When I was in high school there was a little shopping centre on my way home from school. It had tiny little convenience store that I liked to stop at to get something nice to eat when my mom was working. There was a video rental store with a few Pacman type arcade games. That was where the boys hung out so I knew to avoid walking around that side of the centre.
One day there was a guy further down from the shopping centre, almost at the next street corner. As I passed him, he offered to carry my bag home. Something about him didn’t feel right so I refused. He fell into step with me and asked my name. I made some joke about my mom telling me not to talk to strangers and asked him to leave me alone. He backed off and I thought it was over.
The next day he was near the same street corner and the conversation went almost the same:
Can I carry your bag home?
No thank you.
At least tell me your name.
I’d rather not.
I don’t feel comfortable talking to strangers.
Can I at least walk you the rest of the way home?
No thank you
I figured if I said no consistently a few more times he would take the hint and leave me alone. He didn’t. After about a week I got sick of it and I changed the route that I took home. This meant that I couldn’t stop at the corner shop anymore. If my mom asked me for something important like bread or milk, I would ask a male friend to walk home with me. If there was a boy with me the guy on the near the street corner would pretend he didn’t even see me.
If I walked by alone he would talk to me again. Then I would go back to taking the detour. I realized that I couldn’t be the only girl he was doing this to. If I was, then he would have given up and stopped spending hours every day just standing by the side of the road on the off chance that I might walk by. There must have been some other pay off for him.
It didn’t even occur to me to talk to my parents or anybody else about it. What would I say? There’s a guy who stands on the side of the road and very politely offers to carry my bag home every day. No he’s never touched me. No he hasn’t even once complimented me. No he hasn’t asked me anything inappropriate. So what’s the problem?
Here’s the problem. He makes me feel sick to my stomach. I don’t want him to talk to me. I want to be able to walk home from school without having to ask him to leave me alone every single day of my life. He’s not going to do that so I have to change my habits to avoid him.
Therein lies the crux of the matter. It is always up to the woman to avoid the unwanted attention. Men are not taught to simply accept no as an answer and respect a woman’s right to be left alone.