As I am about to share my most personal post to date, I must make it known that what happened really weighed on my mind heavily throughout the day. I contemplated writing this all down in the fear that it may be taken as a ‘poor me’ post but maybe that’s the problem with everything on my mind. If something happens to us, why must we be so fearful of speaking out or what others may think? You’ll get what I really mean in a moment.
My Sunday mornings have been pretty typical over the last few months; sleep in a bit (most likely until 8:30/9- my teenage years are behind me!), eat a quick breakfast, head to the gym and settle in for football. Today was supposed to be nothing different. I wasn’t supposed to feel out of sorts.
As I began settling into my workout with Eminem’s ‘White America’ blaring in my headphones, I was approached by another gym-goer that I had seen before. Our first encounter was less than appreciated. He made uninvited comments about my looks and how he’d been watching me workout over the course of a few months. Pretty much enough to make anyone feel creeped out! Since then I have made a conscious effort to avoid this person and to not give them the idea that I have any interest in entertaining anything he has to say. Today was the first time in a while that he approached me.
Seeing him leaning up against the machine I was using, I tore out one of my headphones with a “what is it?” sort of look. What he said next really shook me.
“Good morning. How are you doing?” he asked. “Fine. Thank you,” I responded, eager to get back to my workout. Before I could get that earbud back in, he quickly said the following: “I just wanted to say what you did last week was very mean and unfair.” Not knowing what he was talking about, I responded with a “what are you talking about?” His response: “While I was doing my back workout, you were standing in front of be bending over and that’s just not fair.” I’m sure at that moment, the color was gone from my face and my mouth was wide open. A very small handful of times I am at a loss for words and it was happening right then. Where was my typical witty response? What happened to the big “F-U” that would take this guys out at his knees? Nothing was coming to mind so I put my headphones back in in hopes that the rap music would fuel my anger. It didn’t.
As I moved from machine to machine, all I could think about was what he said and how he said it. It was so causal, like someone talking about the weather equipped with a sly smirk. What makes a man or anyone think that saying something like this is okay? I started to feel insecure. What was I doing that day? Were my workout clothes revealing? Were my move provocative? Should I be more aware of what I am doing? This isn’t me, I thought. Why should I be blaming myself over this situation when I am not the problem here?! I even quickly thought about changing gyms and getting away from this person but again it’s like why should I change who I am and what I do over someone’s words?
When a girl gets raped, it’s probably because her skirt was too short. When a girl uses her mind, she’s a bitch. When a girl feels confident in her gym clothes and her workouts, she’s a distraction. What can we do as women where we aren’t the ones to blame?
From the photo above, you can see the change in my demeanor. I kept looking down at my feet in-between weight sets because I felt insecure. I kept going over the scenario in my mind and started to feel angry that I didn’t put the guy in his place.
Well, the chance presented itself.
Wrapping up my workout on the treadmill, eagerly pushing to make it home for the Patriots game, he appeared again right in front of me. I was suddenly so angry about the situation, my safety and having to defend myself, I took my headphones completely off this time and before he said a word I said, “You need to get away from me and leave me alone. I am not interested in anything you have to say. Stay away from me.” I said it loud unsure it if was due to the fact that I wanted people to hear or that the music had been blaring in my ears to drown out my thoughts. Of course he started laughing and walked away. I was glad that I said what needed to be said but still didn’t feel safe.
He told me before he was watching me, expressed an uncomfortable attraction and already crossed the line in communication. What am I to do now? Why are we as women constantly faced with these situations and what makes anyone think it’s okay?