I did some personal development courses over the last couple of years and it did make me feel more bulletproof. My biggest take-away from that aspect was that no one can hurt your feelings. Feelings aren’t something that is injured. You can choose to not allow anything to make you feel bad.
I still struggle with feeling bad. I haven’t reached bulletproof status yet.
One thing that I am really guilty of doing is hiding things that really upset me. That doesn’t really do any good but I find myself embarrassed by what happened and what my response was.
Earlier this month, I went on an outing by myself. I was walking around a small downtown area enjoying the day, enjoying my own company, and enjoying my thoughts. Even extroverts get some good stuff from a self-date.
I was minding my own business, walking, watching, thinking, when men in a car that passed me by decided to yell out their window at me. How do I know it was me? The street was deserted. Their chant was negative and it regarded my weight, my appearance and how I was porcine-like.
I responded by doing nothing. Oh, I heard it. I’m sure my cheeks got red because I don’t have great control over my autonomic nervous system after all. I just walked with the same peaceful look on my face and categorized the encounter as one of those ones I wish I could forget. I texted a friend as soon as I ducked in to a shop. I just told my husband tonight.
This isn’t the first time a stranger or even an acquaintance decided to make a statement about me, at me, to get my attention in a malicious way. The first time I can remember was 5th grade. There were times in high school, college, being at the mall, and last year when I did a lot of street running when training for my half marathon. These were never “woo hoo, you go girl” genuine cheers. These were always meant to be taken negatively and designed to make me feel bad about existing in this world and looking the way I do.
Street harassment isn’t a new thing and it certainly isn’t something that has stopped being discussed. In our culture, we are opening our eyes to how men and women experience different treatment. One viral video shows a woman confronting her harassers in sometimes very funny ways. When we think of street harassing women, we usually think of cat calls. Even for people like me, who try to be enlightened, can think of it as a very misplaced way to compliment someone in a knee jerk reaction, when it happens to someone else.
The truth is, there isn’t a lot of difference between someone cat calling someone on the street and yelling something derogatory at them. They are both unwanted. Neither one come from a well intentioned place. Both are only slung to elicit a response. Both make the issuer feel power over the target. And since we live in the United States, both are completely protected by the first amendment of our Constitution.
But just because speech is protected, doesn’t mean you can’t be viewed as a first class jerk for having said it.
I honestly don’t know if I can do anything about this. How could I have changed the outcome of that occurrence? If I was a Marvel Superhero I could have stopped the car, jumped on the hood, and made a speech and made them poo their drawers. But this is real life, I’m not a superhero. I was a pedestrian, they were in a car, and I could have been liable to any damage jumping on the car would have done. (I love how working in insurance has since colored so many of my revenge fantasies with reality.)
My mom always told me to ignore teasing. This isn’t really teasing. This is taking ownership of my body away from me. This is gross. And though it’s perfectly legal, it’s not okay.
The only thing I can think to do is not be silent. So I’m writing this piece and I’ll see how I feel afterwards.