Girl World: A Harassment Story
You’re sitting quite comfortably in the passenger seat of a car. You’re wearing baggy sweatpants. Your hair is a mess. You look like you just woke up. Your mom is inside the gas station store, getting the receipt. But hey, no worries. The car is a protective vehicle that shields you from the outside world, right? Think again. You’ve left the door open. There’s still room for something to creep in.
The gas station in this neighborhood can be sketchy at times. But it’s broad daylight. So just keep your head down, mind your own business, don’t talk to anyone, right? Think again. It’s a chilly December afternoon. You think about movies and TV shows; those girls are always put in some kind of situation. Sometimes they’re dancing, sometimes they’re talking loudly, sometimes they’re wearing tight clothes.
But you’re not doing any of those things. You’re doing absolutely nothing. So thinking by that logic, no one -- no one -- would ever think of approaching you at the gas station, especially not a balding, middle-aged man wearing a camouflage baseball cap, whose boundaries are apparently nonexistent.
Think again, baby-doll. You’re sixteen, you’re a girl, and the door is open. You’ve opened a gate. A gate that can let in a monster.
The monster looks over at you from the next station and smiles leeringly. At first you don’t think anything of it; smiling never hurt anybody, right? Oh, but you’re so wrong. You look back at your phone, at a funny video you’re now trying to watch.
You look back up. Now, the monster is standing right in front of you. Right in the open space of the car door that you’ve left open. The monster opens his fat mouth and dares to speak.
“Hey, pretty baby. What are you up to there?”
You can’t talk. It’s like your lips are glued together. You can’t move. It’s like your fingers have lost their ability of motion. You want to punch, kick, anything. You want to tell the monster to go away. You want to slam the car door in his stupid face. But you can’t, you’re completely, indefinitely frozen. You feel like a little girl again, afraid of the world and unsure of who you are. Back then, you always used to make sure the closet door was completely closed because you were terrified monsters would come into your room. From time to time, you still do that. It’s like your nightmare has come to life.
“What’s wrong, you don’t want to give me a kiss?”
When you don’t make any move to respond, he tries a new tact. “You look like a dancer. Do you dance?”
The monster grins, baring all his teeth, which makes him look even more terrifying, if that’s possible.
You feel nauseous. You want to throw-up. You want to burst into tears. No, no that’s not an option -- only your stuffed llama is allowed to see you cry. First of all, you hate dancing. A giraffe on roller skates would have better coordination. Secondly, how dare the monster think you’d ever in a million years be okay with this? But the reality is that he does, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
SPEAK! shouts the voice in your head, which tends to sound like Oprah Winfrey for some reason. It’s like a light flickering on. Your voice, loud and clear, rings out.
“MAMA! I NEED YOU!”
The monster grows very red in the face, glares at you, and skulks back to his car at the other pump. At the same time, your mom reappears from inside the store to your side of the car and asks why you’re yelling. You tell her what had just happened, barely managing to keep your voice from shaking or stuttering.
Your mom, who is so much braver than you are, isn’t the least bit intimidated. Mama Bear is in full force. You’re a little nervous; your mom may be fiery, but she is even tinier than you. The monster is probably three times her size. She stomps over to the massive, growling truck and starts threatening to call the police.
You peer out the window and witness the monster yelling back. You hear him tell her that he is an “upstanding former marine” (well fancy that!) and to “go back to her country.”
Oh God, he’s played the “country” card. He’s done it now.
She’s not yelling anymore and her voice drips with ice. “It’s none of your business where we’re from. I don’t give a shit if you’re the bloody Dalai Lama,” you hear your mom say fiercely. “If you so much as look at my daughter again, I promise the only view you’ll be seeing is the inside of a prison cell.”
If you were that monster, you would hide behind your ginormous truck, honestly.
You remember when you were a kid. Whenever you were frightened of monsters in the closet, your mom always used to tell you that she’d scare them away. The monster, now flustered, gets back into his truck and drives away. Hopefully far, far away. Hopefully to the great trans-saharan city of Timbuktu.
As she storms back to the car, you watch your mom in awe, wondering how she got to be so strong. But you remember, your mom has been in these situations before. Many more than you have.
After all, this is a way of life. This is girl world. And girl world spares none of us.