I didn’t get your name so I’m sorry to have to be formal, but maybe that’s better. More respectful. I just wanted to thank you for the other day. That guy at the bus stop? Remember? He kept saying “Booty” as he walked way too close to me and then when you confronted him acted like he’d been saying “Beauty.”
I’d just left the gym actually, that’s why I was wearing what I was: the tank top, the fitted capri pant. I’d debated whether I should change back into my regular clothes, the loose-fitting dress I’d had on earlier in the day.
My boyfriend had asked me just that morning why I didn’t wear more form-fitting clothes and I told him that I didn’t want to ever attract too much attention. And I know that I shouldn’t think about that, that I should wear whatever clothes I want to wear, that no one has the right to say anything to me that isn’t welcome.
In Brooklyn, years ago, I was taking a long stroll on a really nice summer day, kind of like our day at the bus stop, and a guy said, You look real nice today. And I thanked him because after those guys threw that bottle at me when I was in high school for not responding to them yelling at me from their car, I always speak. I always say thank you. I would have just said that guy in Brooklyn was only complimenting me and that’s fine. Except. He kept walking behind me and after one block, no big deal, but after six blocks and then seven, I started to be afraid that on the deserted daytime streets of a residential neighborhood, no one would be able to help me if he tried to do anything more than compliment me.
It’s that powerlessness that I hate. After that afternoon in Brooklyn, making sharp turns down blocks that led me further away from home just to get that guy to stop walking behind me, I’d told my guy friend what happened. He said, “So, I’m never supposed to compliment a woman?” And I told him that he had no understanding of what it is to be afraid of what else is behind that compliment, of what could happen if I didn’t say thank you and smile.
But that day at the bus stop, I didn’t have to worry about that because you stood up for me. You told him to leave me alone when you didn’t have to do that. And it meant that I could also tell him, without fear, to move away from me. It felt like getting some power back.
And with both of us telling him, nobody was interested and that he should just go about his business and leave us alone, he tried to act like he didn’t even care, that I must have been “homosexual”. He saw it only as his ego being bruised and he came back with what he clearly thought was a put down. Sometimes people don’t know what to do when they get their power taken away from them. He had no idea.
Anyway, your bus came and I told you thank you, but I just wanted to tell it to you again, so that you know that what you did for me was bigger than just that guy, than just that moment at the bus stop.
We have to take care of each other and you did for me that day.