Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Dear Creepy Guy in My Apartment Building

Maybe you don't know that you're totally creeping me out. I'd like to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that's the case. You look like you're probably in your fifties; maybe you just aren't hip to the fact that leering at me and making (what you may think are complimentary) comments on my body isn't OK. However, the fact that you have functioning eyes and ears leads me to assume that you must see my reactions to your overtures and a) not realize that stammering/ failure to make eye contact/ not acknowledging you means that what you're saying makes me really uncomfortable or b) you realize that and don't care. The latter is more egregious, I guess, as that would be born of entitlement and malice; the former could be written off as cluelessness. However, it's a cluelessness that, in 2013, shouldn't be allowed to stand. Maybe to you it feels like you've been giving me compliments. Maybe the fact that I've never explicitly said "This is making me uncomfortable" or "Please don't call me that, I don't like it" has allowed you to continue in your cluelessness. Well, let me lay it out for you here.

It makes me super uncomfortable that you feel entitled (OK, so I guess there is some element of entitlement there) to comment on my body. Saying, "Wow, you look great, you've lost a lot of weight!" might, possibly maybe, be an OK thing to say IF I know you well AND I've asked you how I look now that I've lost X pounds. Neither of those is the case. Contrary to popular belief, my body--and the bodies of everyone else in the world, particularly women--ain't public property. It's not actually your business, unless I ask you or am paying you for it to be your business (ie, if you're my physician). And the fact that you said it in a closed elevator where I was basically trapped alone with you upped the creep factor exponentially. You may not understand this, but as a woman--especially as a woman with a history of sexual victimization--I have a hard time telling when a 'compliment' (it's not really a compliment)/comment will end there, and when it may become a more tangible form of sexual violence. I'm not saying you're necessarily a shitty person; I don't know you well enough to determine that. But because lots of other shitty people throughout history (both my own and in the world at large) have followed up catcalls and comments with assault...that's the default response of my mind/body/psyche. Terror. Rage. Shame.

Then there's the fact that you call me "Beautiful" and "Sweetie" as if that's my name. Some of you are saying, "Oh, that's just him being nice." PS-- I can hear the difference between the benign "beautiful = you look nice" and the much creepier "beautiful = I am complimenting you because I want to bang you and possibly am doing so in my head right now." Every time he does it, I avoid eye contact. I say nothing. I start sweating like crazy. It doesn't help that a lot of this, again, happens in a closed elevator where I can't bolt. Dude, when ALL, literally ALL I've ever heard you say to me is "Hey, Beautiful," or "Wow, you've lost weight," or "Wow, you look pretty" (leer, leer, leer) I find it...concerning. I have a name. Beautiful isn't it. It means that to you I'm just a body; a body for you to look at. That's kind of the definition of objectification, and it simultaneously makes me feel gross and pisses me off. It pisses me off that I leave my apartment by an alternate door when I know you're in the lobby. It pisses me off that I wait an extra few minutes to take a different elevator when I know you're already in one. It pisses me off that, because I was raised to be a Polite Midwestern Girl, I haven't yet had the chutzpah to say "That makes me uncomfortable, please stop." It pisses me off that I have to be afraid you'll react angrily if I get up the ovaries to say it.

Maybe next time you do it I'll have the strength and energy to let you know, unequivocally, that it bothers me; but that fact is I shouldn't have to. This isn't even street harassment; this is in my building, my home. Knock it off.

1 comment:

Vanessa said...

I really appreciated your letter to "creepy guy". I'm also experiencing a creepy guy at my apartment complex. Have you done anything since to say something or report? Do you have any advice? Thanks so much!