Everyday Harassment: A Glimpse

Last night Frankie and I decided to go shopping. After the con, our cupboard was looking pretty bare. We have both been suffering from the lack of fruit in our diets. So we took Xena to the vet for her boosters, ate a quick “do not shop hungry” snack, and headed to Shop Rite.

When we got there, our cart quickly became laden with all manner of goodies. Because the “do not shop hungry” snack can only do so much and cherries were on sale and goldfish crackers are delicious, OK? Don’t judge us.

Ahem.

We got in line with our overburdened cart, Frankie taking up her customary position at the front end so as to better unload the cart onto the conveyor belt, while I stood at the rear.

As she unloaded, a 50-ish year old man came up behind me and addressed Frankie across the length of the cart.

Man: You work for forensics?
Frankie: Yea.
Man: That’s real good. I watch the forensic shows. That’s a good job. That’s real good.

The interaction went on like that for a bit. I, my hackles up for imminent harassment, did the usual body language of a person who doesn’t want to talk. I did not look at him except to give him one word answers. I smiled only briefly. I sent off as many “fuck right off” signals as possible.

They didn’t work.

After finishing talking to Frankie, he turned to me.

Man: Damn, ma, what’s your name?
Me, making direct eye contact and not smiling: I’m her wife, actually.

His eyes popped out of his head. He looked me up and down for a long moment, then turned to Frankie.

Man: You are so lucky. You never done a thing wrong. You made a good choice. She fine. Damn. She fine.
Frankie, glaring a little: Yea, I’m lucky. She’s great.

Now, back when I used to date men, before I figured out that was a terrible idea, the way these interactions would go is as follows.

Man: Says something to me.
Me: I’m with him.
Man: Aw, man, I’m so sorry, bro. I didn’t know. *vanishes*

But this guy knew that I was with a woman. So he kept telling Frankie things like the following.

Man: I would break my own neck to get up in that. I would leave my paycheck on the bed every Friday. Damn.

All while looking me up and down while I smiled beatifically at Frankie where she couldn’t see. I reached critical mass when he was standing behind me, mumbling to himself, and I could see Frankie’s rage muscle activate. It’s this little muscle in her jaw that clenches just before she loses her shit.

I moved to the other side of the cart.

Me: See what I deal with?
Frankie: Ugh. Yea. I wanted to punch him.
Me: Was he just staring at my ass the whole time he was behind me?
Frankie: Yea. And he kept making faces at me. I just glared at him until he left. What the fuck?

What the fuck, indeed.

I think it’s interesting to compare the way that I am treated now to the way that I was treated when I was in relationships with men. Most of the time, Frankie reads to ignorant assholes as male from a distance, so they don’t bother us. But in this case, he had already spoken with her and knew that she was female. I also used female pronouns to address her. With that leeway, he thought it was completely appropriate to linger around my ass and make lewd comments at me while trying to catch Frankie’s attention.

The funniest part of all of this is that he somehow thought that Frankie would join in his appreciation of me as some kind of object. Her lack of engagement with him on that score and her glaring reproach of him from her side of the shopping cart spoke volumes. Don’t ask my girlfriend to join you in reducing me to a sex object, men of the world. That’s not going to fly. I pick my partners better than that, nowadays.

Just another day in harassment paradise, kids. And people wonder why we need feminism.

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