Every time I walk into a convenience store for morning coffee, usually while I am filling up my gas tank, I have to make a decision. Am I going to smile at the people in the store, whereupon at least one man will take this as an invitation and hit on me, or am I going to walk in with Resting Bitchface, leave my sunglasses on, and have at least one man tell me to smile so that I will be worthy of his hitting on me. There is a third choice, and that’s to smile only at the women, children, and guy behind the register, but that seems rude. That is rude. So is Resting Bitchface, and I’m a smiler by nature, so…
I go to the McDonald’s drive-thru for coffee, even though it would be more convenient to just walk into the Qwickee Mart, or whatever. At the McDonald’s drive-thru no one is going to appraise my backside, murmur about what they’d like to do to it, or try to brush up against me when I bend over to get one of those amazing cheese and berry pastries from the bottom shelf. Do you realize that men bend over, but women crouch? Isn’t it funny that my mother specifically taught me how to lower myself to the ground so that strange men would not stop and stare at my rear end? I should be able to bend over to get that pastry because one of these days my knee is going to give out when I crouch down, and then someone is going to have to haul me off the floor. I guess that’s another choice I make: Excrutiating knee pain, or let Joe Jerkoff get a good look at what my gluts look like when stretched out.
The sad thing is that I never really thought about it much until recently. It was just what I did. I don’t want to be hit on because I don’t want to have to deflect unwanted advances because there is always the threat of so much vitriol even when I am as polite, pleasant, and sweet as possible. I do all I can to avoid looking–I was going to say available, but I wear a wedding ring, so my availability is right there in your face. Don’t get me started on the times it’s happened with my child right beside me. No, I do all I can to avoid being visible. I treat convenience store strangers like they are all ravenous bugblatter beasts of Traal.
No one cares.
Because the stranger didn’t really hurt me, or anything. He could have, sure, but he didn’t. He was just rude, or lewd. That’s just bad manners. It doesn’t hurt anything.
It doesn’t hurt anything.
It just makes me clench up my colon like I’m trying to turn coal into diamonds every time I stop to fill up for gas, and the man on the other side of the tank starts trying to catch my eye. That’s all. That doesn’t really hurt.
Tonight, a little girl I’ve known since she was just a wee speck shared how, now that she is a grown woman, men are making her hate her job because they are being rude and lewd, and I started thinking about convenience stores. I started thinking about how angry I would be to see someone putting two fingers up to his lips and thrusting his tongue through them at her.
I started thinking about how I hunch my shoulders over to hide my breasts, how I leave my sunglasses on to avoid eye contact, how I rush quickly and dodge, bob and weave down aisles to avoid strange men, and how every convenience store visit means stress for me because I don’t want to be rude, because I love being friendly, because I’m worried that I’ll hurt someone’s feelings, because I don’t want to be cold to a nice person on the off chance that he’s a troll, because I’m supposed to be flattered, because I’m supposed to take a joke, because I’m supposed to be above that, because I’m supposed to take the high road and just ignore the jerk, because I’m supposed to be responsible for making sure the man advancing on me walks away feeling good about himself. And I became very angry.
And sad. Because I don’t know how to fix it. All I can do is try to raise something better than the most recent waste of flesh who flicked his tongue at me while I tried to pick a creamer for my coffee.
And keep going to the drive thru.