Ready for a bedtime story? Be warned, this one might give some of you nightmares.
A young woman was travelling home from work. As she stood on the crowded tube carriage, she realised she would have to move slightly to let other passengers off.
So she did. Everyone by the doors shuffled into what little space they could find to clear a path, and there was a silent understanding that any jostling was unintentional but necessary.
As the doors closed and the passengers settled back into passably-comfortable positions, the woman looked up.
The man in front of her was staring directly into her eyes.
“Sorry for getting in your personal space,” he said. She smiled and assured him it was fine, not to worry, and then she looked back down to her knock-off Candy Crush game.
For the next few stations, a pattern emerged. She would feel someone looking at her, look up, and be faced with the same man, his same expression, and the same apology about personal space. She smiled, more and more uncomfortably, and tried to laugh it off each time. He continued to stare.
Sometimes, she would move to a new spot in the carriage, as space opened around her. He followed every time. He stared. He apologised for being in her personal space.
Eventually, she started ignoring her instinct to look up even though she could still feel him watching her. She played her game more intently. She looked out the window and waited for her stop, speeding off the platform as soon as the doors were half-open.
She didn’t look back. She barely looked up as she walked.
Not scary enough to give you nightmares? Fine: there was also a haunted doll, or something that creaked.
But what about if something like that happens to you practically every few days? It may not be a horror movie in the making, but it’s enough to send chills down your spine. Sometimes it’s worse than this story, sometimes it’s not as intrusive, but it always affects you.
Especially if it’s something you’re constantly “haunted” by.
If you haven’t read this thread on Twitter, you really should.
A quick reminder for men: Common events for you can turn into really scary situations for women in a snap.
Case in point: This week I listed a clothes dryer on the Letgo app. Because it was a dryer, a neutral meeting location was impractical. I needed it taken out of my house.
— SaraSuze (@tragedythyme) 7 October 2018
The tweet that resonated the most with me was this one:
So I do what women do, lower my eyes, pretend to laugh a little, start lifting faster. The comments and staring hey worse but I try to block them out. As soon as I am free of the basement I walk straight past him to my phone, wait 5 seconds, and say, “honey, the buyer is here!”
— SaraSuze (@tragedythyme) 7 October, 2018
Lower your eyes, pretend to laugh a little, try and hurry the situation along. We do it without even thinking, just instinctively.
We do this because we’re afraid, but we don’t want the person (or people) to know. We don’t want them to see our fear, because that’s vulnerability and that’s what gets us in trouble.
It’s just like @tragedythyme says, common events and everyday situations can get real scary, real fast. And whatever the scale of the situation or fear, it still sucks.
So here’s what I’m asking for (ugh, women, always asking for stuff, right?):
Just be aware.
You could be the sweetest, most innocent person on the planet. But if you’re walking down a dark, empty street behind a lone woman, know that she might not realise you are that innocent. And if someone near you is being made uncomfortable or taken advantage of, and you do absolutely nothing, you aren’t as innocent as you thought.
That little bit of extra consideration makes all the difference sometimes. Cross the street, check on someone, even exchange a glance and a look of concern or a smile across a crowded carriage.
Oh, and never belittle a situation that has made someone uncomfortable. That’s rule 1 (which is why I put it right at the end).
It really is the little things that have the biggest impact.