It doesn’t matter if I was wrong.
Recently, I had an encounter with a man that made me uncomfortable. It’s been a long time since something of this nature has occurred.
I’m no longer a young woman. I’m forty years old and have two biological children. My body is no longer that of a twenty-year-old. However, I suppose I’m not horrible to look at either.
That being said, it’s been a while since I’ve had a man eye me up. At least, in a way that makes me uncomfortable. For context, here’s how the situation occurred. I had two hours to kill while my daughter was at swim practice recently, and I typically do this at a nearby coffee shop.
By doing this, I am able to complete work (many times, blogs!) and get a coffee. On this particular day, the weather outside was beautiful and I chose a seat by the window so I could look outside.
I’d been there for about twenty minutes when the man appeared. When I noticed him, he was outside the window smoking a cigarette. He caught my eye because he looked very much like a boy I’d gone to high school with, so many years ago.
We made eye contact and I realized I was mistaken. I looked back at my work. That’s when my skin started crawling. I glanced back, without actually turning my head, and he was staring right at me.
Thinking it must have been a coincidence, I gave it another minute. I stole another peek and there he was — smoking his cigarette and staring right at me.
Could he have been looking elsewhere?
No, he was looking right at my face.
Was that a wink?
This is not what I need right now.
He finished his cigarette and entered the coffee shop, joining the end of the line to place an order.
No big deal, I thought.
The booths on either side of me were occupied, and there was at least six staff present too — it’s not as if I was alone.
And I’m forty years old.
And it’s only 6 pm on a bright, sunny evening.
He ordered a small coffee and sat at a table right beside me.
Choosing the seat that faced me. He pulled out his phone and started looking at it.
Or was he looking at me, just past the phone?
I studiously focused on my work.
This is ridiculous, I thought. I’m imagining this.
Ten minutes later he finished his coffee and went back to the same spot outside, to have another cigarette. And to stare at me with unabashed arrogance.
Fine, I thought. He’s going to have his cigarette and leave.
The woman in the booth in front of me packed her things and left.
The man in the booth behind me packed his things and left.
The customer side of the store was empty. There were no staff members in sight, all of them on the other side of the high counter.
They couldn’t see me.
The man entered the store and sat back down at the table beside me.
In the opposite chair, facing me.
This time, we were alone.
I packed my stuff and high-tailed it out of there.
I drove away a bit faster than may have really been necessary.
It’s been many years since I’ve felt like prey.
That doesn’t change the way it made me feel.
If I was twenty years younger, getting away wouldn’t have been so easy.
I wouldn’t have had a car to jump into. I would have been a student, walking home or to the bus.
I wouldn’t have had a cell phone within my reach, to call for help if needed.
Most significantly, I would have questioned my assessment of the situation and not believed what I thought was happening could possibly be true.
I would not have trusted myself.
Twenty-year-old me still thought the world was a pretty safe place.
Forty-year-old me knows better.
I now trust my gut.
I now know that it doesn’t really matter if my assessment was wrong — all that matters is the way he was making me feel.
The way he was making me uncomfortable.
Most importantly, the way he was making me question my safety.
To twenty-year-old me, or my daughter, or anyone out there no matter what age or gender you are — know that it doesn’t matter if you are wrong in your assessment.
All that matters is that you feel safe.
Read that again:
All that matters is that you FEEL safe!
If you don’t feel safe, you aren’t safe.
So, no matter the situation, get out of it. Immediately.
Leave the coffee shop.
Leave the party.
Leave the room.
Get in your car and drive.
Call a friend and have them talk to you as you walk away.
Or, call for help.
It doesn’t hurt to be mistaken and incorrect in your assessment of the situation.
But it could change your life if your gut is right and you do nothing.
Until next time………………………………XO-JGF