They warned me. And I didn’t listen. I should have known better. Every time I travel somewhere, for any length of time, I get a bit more attention then when I’m back where I grew up. You know what kind of attention I’m talking about. This may or may not have anything to do with the fact that my happy quotient dramatically increases when I’m somewhere new and exciting and amazing. Leading up to my intercontinental move, certain of my friends and family, while supportive, told me to be careful because the male population was going to prostrate themselves at my feet (the unsupportive ones said I would be kidnapped and stabbed – but same idea). And I laughed. Because that would never happen.
I had to think for a long time how best to explain this. Now it isn’t as if I’ve never inspired surprising behavior from men before in my life, or women for that matter, and anyone who has been in public with me knows that I am a crazy magnet (like that guy with one eye who pet my hair in line at the grocery store…and…that’s another blog). But I have not been at university for a while now and working early hours with an early bedtime has meant that I’m used to being treated mostly normally in a professional setting. I naturally assumed that those days of leaving lustful insanity in my wake were in my past.
Wrong. So wrong. Saying it out loud sounds like a lie. I would think I had imagined it if it weren’t for the physical evidence to hand and the baffled looks on the faces of passersby.
I have been undeniably stalked on five completely separate occasions in the last two weeks. Even for someone whom weird things happen around this seems excessive. And because we live in a gender biased world full of assumptions we should be embarrassed by, let me just say that I was not wearing anything particularly provocative and none of these occurrences were in a bar or a club. And I tell you this not to explain or defend myself, but to illustrate the whole picture. One in a shop, one at dinner, one on the tube, one on the street, and one while I was sitting next to a fountain. After the second one it was really hard not to say, “Again?? Really?!”
And the things they said… “Are you sleeping with anyone right now?” “We’ll go to dinner tonight.” (Not a question.) “Where are you going right now?” “So, where is your house?” “You’re so attractive I had to try.” How did they imagine this going?? I don’t know you! I don’t know what the charming way is to approach a complete stranger with an appeal to spend time with them, but I know that these were not it.
When I say stalking I literally mean I was standing and walking and they would place themselves a step behind and right next to me for a significant amount of time before blurting out personal questions and eventually asking for my number, phone in hand. Now, I’ve been out of the game for a while but I’m pretty sure that this is not a generally accepted method of flirting. It can’t be. When my first instinct is to hold my purse closer and scan my immediate surroundings for witnesses you are not putting me in a frame of mind to want to spend time with you in the future. And how are you confident enough in this plan to already have your phone out? I genuinely hope that these were once in a lifetime occurrences for all of these men – even if that’s giving myself way too much credit – because I’m not ready to acknowledge a world where there is enough positive reinforcement to encourage that kind of behavior. I was led to believe that British men were more reticent than the usual and formal introductions would be necessary before any romantic entanglements could even be hinted at. And that still seems to be the case with the ones I actually want to talk to, but my goodness, the ones I don’t. I walk down the street like a normal person and somehow they see this:
Except, you know, much whiter. Most of the time I would love to be mistaken for a Beyonce-like creature, but in this instance I’m only using the simile because she’s the only reference I could think of that seems to be set apart from the typical human experience. Someone for whom this kind of insanity might be commonplace. And she might be the only one I can talk to about it, because the most obnoxious part of this experience has been not the stalking itself – which is bad enough – but the reactions of people I tell, with a few exceptions. Even in the age of #YesAllWomen and #womenshould the general consensus has been “Well, aren’t you lucky”, “You weren’t stripping when this happened?”, and “Have you tried being less pretty?”
I’m really not sure what to do with that. For now my fake boyfriend I’m always on my way to meet is developing a rather complex back story. Beyond that I’ll just have to hope you can think about how “Pretty Hurts” when you’re a “Single Lady” without too much “Resentment”, while I try to avoid those both “Crazy In Love” and “Drunk in Love” in my search for something “Irreplaceable” while I “Run the World”. “XO”.