This past weekend I went to brunch with a friend of mine for some much-needed girl time. We ended up at a spot that was more like a day party, thanks to the live DJ and turnt up clientele which, I must admit, were right up my alley until one man tried to take things too far.
Being seated at the bar near the door, my friend and I pretty much caught a glimpse of everybody that was coming and going inside the Harlem establishment. And I remember at one point we both had a good laugh about a disgruntled looking man who came in and stood by the door looking around rather aggressively for someone or something.
“He’s looking around like, ‘Where’s my woman?'” I joked to my friend who’d also noticed the restaurant’s latest patron. And, later, when I watched the man rub his hands all up and down the arms of a woman opposite us at the bar, we both chuckled at the accuracy of my assessment.
But later, when I stood up to stretch my legs and do a little two step to the music, I found myself in the awkward crosshairs of that same stranger who appeared to be taken and who confirmed as much when he came up to me and said, “You’re lucky I’m here with my girlfriend.” Not giving me time to respond to that rather odd lead-off, he proceeded to tell me how gorgeous I was and proclaim that I was the most beautiful woman in the restaurant, innocently wrapping up by saying, “I just wanted to let you know that.” I smiled and thanked the man for the observation, ignorantly concluding there was nothing wrong with simply complimenting me. But considering I’ve written before about the dangers of men mistaking a simple nod and grin for interest, I should’ve known the interaction wouldn’t end there, despite the fact that this man had on a coat and scarf and was seemingly headed for the door.
Fast forward 20 minutes later or so when I made my way to the restroom and the casual observer was in line for the bathroom as well. I stood behind him and when one of the four unisex bathrooms opened up he told me I could go ahead of him. “Ladies first,” he remarked before adding “Or I could join you.” I refused to acknowledge his comment, though I sort of had no choice when I walked past him into the restroom and he proceeded to follow me. When I turned to close the door behind me, he was standing there in the doorway. My response was to close the sliding door in his face and lock it, again falsely assuming that move would send the message that I wasn’t interested. But when I slid open the door to the bathroom, the man was still standing there and as I stepped out, he walked up to me and kissed me.
Thankfully, my reflexes allowed me to turn my head in time so that the kiss planted on my jaw line and not my lips. That may, in part, explain my calm reaction to his violation. There’s also the fact that after a disappointing week of male interactions I didn’t have the energy to be angry, I was just that, disappointed. And so I turned to my aggressor and said, “Didn’t you tell me you’re here with your girlfriend?” He sheepishly replied yes so I asked him, “How do you think she would feel if she saw what you just did?”
He muttered an “I know” and proceeded to tell me something like, “It’s just that you’re so beautiful; not just on the outside but I can tell from your aura that you’re a great person.” I cut him off and retorted that I was sure the same thing could be said of the woman he was with. I also informed him that she doesn’t deserve for him to try to f-ck some random woman he just met in the bathroom at brunch because he think she’s pretty. For some reason he began to explain himself to me as if I was his girl, insisting he doesn’t go around trying to “f-ck everybody,” and I told him, “It doesn’t matter. You need to do better.” I then walked out of the wash area and back to my seat and thankfully, that did signify the end of my dealings with him.
But it wasn’t until a few hours later that I thought about the gravity of what this man did to me as well. In the moment, I was more concerned with his disrespect to his partner, but there was a clear line he crossed with me as well — twice. Perhaps the fact that I didn’t have to “fight” him off of me caused my mind to downplay what he did at the time, but later all I felt was disgust and concern for the woman in an actual relationship with this man who wasn’t just a cheater but a creep and a predator.
And then I became irritated for reasons beyond him, thinking about all the men who’ve tried to cast doubt on women’s #MeToo stories over the past month and the women who’ve questioned why victims put themselves in certain situations. If a man could be so bold as to try what he did with me in public with his girlfriend just a few feet away, there’s no telling what he’s pulled in private. And what other men have attempted in offices and hotels and restaurants when they thought no one was watching. And that’s why it’s especially unfortunate when people question victims’ stories or attempt to flat out call them lies. Women experience enough harassment simply going about their daily lives that there’s no need to make up extravagant tales for attention or ask what they did to warrant such behavior. And while it may seem like everyday there’s yet another woman pointing the finger at another man, don’t grow weary with the storytellers. Be upset with the fact that there are still so many stories to tell.