Recently, I was seated at a wooden table on the second floor of the Evanston Public Library and this guy kept looking at me. You know, looking at me, looking at me. That icky, leering kind of looking. I glared at him once, then tried to ignore him. Eventually, he lay on the floor a few feet from my table, his head propped on a fist, book splayed open, and stared at me.
Let me pause a moment to tell you what I didn't feel. I was not flattered, nor was I aroused. The man was white, early middle age, nondescript. I couldn’t pick him out of a lineup, but my hero Sergio Ramos could have been eyeballing me from the floor and I would not have been into it. I was, instead, distracted. Furthermore, I was infuriated. I had gone to the library because my kids were at home and I needed a quiet place to get a few things done. I only had an hour and this creeper getting his jollies ogling me was keeping me from doing what I needed to do.
After about five minutes of trying to ignore him, I shot up and yelled, “I don’t know what’s wrong with you, but either you move along or I’ll go down and get the security guard to move you.”
People picking through shelves and sitting at desks nearby looked at me. They looked at him.
The man sat up and said, “I’m sorry.”
Sorry? For what was he sorry? That I’d yelled at him? That people all around had heard me? Certainly not for staring at me, for my discomfort. That was the point of his staring, no? I said, “I don't accept your apology.”
He pushed up to his knees and closed the unread book. Climbing to his feet, he mumbled, “It’s fine. I’ll go.”
“Exactly the outcome I was hoping for,” I replied, sitting down too hard in the wood chair. I went back to my laptop, although I was still too mad to focus. After a minute or so, I looked around for him. He was no where in sight.
Since then, a salesman, a wiry, former tennis pro, caressed my upper arm while he proposed work we needed done in our backyard.
I didn’t hear a word he said, distracted as I was by his hand on my arm. I interrupted, said, “Please don’t touch me.”
He moved his hand to my shoulder. He squeezed it, saying, “I’m sorry.”
I jerked away. “Don’t be sorry. Just keep your hand off me.”
Since then, a different guy, this one black and rather handsome, wouldn’t stop staring at me while I was eating a salad in the Greenbay Avenue Whole Foods. I tried to ignore him, kept my gaze trained on my book, but, eventually, my eyes strafed his. The dude was still staring at me. As our eyes met, he raised his eyebrows a couple times.
Huh? Wuh? No. I picked up my lunch and moved to a different table, where I sat with my back to him.
I am white. I am, and always have been, on the mouthy side. I am well off. This trio of characteristics offers me power many women do not possess.
Also, it can take a minute to notice, but I am solidly middle-aged, too often clad in jeans, my navy Chicago Red Stars sweatshirt, a moppy bun atop my head.
I did not work with or for any of the men mentioned above. No one in my family relied on them. With the possible exception of the toucher, I did not want or need anything from them.
And, still, I deal with this sort of thing all the time.