Dear Guy Who Harassed Me From Your Car:
I have been saying to my husband for months that I refuse to walk at night to the Kroger down the street, because I don’t want to get harassed. In the past, groups of young men have shouted incoherent things at me from across the street, and that makes me uncomfortable. When I can make out what is being said, they usually aren’t kind words.
So when I decided to walk to the grocery store a couple weeks ago and pick up some bread, some cheese for my son’s snack, and some beer and candy for my husband and I to enjoy that night, I was already a bit on edge and feeling insecure. The grocery store was packed with people, and they had closed all but the self-checkout lanes. As I waited for the single cashier on duty to ID me at my register, we briefly made eye contact, because you were in the self-checkout right next to me. You didn’t say anything or try to make small talk, and I didn’t think twice about you.
When I left the store to make the five-minute walk back to my house, my shoulders were tensed up, my stride was quick, and I periodically glanced behind me to see if anyone was following me. Not because of you, because at that point, I had no reason to think that you would follow me. It’s just how I (and many other women) walk when I’m alone at night, even if I’m only five minutes from my home. I started imagining what kind of horrible things could be done to me if a predator did attack me. I wondered if I would be able to break one of the beer bottles in my bag and use the glass shards to defend myself. I worried about how those same bottles could be used as a weapon against me.
I started to feel a bit more at ease as my house came into view. From the corner of my eye, I saw a blue car backing up down our one way street, and thought, “Oh, must be parallel parking. I hate parallel parking.” I walked a few more steps, and I heard a voice, your voice, come from the car, but I can’t remember what you said. I didn’t think that the shout was for me, perhaps it was to a neighbor who was sitting on his porch, and I continued walking, until you rolled up beside me in your car and said, “Hi!” from the window.
For a split second, I thought it would be someone asking me for directions, which I always dread because I never know where anything is. I said, “Hello?” and peered at your face, and recognized that I had just seen you at the grocery store. You leaned out of your car window, rolling slowly to keep up with my pace, and said, “I saw you in the checkout and just thought I’d stop to say hi.” Oh. So not directions, then.
I broke eye contact with you and kept walking. I debated how to respond. If I said nothing, would you say, “Hey, you don’t have to be a bitch”? If I said, “I have a husband,” it would be beside the point, because even if I were single, this would not be an appropriate way to approach me. I also knew that I would be at my house in a few more paces, and I didn’t want you to see where I lived.
I muttered, “Um, okay. Hi….” and you got the message and began to drive off. You yelled out your window as you sped off, “Sorry, I didn’t mean to be….” What? I didn’t hear your final words. You didn’t mean to be creepy? You didn’t mean to be so insensitive as to make me feel palpable fear at the realization that you could have easily gotten out of your car and overpowered me? Or used your car to hit me? You didn’t mean to be the reason my night was plagued with anxiety and an inexplicable slimy feeling I couldn’t shake?
When I saw your car stop at the sign at the end of the road, I dashed up my front steps and knocked on the door, hoping my husband would be right there to open it, but he was in the backyard. I frantically fumbled through my keychain to find my house key and could barely unlock my door. When I stepped inside, tears welled up in my eyes. My heart was racing.
Since I’m used to being disparaged by men, I always secretly thought that if I were to be catcalled in a “positive manner,” I would feel flattered or complimented. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is no such thing as “positive” catcalling. Because it’s never positive to assert your dominance and power over another person who is not on equal footing. What you did wasn’t “hitting on” me. It was predatory.
I’m not only angry at you. I’m angry that when I told my friends about it, many of them said, “Why were you walking to the store?!” and “Don’t do that anymore!” I get their point, because I can guarantee that I won’t be walking alone to the store again anytime soon. But my husband has walked to the same grocery store many times at night to pick up a last minute item, and he has never felt the fear that I do. No one is telling him he should drive the 500 meters just to pick up some bread.
And I’m angry at myself because I wondered if the fact that I didn’t have makeup on and was in my post-workout gear made me look more approachable. Like maybe I looked so homely and desperate that you figured I would be the type of woman to go for a guy shouting things at her from a car. But that’s so completely irrelevant.
If you had started up a conversation with me in the checkout line, I would have been friendly, because I’m a nice person. (You still wouldn’t have gotten anywhere, because I love my husband, who, incidentally, treats me with respect.) But in the future, maybe you should try approaching women in environments where they feel safe, instead of stalking them down a dark, isolated road in your car. And maybe you should try talking to them like humans, instead of shouting at them and then thinking that they are obligated to flash you a smile and feel complimented that you noticed them.
P.S. You’re an asshole.
- 6 egg yolks (110 grams)
- 4 tablespoons (20 grams) medium-grind coffee
- 1/2 cup (65 grams) malted milk powder
- 2/3 cup (130 grams) dark brown sugar
- 1 1/2 (350 mL) cups whole milk
- 1 1/2 (350 mL) cups heavy cream
- pinch kosher salt
- 1-2 tablespoons (30 mL) bourbon (or vanilla extract)*
- In a large saucepan, whisk together egg yolks, coffee grounds, malted milk powder, brown sugar, milk, and cream. Cook the mixture over medium-low heat until it reaches 170°F, whisking frequently. (If you don’t have a thermometer, remove the pan from the heat when the mixture thickens just slightly, enough to coat a spoon and leave a line when you run your finger across the spoon. But, seriously, get a thermometer. They’re useful.)
- Place a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl, then pour the custard through the strainer into the bowl. This will remove most (but not all) of the coffee grounds, and will catch any egg solids that may have been cooked. Whisk in salt. Cover the bowl and refrigerate until very cold (about 40°F), preferably overnight.
- Before mixing, whisk in the bourbon (or vanilla extract). Pour the ice cream base into your ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer ice cream to a freezer-safe container, cover, and freeze until firm, at least 4 hours.
- *I used 2 tablespoons of bourbon, which gives an added bourbon flavor, and also keeps the ice cream fairly soft and scoopable. If you don't like the taste of bourbon, use vanilla extract. If you like a firmer ice cream, use 1 tablespoon of the bourbon/vanilla.