It was a gray, watery Saturday in January. One of those days when I preferred to hide in the hood of my jacket. I didn't feel like going out into the street, but I had a package to pick up and you don't have to say that twice, so with fresh reluctance I walked to the tobacconist's one block away.
I went from A to B. There was nothing wrong. I just walked there, I didn't do anything remarkable or strange, I was present as anyone can be present, walking from one place to another.
The shop is located on a street where several times a week there is also a market. When I arrived at that street, I saw that it was indeed a market day; the shop was just behind the beginning of that market. At the first stall there were a few market vendors, I noticed they were looking at me, I didn't hear if anything was being said, I didn't pay much attention to it, minding me own business and I got the package.
And I walked back, exactly the same route, past the market again and at that moment I was kicked hard on my heart. The 3 men were still there, I had only seen their shapes somewhere in the corner of my right eye, I was aware of their presence. As if I had subconsciously been triggered by something, maybe it was their watching on the way there, I don't know.
As I passed by, one of the men said:
"I thought I was looking at a beautiful woman, but what a mess she has on her head."
My hood was off for a while, because shop and warm and waiting and courtesy and all that. My hair was probably weird in the back, that could very well be. And now you can think, oh well, whatever, let them talk. Were it not that I've been getting shit like this for years, and how is that okay?
What touched me most was the way he said it. I'm almost deaf in my right ear, he was standing some distance away on my right side, which means he said it loudly on purpose, so that both the bystanders and I would hear it well.
I always wonder: what is the reason for this? I don't know the man, never seen him, so it has nothing to do with me. Then it has something to do with him. And although it remains only a guess for me, maybe he was uncomfortable for reasons unknown to me, and tried to divert attention from himself and used me for it.
Or maybe he had said something in my first passing, and I didn't hear it, so I didn't respond, and I know from many previous experiences that many men don't take it very well when they think they're being ignored (while maybe you just didn't hear them…).
And me, I'm easy prey. Always and everywhere I am alone, so the chance of being harassed is greater than people who are often on the street with others. I'm not tall, not wide, not a man... but what can you do about it?
I just kept walking, pretending I didn't hear anything. I've gotten really good at that over the years.
Around the corner, I pulled my hood back on my messy head and followed my footsteps back home. Where after that I almost didn't want to go out for weeks, only if I really had to. And I was already doing so great (not).
I made a PissOnMenAnimation. And wrote an angry Instagram post, wishing that his market stall would burn to the ground, if possible with him in it.
And now, every time I pass the market (which is very little), I check for men. Depending on how I feel, I either walk past or try to find another detour. At home in all markets, so to speak. You may find this exaggerated. But then you don't know anything about all the other times in my life that I was bombarded with – often much worse – bullshit on the street or other public places, assaulted, bullied, abused. And that adds up.
I'm going to write it all down. No, not really nice, but necessary.
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