In the aftermath of the incident from yesterday’s post, I’ve had time to reflect on what happened. I received a lot of encouraging comments and support. This post is a collage of my later thoughts, reactions, and observances.
- Don’t be afraid of the Ugly Words. It’s okay to say, out loud, “I’m being stalked.” “Take me seriously.” and “This is not good.” Even when it feels foolish. Even when a part of you wants to think this is just a mistake, a misunderstanding. It’s okay, and even right, to say the Ugly Words out loud.
- Take it for what it is. Don’t try to manipulate the situation into a drama, but don’t downplay it into a nothing. I didn’t want to appear foolish, and so this “incident” went on far too long, and I felt far too alone. I should have been less concerned with possibly being wrong and more concerned with being protected.
- Just because nothing happened, doesn’t mean nothing happened. He kept his distance. he never approached me. He never spoke to me. But he still intentionally scared me. Intimidated me. Followed me. He. Stalked. Me.
- It’s okay to still be scared, even after the fact. I tried not to be nervous today, but I had more errands to run. And I found myself sometimes hyper-vigilant. In traffic. In crowds. In parking lots. Not always. But more than usual.
- I’m much more aware how much of ourselves we give to strangers. At one location, they asked for my phone number to look up my account. In front of five strangers, I had to audibly confirm private information. With all the technology available, they should mandate keypad entries to prevent someone else from hearing my secrets!
- Everyone has told me I should have told the manager or called the police. Let’s face it: no one wants to be considered a nuisance. And without proof, the most anyone could do is write it down for later. I already felt helpless. I didn’t want an authority figure to confirm that fact.
- I know the difference between jerks, creeps, and predators. I don’t like admitting it, but the truth is, he was a predator and I was in danger. He had a look that said he owned me. He never questioned it. I was his. And the only time he looked confused was when I glared back to put him off.
- I have a right to expect more from society than my pointing fingers and looking like a fool. But society doesn’t easily throw open its arms and say “I’ll protect you.” More often, society says, “It’s not a big deal”, “Give me hard facts”, or “There’s nothing we can do.” Society made it easier for him to intimidate me, than for me to ask for help. And I find that unacceptable.
- Television is my friend. At the very moment I realized this guy was actually stalking me ~ not just looking at me, not just following me, but actively, intentionally, maliciously pursuing me ~ I recalled stories from my favorite crime dramas. I knew what to do: Be noticed. Be strong. Be prepared to fight.
- I texted Dot a few times. More than usual for that time of day. I sent her photos of the groceries in my cart. Partly because I wanted her to see what goodies would be waiting for her at home. Partly because it gave me a grounded feeling to be in contact with someone outside the situation, to pretend that it was just a normal day at the grocery store. But mostly because I wanted to leave a digital trail of where I was. I wanted to be like Hansel and Gretl finding their way back out of the forest.
- Thanks to television, I also knew what not to do: Don’t talk to him. Don’t be distracted. Don’t encourage him. But don’t back down.
- It’s okay if I lose sleep over this for a few nights. I didn’t wake up in cold sweats last night. I’m not suddenly afraid of the dark. I didn’t have nightmares. But I did have trouble falling asleep. The reality of what happened mixed with the possibility of what could have happened, and those thoughts kept turning over in my head.
- “Sunlight” no longer equals “Safe”. Even in a crowded, sunlit store and parking lot, even with smiling strangers around, I
could have beenwas in danger.
- I’m smart. I’m strong. I’m powerful. And I can fight. I knew enough of what to do to be confident. I know that was a big help in backing him down. I wonder how much braver he would have been, if I had been less so. What would have happened if I’d been more demure and timid?
- I’m thankful for my voice. I’m thankful for my inner voice giving me peace and courage in the moment. I’m thankful for my writing voice to share my story after the fact. I’m thankful for my physical voice, and I’m especially thankful I didn’t have to use it.
- I’ll be okay. Because I was okay. Because ultimately, while this incident was, and still is, very scary, I’m okay. But now I can’t stop thinking about the many women who won’t be. Whether at the hands of this man or someone else, women are in danger. And that makes me sad. And that makes me angry. And that makes me want to do something about it. I just wish I knew what.
And Frankly, My Dear… that’s all she wrote!