While walking home to my apartment from my car tonight, a young black man approached me. He was my age probably, maybe a little younger, but not that much. He was wearing normal clothes, I was wearing my day job clothes, so I looked professional, dressy, and cute. I had a long day with a shitty end, which involved the timely death of a book project that I loved (so sad to outlive your children!) and I was in no mood to talk to anyone, friend or stranger. I should also mention that I haven’t had a day off in two weeks, NOT ONE, so I’m tired. Just freaking tired.
So, when he said, “Excuse me. Excuse me, ma’am, hey, excuse me,” I didn’t look up. I didn’t even make eye contact or anything until the third “excuse me,” at which I raised an eyebrow. And when he said “Can I ask you something?” what was my reponse?
“NO.” Then, somewhat softer (but not much), I said: “I’m in a rush.” I then looked down, avoided eye contact, tried not to talk to him for the remaining ten feet or so from the curb to my apartment. He walked beside me and I could feel him struggling for something to get me to pay attention and I just kept walking.
A part of me feels very guilty about this interaction. Very, very guilt. Lots and lots of white guilt.
Another part of me feels proud of myself for what I did. The bottom line is this: I reserve the right to not have to talk to someone, no matter who they are, no matter what the situation. I have not always had full access to the kind of power that enables women to set personal boundaries. Today, however, I did just that.
It’s not like I thought he was going to steal my purse or anything. It was broad daylight in front of a bunch of traffic on Tremont St. My neighborhood might be a tad gritty, but it’s certainly not that gritty. What I really didn’t feel like dealing with, what really made me not want to talk to this dude, or any dude was because I didn’t want to be tricked by him. You see, I am INCREDIBLY gullible. I joke about it, and I like to think that it’s symptomatic of a sort of innocence that people find charming in me (it’s probably also why people often mistake me for stupid, but hey, what can you do.) But I can’t even begin to tell you how many times a man has come up to me and said: "Excuse me miss, excuse me, excuse me, can I just ask you one question?" And when I've said, "Oh, okay, sure, what's uo?" with my eyes wide like a deer in the headlights, he's followed it up by saying something like: "Man, are you looking fine today, can I just talk to you for a minute, damn girl..." and proceeded to just talk to me like I’m a well marbled piece of raw meat that he might decide to buy from his local butcher.
Today, I just couldn’t deal. I wouldn’t deal. When he asked if he could ask me something, I said simply, coldly, “No.”
I wonder what he wanted to ask me, anyway?