Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Creepy Once Removed- It's Not What S/He Wears

I was not actually present for this, hence the "once removed" bit. 

I heard from a friend today about a conversation she had with a group of her coworkers.  They were discussing the fact that a woman had her chest grabbed one recent evening in downtown Abq.  One of them, a doctor, wondered aloud as to what that woman had been wearing.  In the retelling of this, I'm somewhat uncertain if the doctor was wondering, or indicating his belief that the woman could have worn something that would warrant that kind of treatment.  Either way, to even ask about it suggests the latter, and THAT'S CREEPY!

I know it's a firmly held belief.  However, it is inconsequential, insignificant, unimportant, inapplicable, irrelevant, unrelated, not at issue, what someone wears when s/he is assaulted.  Like... if you had a really nice car, and it got broken into and someone said "Well, you were asking for it; you have a Lexus."  Or if your lawn furniture was vandalized and someone said "Well, you shouldn't have had such nice stuff, that's like asking for people to mess with it."  See?  Those are ridiculous, and so is saying that what someone wears is asking for disrespect, mistreatment, assault and trauma. 

Let's put it another way.  Instead of thinking "if someone wears a low cut top and bottoms that show some cheek, then she's asking for it", turn it the other way around: "it's okay to grab somebody if s/he's wearing something that shows skin."  Huh?  Did your mama not teach you any manners? 

Seriously, it's time for us to apply some reality to folks with a metaphorical hayfork.  It's called getting a grip.  Now that's something you can grab without having to ask.

Saturday, May 21, 2011


This is so common I almost feel silly posting about it.  But a lot of what I'm likely to write about is common, and questioning what is common is a good idea.

I got off the back of the bus at San Mateo while new riders boarded at the front.  As I headed up past the front of the bus a guy stood, slack-jawed moving his eyes down and then back up my body.  He did this until it became clear that he was in my way and should probably board the bus before it took off without him.

I'm calling this sort of check-out the "star struck scan".  The guy seemed somewhat overcome and had an energy that suggested he just didn't know what to do with himself.  Maybe whatever went through his mind completely erased his social training that it's rude to stare.  It's possible for this "look" to be a little bit cute, or even flattering if it didn't also make me feel like running away to staple as many pizza boxes as possible to my person. 

In the store, I pushed my cart up a main aisle, stealthily making room for the many other kamikaze shoppers vying for a bit of aisle real estate.  A man pushing a cart the opposite way let his eyes wander down and back up my body, a little smirk on his face reminiscent of a Disney villain just coming up with her brilliant evil plan.  It's the kind of look that stabs fear into your heart and you think "Aw shit!  Those cute little dalmatians are totally screwed!"

The man said something to me as he passed and I can not remember what it was!  It was something inane and yet suggestive in tone like "What you up to today?" - something that begged a smart-ass and non-flirty response like "finding ingredients to poison my neighbor" but which gets a hurried response rising in tone like "shopping" because the urge to get away from this person is so strong that you simply can't think of something clever in the half a second he's still in hearing distance. 

I do expect people to look at me.  Humans: we're forward facing, lead with our heads and have two eyes right there at the front!  For those of us who can process visual information, seeing is a very important part of our lives.  We make important decisions based on visual data.  And yes, I do expect that data to include who we want to get to know and how we want to know them.

A lot of what makes it hard to write about creepy looks is that it's so subjective.  But that's true of a lot of creepy dynamics between people.  This doesn't have to do much with actions, words, gestures... anything that I can empirically point at and say "See?  That is creepy!"  This has to do with intent and the energy it creates.

When we come across a star struck scanner, I think his intent is really all about himself, his fantasy, what he can do with the picture of my body.  And this is creepy because, intentionally or not, he's letting me see that he's using me-the body for his purposes, without any inclination towards me-the person.  The point where he let's me see this is the clincher.  I couldn't care that someone fantasizes about me-the body (or me-the person) unless I know!

The evil Disney villain is creepy for a similar reason -I can tell he's using me-the body a way in which I haven't consented.  However, he's creepier because his smirk tells me more about the nature of his fantasy AND the fact that he's sharing so much of his reaction with me suggests that he wants me to have some kind of reaction in front of him, like smiling or looking away in disgust.  This is manipulative.  Thinking about it makes you want to scream "NO!  You will NOT screw these puppies!"  (See how well metaphors work?)

I do wonder if I read too much into this sort of thing.  There are multitudes of possibilities for everything.  I mean... maybe he was remembering his last intimate date with his right hand and just happened to be looking at my body at the same time.  Or maybe he was really unaware of how he was sharing information through his face.  However, since he then followed up with an inviting phrase, one I felt slightly creepy about (even if I don't remember exactly what he said); it validates that he wanted some interaction with me, some reaction from me.  The way he went about doing it stunk.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Creepy at the Cornell Post Office

My office keeps a PO Box at the Cornell post office, despite the fact that every one wants it closed.  We have a new PO Box in a much more convenient place, but apparently a certain very important client still sends us mail at Cornell and refuses to change that.  There are all kinds of juicy and aggravating details to the story but it's not important to this story.

In any case, I was checking this PO Box this afternoon, which we dis-affectionately call "corny".  The box had a lovely travel offer to some far off place with palm trees.  Upon stepping out the door, a guy I judged to be in his early 50's waved excitedly and exclaimed "There you are!" as if he'd been looking for me.

Surprised, I walked over.  He was standing behind the company car, which is adorned with advertisements for the many things my office does, medical massage for car crash victims, mediation, general attorney services, etc. 

"I understand you're a pain expert!" the man exclaimed.
"Ah, well, not me.  But the company I work for is." I explained.  "Would you like a card?" I handed him a card.  "We specialize in car crash victims." I continued, thinking we might have a conversation about his incessant neck pain.  I should have known by the way he took the card, surprised, and murmured an "uh, thanks" that this wasn't where he was leading the conversation.
"And I see you do divorces..." I followed his glance toward one of the decals on the car.
"Oh, yes.  The office manager is an attorney, although divorce work he tends to do outside of the office.  In the office he does more work with the car crash stuff."
"Well, what about marriages?" the man asked.
"Oh, yes.  He does marriage too."
"Well, that's not what I mean..." he laughs thinking I've just encouraged him to marry our male office manager. "I mean marrying a woman. I need to marry a woman."
I'm starting to cotton on, but it seems better if I just don't.  "Yes, he does marriages between men and women." I concur.
"I mean... well," he leans over to glance at my left hand "I see you're not married."

Immediately that creepy feeling crawls up from my shoes, blasts me in the face and slithers down my heart.
"Have a good day, Sir" I say hurriedly and head for the car.

I wish I'd said "that was seriously creepy" but I don't think of these things that fast.
I feel tricked and taken advantage of all at once.  And the fact that he was looking at my hand for evidence of marriage, makes me wonder what other "evidence" he'd found visually searching the rest of me.  There comes in the feeling of being used for someone else's purposes.  Ick.