I moved out of my parents house in December to my current apartment, something I never thought I’d do.
I felt free and independent. I was on the path to adulthood.
Because I moved in December, the neighborhood was quiet. We had the warmer winter days, but still, we mostly stayed indoors until the first signs of spring.
Across the street lives a woman, her nephew and possibly granddaughter. I never knew much about her. She asked me for a ride twice, which I obliged, but that’s the extent of our relationship.
This house always had visitors. A bulk of them. Which I would have never cared about. But then the harassment started.
As a woman your body is constantly on display. You can be exposing your skin or draped in clothing and the Male Gaze is this orb that surrounds us wherever we go.
I don’t remember what happened first. Was it the 42 year old crossing the street to tell me he’d been watching me and hoped we could maybe have a conversation one day? Was it the guy asking me to smile because it was Sunday? Once a group of men from that porch yelled at me, asking me whether I was making them breakfast that morning.
The final straw was when a guy said something so crude to me, I rarely repeat it. I didn’t necessarily feel unsafe. But every time I arrived at my house or left, I walked quickly. My face had a permanent scowl. Taking my dog out was the worst. I knew she wanted to enjoy the grass and fresh air but I just wanted to be in and out to avoid any confrontation.
I dare not call it harassment because it could have been worse. However, I felt violated. For a month or so, I felt out of control. I was embarrassed.
In the beginning of this journey–moving out and paying my own rent–I was growing. How pissed I was to have unemployed, lonely, and gross men to throw a wrench in that process.
As if my fairy godmother (I imagine mine to be Maya Angelou or Audre Lorde) waved her wand, the people that occupied this space disappeared. They have been gone for almost two weeks and I have returned to a cautious state of content.
I know that at any moment, they could possibly return, but for now I am enjoying not being watched and ridiculed and exposed.