of milliseconds. Should I turn and laugh at them and say "You wish, buddy, and by the way I'm old enough to be your mother!", do I tell them to fuck off, do I kick them in the shins with my shiny new boots, say "You kiss your mother with that dirty mouth, asshole?"

So I just kept walking, feigning deafness. It wasn't worth the fight, and there's always an element of danger to me in situations like that. You never know what lengths a guy will go to in order to show off his machismo to his friends, even if it is in the middle of a suburban Target on a Friday evening, and not on a dark street in the wee hours.

The more I thought about it, the more annoyed I got, for various reasons.

I felt like couldn't say anything to MrCircus, for fear of a)him wanting to go chase the guys down or b) blowing it off and telling me to ignore it. (All men should be required to watch War Zone for a look at the shit women encounter on a regular basis)

I knew that it happened because of a reaction to being seen stealing the candy. It felt like the boy was trying to scare me into being intimidated so I wouldn't rat them out.

I knew it had nothing at all to do with how I was dressed (jeans, tshirt, combat boots, hair in a ponytail, glasses) and everything to do with my size, gender, and perceived age.

How do you deal with shit like this? What's been your worst experience? What's been the most valuable lesson you've learned over the years?


Blogger Sofiya said...

I'd have reported the little shits for stealing candy, maybe, but apart from that, I don't know what I'd do. Just reading your post gave me that sick feeling of not knowing what to do in the face of blatant misogyny from the mouths of kids. No prizes for guessing where they learned that kind of behaviour. I'm sorry this happened to you.

2:41 PM  
Blogger Dorid said...

Generally I find a scornful look an the comment, "I have no interest in little boys" then turning my back and continuing on sufficient. The biggest thing I've learned is that in a public place like that, they don't want to really get into it with someone who will put them in their place.

6:28 PM  
Blogger Amanda said...

I use scorn too. I pretty much always reply back, though I realise that isn't necessarily the best response.

6:49 PM  
Blogger frog said...

I usually reply sarcastically, which is bound to get me into trouble at some point, I suspect.

5:53 AM  
Blogger antijen said...

I usually pretend not to hear, as well, but that sick feeling can last for days. About 2 years ago, I was mid-way through my pregnancy and had to take the NY subway to my OB/GYN appointment. I was heavy and the weather was hot and humid, so I sat in the first seat I saw on the platform. Then I noticed a half-dozen teenage boys goofing around nearby, and mentally kicked myself for not scouting it out more carefully first. I wanted to move down the platform, but didn't want to draw attention to myself by moving. I tried to remind myself that all teenager boys are NOT necessarily trouble; boisterous does not mean looking for trouble. Then one of them of them sat beside me and tried awkwardly to make small talk. I replied, minimally. The snickering increased, so I glanced over and he was making a rude gesture at his crotch. I think I said "Don't be an ass" or some such witty thing, stood up and walked away.

Realistically, it's not much of a story, but I was shaken, and it bothered me for days. I definitely felt more vunerable at that time than I normally would. I never told Mr. Jen about it, either. I couldn't have handled questions about why didn't I do this or say that.

11:20 PM  

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