“What did you just say to me?”

Posted: July 1, 2013 in Self-esteem, self-respect
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This morning I stopped by the neighborhood convenience store to get some coffee. Over the years of doing this, I’ve gotten to know the owner and the people who work there. As soon as I walk in, they start ringing up my purchase. We usually spend a minute or two, chatting and laughing.

The last few days have been unbearably hot. Temperatures in the high 90’s to low 100’s. It is very unusual for the area. I don’t have air conditioning and was feeling tired from the lack of sleep. It was already warm at 8:00 this morning. I put on a summer dress, pulled my hair back and slipped on a pair of sandals for work.

Not that what I was wearing was important to me, but apparently it was to the men in the parking lot.

I have had a few people approach me when walking into the store. Panhandlers for the most part. Usually a quick “Sorry, I can’t help you” is sufficient. One time, someone called me a bitch when I said no. I ignored him and walked into the store. I mentioned it to the owner and before I knew what had happened, he rushed outside and yelled at the man. “Don’t you EVER talk to her like that! Go away! Get off my property!”

The man cursed under his breath, but he left. The owner didn’t come back inside until the man had gone around the corner.

I was surprised and pleased by what he had done and told him so. He blushed and apologized. He liked to run a clean and hassle-free store.

I fell a little in love with him that day.

So this morning when I pulled up and saw all the city workers in the parking lot, I gave them almost no attention. The city was digging up water lines and the workers were everywhere.

I parked and got out of my car. As I was walking into the store, I heard a bunch of cat calls.

“Whoa! Hey there! What’s your name?”

“Where you going, sugar?” someone said. All 5 of them laughed.

I had the door open.

I turned around to see who they were talking to.

They were all staring at me, laughing and slapping each other on the back.

I let go of the door.

I turned around and walked towards them.

They quickly stopped laughing as I got closer.

When I was a few feet away from them, I stopped.

Suddenly, they weren’t so brave. Suddenly things weren’t so funny anymore.

“What did you say to me?” I asked. I was calm but my heart was racing.

“Oh, nothing…” one of them said. The pavement had all of their attention.

“No, really…what did you say to me?” I asked. “I didn’t quite hear it.”

No one would answer me. I looked at their trucks. They worked for the city.

“Those your trucks?” I asked.

“Oh, hey now, we didn’t mean anything by it. It’s just that you look…”

“How do I look? Huh? You think it’s OK to talk to women like that? You think it’s OK to scare us or make us feel unsafe TO WALK INTO A STORE? Is that it? Can I get my brothers to talk to your Mom’s or daughters or wives that way? Would that be alright with you?” I asked and waited.

“Don’t be so sensitive,” one said. The other 4 looked at him and cringed.

“What’s your name? All of your names?” I asked. I reached into my purse and took out my notebook and pen and waited. It didn’t matter if they told me or not. I wrote down the license plate numbers.

They protested and rambled about how sorry they were.

“So, you guys work for the city. I pay taxes so that means you work for me. Now, since you work for me, you have to put up with me being ‘sensitive’ because you know what? I can now get all of you fired. You might want to think about that the next time a woman, ANY woman, walks by. We have every right to live our lives without being harassed,” I said and walked away.

I didn’t hear one word as I walked away, nor did I when I came out of the store and got into my car. They had driven off in their trucks that I paid for.

I called the city as soon as I got into work and gave them all the information I had. The woman who took my call apologized several times. She was upset and shocked and thanked me for reporting it.

For what it’s worth, I’m 58 years old and haven’t cared what a man thought about me or my looks since I was 16 and tried to get a boyfriend. And even then, he had to reach my mind before he got anywhere near me.

Now, anyone else wanna mess with me?

Didn’t think so….

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Comments
  1. Equus spirit says:

    Susan,

    I’m sitting here trying to remember the last time somebody did something like that to me.

    It’s been a L-0-N-G time. Of course, I’ve gained some (ok, a lot) of weight, but still, I look pretty good. At least my husband says so.

    Thanks for standing up to those monkeys. Too often, we women will just grit our teeth and walk on hoping that they’re really cat-calling somebody else-or worse, smiling to ourselves that we must look pretty hot today because we got attention from some random males. (Really? are you that desperate?)

    Some guys just don’t have any “raising” as we call it down here in the South. Real men don’t do that. Real men admire the view and go on about their business.

    Ellen from west central Georgia

    • Susan Lewis says:

      Ellen,

      I know just what you mean. I had NO idea they were talking to me. I almost ignored it and figured they were just goofing around amongst themselves.

      It hasn’t happened in a long time either. I still don’t like it and never will.

      Susan

  2. blakela says:

    My daughter tells a story of a man who catcalled her *on Christmas day* inside a drug store in the city where she lives. She was texting on her phone while shopping and without missing a beat, turned around with her cell phone camera and snapped his picture.

    THAT brought him up short. He asked her why she took his picture and she calmly said, “I’m going to post it on my Facebook and show people what sort of asshole sexually harasses women on Christmas Day. Needless to say, he backpedaled real fast.

    Yesterday, she told me about some random guy that told her than she had the wrong bike for the city. She ignored him for a moment, and he just kept right on. He made the cardinal mistake of grabbing her shoulder when she didn’t react to his words of wisdom.

    She spun on him and said, VERY loudly, “Did you just touch me?” All eyes turned on the scene. “Number one, you don’t know me. Number two, I didn’t ask for your advice about my bike. It’s not a mountain bike, it’s a hybrid and it’s DESIGNED for the city. Number three, Don’t you EVER touch me again.” He backed down quickly as he notice people staring at him.

    My daughter deals with this crap a lot. She tells me that as a red head she’s ALWAYS gotten this sort of unwanted attention. She briefly considered dying her hair brown, but she says that that would be letting the assholes win.

    After listening to her stories, and yours, I think I’d put money on me calling those kinds of jerks out on their behavior.

    • Susan Lewis says:

      Oh, I think I love your daughter quite a bit! It is a bit shocking how many men think they have the right to talk to us like that. I don’t run into it too often, but when I do, I am still surprised.

      I’m glad she won’t be changing anything about her. She’s done nothing wrong and it sounds like she is dealing with it well. You’ve raised her well.

      Call them out and teach them a lesson as long as it is safe to do so.

      Susan

  3. Linda Nicola says:

    Puppy!!! er…about the ad at the end of the column, if had a puppy.