Back in the very beginning of October, Preston and I returned to my collegiate alma mater to see a play by Neil LaBute, titled reasons to be pretty.
The show was EXCELLENT. Great acting, wonderful use of the space. It was seriously great.
And you may be asking yourself now, ‘Abby, it’s months later…why are you talking about this play at your college that you weren’t even in?’
Well, luckily for you, I’m gonna tell you!
*Just a disclaimer – this is a more serious post and if you’re here for fun outfit talk and cute stories about me and Preston, then I will see you next week! It’s also vaguely feminist and a bit uncomfortable.
The show opened with each of the characters in a vignette delivering a monologue, in the form of reading a letter, that we will later come to reflect their characters’ progression.
Mary Kate (the actor) gets up. Mary Kate is a beautiful, petite, classic Americana blonde. She starts to read.
“I’m very attractive. I am. I’ve always been that way but it’s no great big deal to me-if anything, it’s worked against me for most of my life. (Beat.) Example: have you ever tried to walk through some store, a supermarket, you’re in a hurry and you’re moving along-picking up some milk or an item or two like that-while some loser guy is following you the whole time around the place? Seriously, with a cart and maybe even a kid in it but he keeps showing up in the same sections you’re in, or you can see him way down the other end, just coincidentally passing through the spots you’re at. For, like, a half dozen aisles in a row. (Beat.) And that’s not all because he finds a way to get in the same checkout as you and to do the small talk and even tries to help you out to the car, whatever he can do. It’s weird and gross and upsetting, it’s enough to make you throw up sometimes-I’ve done that before, pulled over and vomited by the roadside-all cause some man made me so nervous. I’ve been followed, too. Yeah. Not just out to my car but all the way home… slowly going along behind me to see where I live. Or work. Or through the mall, from store to store, by people. This happens so much, I mean, not like every day, but enough that I couldn’t even give you a number. In my lifetime. And for what? Because I’m great or smart or have this, this wonderful and witty way about me? No. How could anyone know that from chasing me around Safeway? The answer is-they couldn’t. Nothing to do with me, that’s what the truth of it is. It’s all about this… (Points.) My face. I was born with it, people. That’s all.”
This monologue struck me.
Because that has happened to me.
There have been times where I am just trying to live my life and red flags go off. A situation that seems not quite safe, but I can’t prove it or a vibe from a person that makes me feel uneasy.
How do you describe a red flag to a manager of a store?
You have to decide whether you want to look conceited, be made to feel stupid, whether you can duck into a different aisle or the restroom or find a buddy and feel okay.
Particularly with the new president-elect who has not been the most encouraging of the safety and consent rights of women, this topic has been on my mind more and more.
So I’m just going to tell a few stories of times that this happened to me.
Experience #1: Barnes & Stalked
This was back in the beginning of September in Harrisburg. Preston was at work for the day and I had a job interview. He lived in a TERRIBLE living situation, so when I was done with the interview (approx. 11am) – I still had six whole hours before he would be done with work. I didn’t want to go back to that house without him and for SO long, so I decided I would stay out and about while I waited for him to be done.
So I did what I did on some of those days (they happened every few weeks) – I went to Barnes & Noble across from Preston’s job, picked out a book I had been meaning to read, bought a cup of coffee, and hunkered in to read for the day.
This Barnes & Noble, in a totally lame way, does NOT have any big comfy chairs available so I was resigned to sitting at a cafe table. I have my head on my elbow and I’m reading.
After a little while I decide to look up and around the store. Just taking in a quick survey.
A white man by the magazines in a green jacket and a hat, approximately in his fifties, catches my eye and waves. I think he can’t possibly be waving to me so I glance back down at my book.
Another ten minutes go by and I look up again. He’s still looking at me and giving me a big smile and another wave. I’m a bit uncomfortable, but I still think he can’t possibly be waving to me so I give him a nod and flash a half smile.
I look down again. And a few minutes go by. I look up. He’s still staring.
Put that on repeat for the next hour or so?
I get up eventually and go to pick out a different book to read because I want to buy the one I’m reading. I leave my coffee on the table to signify that I am coming back but take my wallet and keys with me to the shelf. I spend a few minutes perusing. And I’m a hardcore book lover. So I’m pretty engrossed.
I come back to the table. I no longer see the man in the green coat. I think he’s left. Then I turn and see him coming down the same aisle of books that I had just left.
“It’s a coincidence, Abby.” – I tell myself.
I bury my head back in this new book. Ironically, I was reading about the kidnapping of Jaycee Duggard. So now, my red flag is up but not waving crazily in the wind or anything.
I still have the feeling of being watched. I look up. He’s now a few tables closer to me. He’s still looking. He points to his cup of coffee. Again, I’m trying to convince myself that like, his wife, has just been standing behind me for what is now about two hours.
I get up and go to the bathroom which in this particular place is in the complete opposite corner of the store. Again, I leave my book and my coffee but take my wallet and keys to the bathroom. I use the restroom, come out, and notice the back of a man in a green jacket reading books on the shelf to across from the bathroom.
I don’t acknowledge. I return to my table. A few minutes later, out of the corner of my eye, I see the man in the green jacket take now a third table, even closer to me now. I text Preston who responds that that’s creepy and weird.
I go back to reading. This time an even longer period of time goes by. I look up. The man in the green jacket is nowhere to be seen. Now I’ve been here for probably 3.5 hours, so this seems reasonable that he’s gone.
I sit for a few minutes. I’ve been texting a friend the whole time and he’s encouraging me to leave, to tell a manager, to confront him. To just do anything. But he hasn’t DONE anything except move around the store in a similar pattern as me and made me feel very uncomfortable.
So I go to crack my back AND SEE THAT THE MAN IN THE GREEN JACKET MOVED TO THE CHAIR IMMEDIATELY BEHIND ME AND WAS JUST STARING AT ME.
I whip around and now my red flag is WAVING and I am super uncomfortable.
Another bit of time goes by and I get up to throw my now empty coffee cup away, hold up my phone like I’m texting, and snap a picture of this freaking creep AND HE IS STILL WATCHING ME:
I decide that enough is enough. I take the book back to the shelf and on my way out, the man in the green jacket walks past me, bumps me, and says, “Hello.” – I again, give him a half smile, pay for my book, and leave.
Mostly, that’s where this story ends. But think I showed up at this place at 11:30am and was followed around from noon-four thirty.
All I wanted was to kill a few hours.
This is what I was wearing:
Experience #2: Humped for Hillary
I’m going to put this in…August? Preston’s sister was home and it was summer so either a very late summer or early September. Whenever it was – we went to a Hillary Clinton rally in downtown Harrisburg.
At the time, I wasn’t undecided. I was always going to vote for Hillary over that loose cannon cheese curl, but I wasn’t a die-hard, #ImWithHer, would ever go to a rally for ANYTHING type of person. I don’t tend to do that.
But she was here, only like ten minutes from Preston’s house, with his parents and his sister, and she was going to be in Harrisburg. Like a block from our favorite bar. Two blocks from the capital building. Right outside a beloved coffee shop and bookstore. Seemed to make perfect sense to attend and see, in person, who I thought would be our first woman president.
However, it was HUMID and hot, so I was already NOT having it. Also, I don’t like crowds. Or politics. Or lines. So I was mostly just biding time until it was decided we had been there long enough to leave. So we finally get to a spot. Not a great spot, but definitely a spot, and watch the rally.
I’m standing behind Preston (honestly, bored – I’m not super political) we were behind the stage by like, a block, I couldn’t hear her, and I was SWEATING. So I’m not craning my neck or cheering.
I see a black guy, red t-shirt, about thirty five or so kind of push in next to me. But again, WE’RE AT A RALLY so all people of all gender, race, and age having been pushing in next to me. Tons of people have bumped me, brushed me, been pushed up against me. This is no big deal.
Now, this was not Barnes & Noble, this was a HUGE rally. Hundreds upon THOUSANDS of people are flooding the streets. So I did not keep track of this guy AT ALL. After he bumps me, I pay little attention to him.
Then I feel two hands firmly and clearly grab my ass in the crowd. And not just once but now this guy in fondling, rubbing, and holding my ass. It’s weird. I can feel his body pressed against my back…his hands still gripping me. I feel the very excited ‘front’ part of his pants bump against my ass a few times. He gives it one last grab and disappears into the crowd. I turn and watch him disappear.
The whole encounter lasted less than a minute. 30 seconds? 45 seconds?
I had weighed my options. Turn around and confront him? Be met with denial (likely) or violence (possible?) or made to feel stupid? Be embarrassed for making a scene by my in-laws? Getting one of the many law enforcement involved? For what? A slap on the wrist. There was nothing to be done. No consequences for him.
I whisper to Preston that this just happened. He gives me a kiss and comforts me because he knows that there’s no recourse but that it just was an invasive and inappropriate thing to happen.
All I wanted to do was be a part of an experience.
This is what I was wearing:
Experience #3: Has Beens are Hands On
Preston and I are at one of our favorite local watering holes (read a bar) and on this particular night it was unseasonably warm and the heat was also on – so read it was STUFFY in there.
We decide that we are going to go hunker down on the enclosed back porch. It’s cooler outside but enclosed to keep out the evening chill.
So we walk by the bar. There’s a group of seven white men, all in their fifties, standing right by the bar. They are well dressed, fairly affluent and well dressed, the type that used to be football players and have lived in their home town their whole life. They are blocking all of the area between the bar and the eating area.
So, to get to the porch is two pathways. I can go through some very narrowly spaced tables or I can say ‘excuse me’ and walk through this group of guys.
Now while I am heavy and often feel self conscious walking through very narrow pathways – I decide to very politely say, “Excuse me.” and attempt to get through. Preston goes the other way through the tables. We don’t discuss this. He had walked on ahead of me and I decided to go the other way.
I may as well have walked into a grope zoo.
They started whistling, a few hands grabbed at my hips and ass, somewhere a hand grazes my chest, there are catcalls, invitations back home, and they are now all surrounding me. Preston reaches his hand in to me and LITERALLY has to PULL ME OUT of this group.
Of fully grown men.
All I wanted to do was get some fresh air.
This is what I was wearing:
Experience Four: College Creep
I don’t really drink. Maybe one drink every other month or so.
So when I was in college, I was the DD pretty much every weekend. But I totally didn’t mind. I usually volunteered.
A guy that I knew briefly from mutual friends showed up at the local pizza place (with a few friends who were all drunk). He sat, uninvited, at our table. He put a hand on my leg and rubbed my thigh. This happens for several moments. I didn’t want to make a scene or have him straight out deny that this was happening. I tried to rally my friends to leave.
We eventually make our excuses to leave.
I take everyone home. In the fifteen minutes that I take these friends home, I have 11 texts from this guy BEGGING me to have sex with him and getting very pissy about my lack of response.
I respond, tell him I am not interested, and to please stop.
He tries to talk me into it. Tries to convince me.
So, he shows UP AT MY HOUSE.
Now, for the moms (including mine) that are like, ‘why didn’t you call the police?’ – I lived in an apartment with a locked door to the building, my apartment was locked, and my room was locked. I also had a male roommate who I told what was going on.
And I knew this guy. He wasn’t dangerous. He wasn’t someone I thought was going to break in.
I continue to text him and tell him that it is not happening. I can see that he’s still there as he continues texting me and hoping to get in. Eventually he goes home after several repeated responses that he wasn’t going to get any.
All I wanted to do was make sure my friends got home safely.
I have no pictures of this night. Of what I was wearing.
But the point is: it shouldn’t matter what I was wearing.
So what’s the point?
These are just four experiences.
This doesn’t include the first time I got whistled at when I was in 8th grade and walking home from school with a friend. Or times at bars where strangers have groped me. Or when I was sixteen and got called the ‘C’ word at my job in a coffee shop for refusing to meet a 60 year old patron in a hotel room for sex later. Or the countless times that people have attempted to throw things down my blouse. Or when I am on stage and people who watched the show feel that it is appropriate to treat me as my character. Or times where I have had people talk to me on dating sites (circa college) that opened with people asking for sexual favors before they even greet me.
Here’s a few gems from that era:
Or nights where I have walked to my car with my keys between my fingers, ready to fight. Received an unsolicited text of a penis picture. Or had to ask someone to walk me somewhere because I was unsafe. Or had a stray hand reach out and grab me while I was walking by. Or had a lewd comment thrown out the window. Or had a boss give me an unsolicited massage. Or put up with sexual harassment at work because my work life would have been miserable if I blew the whistle.
I shouldn’t have to feel unsafe so frequently.
I shouldn’t have so many strategies to escape daily routines.
The idea of rape culture has been talked to death.
So I won’t do it now.
Because you know what the worst part is?
There’s dozens and dozens of women reading this and thinking that they have another ten stories just like mine.
And that shouldn’t be a thing.
I have very few new comments to add to the subject of rape culture.
Except I hoped that the older I got the safer I would feel as a woman.
I don’t know if that time is coming.
So here’s the “end of blog” spiel!
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I also will be doing a ‘review’ of what you could do for a day in downtown Harrisburg.
Subscribe for updates! I did my fall fashion for some pumpkin spice fall looks! Be sure to lap it up, baby, with my Heathers Lookbook: How Very! Did you get a chance to see my travel blog? Be sure to check out my recent fashion posts that shows off my Dress-Pocalypse and my twelve tips for thrifting! I also posted my thoughts about aging and things I’ve learned in life.Check out my adorable post about Preston and I rocking some adorable famous couple inspired outfits! Check out my earlier post about your summer reading list,my top 10 plus size stores, or my thoughts about loving your body!
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Question of the Day: Have you had an experience like mine?
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My next few blog ideas: Do you want to see my new house stock pile? Seasonal transition? Another haul? Maybe one about those ten pieces that make up a wardrobe. But I’m not sure. I want to know what you are interested in hearing about? My Top 10 Embarrassing Stories? 20 Facts from Your Blogger? A team up with another blogger? Haul? A show off of my Barbie lot? Want me to style you? Let me know!
Love all you wonderful ladies (and gents!) out there!