Sick of it.

“Everyone knows that if you’re born with a vagina, creepy dudes are just a part of the deal.” Denise, Master of None (S1EP7)

A few weeks ago, Vix Meldrew asked the women on twitter stories of being followed or harassed by men. After recently watching Season 2 of Master of None, I’ve been rewatching Season 1 and was reminded of this particular line.

When I was 18, I was at home in Brighton during a uni break. We lived quite centrally, really close to the station, and town was just a stone’s throw away. I was walking home after some drinks with friends – it wasn’t particularly late, maybe 9 or 10pm – and as I was walking down my street, I noticed a guy at the other end coming towards me. No big deal usually. Usually. I was expecting us to just cross paths swiftly, like you would with any other stranger. But literally the millisecond before I turned to walk up the path to my door, he stopped me.

He gave me the regular creepy guy spiel: told me how “stunning, beautiful, goregous” I was, in ways that made me feel majorly uncomfortable. Not just because he complimented me; not to blow my own trumpet here, but I’ve been complimented by strangers many atime and never usually feel threatened out. But this guy had weird vibe about him, from the look in his eyes as he scanned me up and down. He asked me whether I wanted to come out with him and his friends, and of course I said no, making up some excuse about already being on my way somewhere.

“I had a feeling you were a party girl,” a devillish smile stretching across his face.

As mentioned, I lived near the train station, so luckily it could have been completely plausible that I was making my way there. I tried inching away from him, insisting that I was running late for the next train, but he kept insisting that we swap numbers so that we could ‘meet up later.’ And he wouldn’t leave me alone until I gave him one.

I gave him a fake number (well, an old number of mine from years ago that I still remembered) and a fake name (Eliza). I thought I was in the clear, but then he decided to ring me so that I could also ‘have his number.’ As he dialled, I darted away, saying I was late, and didn’t look back. As I ran, my palms were sweaty and my heart racing with fear.

I hid in the train station for 20 minutes, hands shaking as I texted my mum what happened. I just kept thinking, “thank god I didn’t turn up the path to my door before he stopped me.”

I tried not to think about what if I had gone up the path, and put my key in the lock before he stopped me. Would he have just lingered on my door step? Would the subsequent days and weeks just be him showing up at my house? I remember telling all this to a guy I was dating at the time, his charming response being, “I bet you loved it, really. You pretend you don’t, but you girls love this sort of attention.”

(I wish I could tell you I dumped that guy straight away, but alas 18 year old me was not as secure as 23 year old me)

It really does baffle me how some guys think that harassing a woman can be complimentary. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been followed after nights out, or asked for my number on the street or when I used to work at bars. The catcalls and honks of horns from inside cars. The longer than acceptable stares on my commute to work.

Many women have had it a lot worse than me, from taking photos without permission to public masterbating over their feet. But on behalf of women everywhere, I’d like to say:

You’re not funny or clever or big for shouting, ‘Nice arse!” as you safely hide behind your moving car.

We are not going to fall head over heels for you after you’ve told us to smile when we don’t want to.

We’re not going to be flattered that you spent the last ten minutes chasing us up the street or pestering us for our number, when we clearly have somewhere else to be.

Street harassment is not a compliment. And we certainly don’t ‘secretly love’ the attention. What’s there to love about clasping your hands around your keys in your pocket when you’re walking home in the dark? What’s there to love about feeling like you can’t wear a skirt or shorts when the weather is hot, for fear of attracting too much attention? Or keeping your headphones in your ears at all times in efforts to deter anyone from approaching you? Or telling one of your girlfriends to ‘text me when you’re home safe’?

This is a reality every woman has to go through, and it’s exhausting and boring and, somehow, we’ve let it become the norm. Society perpetuates this idea that our bodies belong to the public, and that the harassment and daily fear we face is the price we pay for deigning to be born as who we are, and daring leaving the house.

And I’m sick of it.

There is no moral at the end of this post. Just acknowledgement that these things do happen. Daily. By the hour, minute, second. And it’s not gonna get better unless we all aim to make this world a less shitty place. Stand up for women, call out those douchebags (as long as you can guarantee your safety, of course). Stare down those dudes who think it’s okay to leer, and report street harassment to the police as and when it all happens, so that they can learn to take this all seriously too.

Strangers // Part Two.

Two strangers, lovers, whatever, at a bar defining their relationship
To read part one, click here.

I sat across from him in the small, crowded, hole in the wall pub that had become our regular. Cupping my hands over the tiny tea light that was placed on the centre of our rickety table, I listened as the rain hammered rhythmically on the windows, and watched the ambient lighting of the pub illuminating his face, casting a golden halo around his hair. We fell into a companionable silence, as we often did, never feeling the pressure to fill the empty spaces with meaningless small talk.

No, whenever we spoke, it had purpose. It meant something.

I always had trouble describing what we were. Not that we even needed a label. We were two people, not ‘seeing each other’, but not really friends either. Friends didn’t cuddle under big fluffy blankets while watching films, or discreetly hold hands under tables, or delicately fiddle with the frayed edges of jeans that were ripped at the knee, just desperate to find a way to feel their skin against yours.

We didn’t have sex, but god, were we intimate. We shared a level of intimacy like I hadn’t known before. We found ways to crawl into each other’s subconscious and unravel all of our deep-seated issues and insecurities; and the best part of it was that we didn’t need comforting or assurance. I didn’t need him to stroke my hair and half heartedly tell me that everything was going to be okay, how strong I was, or how I was going to get through this. Just like he didn’t need me to tell him that he was way better off without that emotionally manipulative ex who cheated on him. Though I’m sure he could read between the lines.

We relished in the physicalities of our closeness, but took solace in the fact that we didn’t have to put a label on this thing we didn’t know we were.

I saw a sense of anticipation lingering on his face as he bit at the corner of his lip.

“Dating is weird, isn’t it?” he posited.

“Oh?” I furrowed my brow, not quite knowing what I was about to chase into the mysterious conversational rabbit hole.

“Just people, getting together, meeting up for the purposes of making a romantic connection. All the rituals that goes into it; the swiping, the pick up lines, the pandering. Of course, it’s all pretty new to me after coming out of a four-year relationship. I’ve never had to worry about that sort of thing before.”

I nodded at him, not encouragingly, but not discouraging either. I sipped my pint, and waited for him to get to his point.

“Also, and forgive me if I start to get a bit too philosophical about this,” he pre-empted, “but what exactly constitutes as a date? How is it any different to just two people, who happen to like each other, going out for a drink?”

He gestures between the two of us, “Like, is this a date?”

My breath stopped as I felt my heart rising up to my throat, my whole body freezing. It was hard to gage his tone; I couldn’t really tell if he was saying all of this in jest, or with a quite curiosity of someone who really wanted to know.

And I wondered, why was I not over the moon that I was sitting opposite a smart, funny, charming and breathtakingly handsome man, who was adamant to know whether or not we were dating?

I swallowed down my anxiety hard, “This can be whatever you want it to be.” It was meant to come out aloof, nonchalant, and cool. But I’m not even sure if I managed to say it above a nervous whisper.

The subject was swiftly changed, and but I couldn’t quieten down the part of my mind that insisted that whatever we had was ruined. Why, I thought, did he have to break our unspoken agreement to put a label on a thing that wasn’t meant to be labelled?

*

This is part of my creative writing series, Shorts. To read others in the series, click here. Stay tuned for the third and final part soon…

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Potential.

I'm realising my full potential and the only way is up
I actually had a different post scheduled for today, the second part of my short story Strangers, however I had something on my mind that I needed to get down. Part two of Strangers will be coming next week, so just bear with me in the meantime.

I went to Sheffield this weekend to see some friends put on some plays and short sketches in Thestival, a three day theatre festival. Thesitval was the brainchild of my friends Vicky and Michael when we were all part of the drama society way back when, and it is so great to see it still living on all of these years later, with different people putting their own spin on it. I guess with a lot of drama societies at university, people tend to put on more widely known plays and musicals most of the time, so it’s great that Thesitval encourages people to put on lesser known plays and sketches, and even submit originally written stuff, to really show the potential from the future stars of tomorrow.

It made me think about my own potential.

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Another Opinion on Girlboss.

girlboss-tv-show-on-netflix-canceled-or-renewed-for-another-season-1-e1492457855425

Last weekend, I binge-watched the new Netflix series, Girlboss, in one day. So I guess you could say I liked it.

The show is a semi-autobiographical depiction of Sophia Amoruso’s, the real life Girlboss, entrepanerial rise of her vintage fashion brand Nasty Gal from its inception in 2006, when it was just a lowly ebay stored where she ‘flipped’ clothes. The then-23 year old Sophia just wanted to not work for anyone else anymore, and so she almost by accident became her own boss.

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