“Will you marry me?”
She giggles, actually it was more of a cackle like I wasn’t right there. She smiles, I stare in her inviting brown eyes, it was only a few seconds but it felt as though time stopped….
Well, now that’s awkward.
Well for starters, she didn’t know me. Like, at all. This was my formal introduction, a spontaneous proposal. She was more charmed than turned off, and after a brief chat we exchanged numbers and I happily walked back over to my friends I just hit a buzzer beater. It was almost like a sport for us, the hunt. My old house was across the street from a park as well as equidistant to two subway stations so on a good day there was always new girls to approach. I’d like to think I never harassed anyone, if for no other reason my sisters walked those same streets. I remember when my mother got my oldest sister mace to carry around or how my other would walk around with a powered off CD player just so she could appear busy. My little sister well, she had me.
I remember having to answer the phone so some dude would stop calling, listening to stories about a creep attempting to follow my sister home. Then I’d go outside and be the dude offering to walk with some girl. A double standard? Probably. So one day I was escorting proposal girl home and she spoke about how she hated walking around my neighborhood because of the dudes hooting and hollering. It was like Bruce Wayne hearing a Batman story….oh. She talked about how she took alternate routes, kept in headphones, just avoided walking altogether. In essence, she sounded like my sister. I asked so what separates me from the pack.
“You just make me feel comfortable”
(cue ringing bell and confetti falling). I get it. I was 15.
A decade later, “street harassment” has since became a mainstream topic causing a divide between feminists and well, nurt higgas. Arguments from each side have gone to extremes from women starting a hashtag just because a guy looked at her to men sounding like damn near neanderthals with their entitlements. The middle are trapped between whats actually harassment and whats an approach. Men point out how attractive men get passes, women point out how men will take an accept compliment and take a mile. Basically, we’re all talking in circles to the point plenty men don’t know what street harassment is or whats their responsibility to fight it. Myself, well, I’m just going to stick with the lesson I learned growing up.
Make her feel comfortable.
Whether that’s not being too forward, respecting her space, approaching in a way that won’t get me on XoJane somewhere. As for what can a man do to help curb street harassment…well again, I consult teenage me
After my epiphany of sorts, I was even more mindful of how I and my boys were perceived. But when you’re 16, ain’t nobody trying to hear you preach. Hell, I can’t even comment or tweet now without being called a panderer. I mean, I can shut them down if it was my sisters but for a random girl, now I’m Captain Save Em. It didn’t take much to change things, whether it was me just telling my boy to actually go and talk to her or doing so myself and them subtly deciding to work smarter not harder. I didn’t need to be a hero, but if ya mans ya mans you can tell him chill and that be that. Fast forward to now, I’m probably not walking up going #youoksis ready to fight a group of dudes like Spider-Man, but sometimes all it takes is just smiling at her as she rolls her eyes at those doing it wrong, not affiliating yourself with those said people, and just treating any woman with respect. At least that’s what I think, but this is the internet so I’m probably still not doing enough.
Sidenote: Me and proposal girl never worked out. She wouldn’t even become my first real girlfriend. I wonder what she’s up to now. I’d look her up but I can’t remember her last name. I’m getting old.