Sunday, December 2, 2018

Man Catcalls, Mom Reacts

It was dark and cold as we scurried through the Target parking lot toward our car last night. It had somehow been one of our quicker stops at one of our favorite stores, and we left with little more than toilet paper and Will Farrell's Elf on DVD. We were ready to get home after a long day.

So it caught us completely off-guard as a gross adult man shouted vulgar things through his car window, aiming them at my older daughter.

I didn't have to think before I yelled back, "Shut up, asshole, that's my 15 year old daughter!" 

I began to shake. It was that deep-down involuntary shake, the kind that doesn't ask your permission to become something of its own. The kind that carries similar injustices of the past to the surface of reaction.

He started to shout more but I told the girls to "close their ears" and just get in the car. Still, they heard his next ugly words, which included an absurd idea: "I thought she was 18!"

I hated everything about this experience.

That some jerkwad had the balls and entitlement to be disgusting and disrespectful. That it happened to my kid. That it shouldn't matter whether she's a young teen or of age, because no female should have to deal with that kind of behavior. That I got lippy back and made a scene of my own, which probably only fueled his fire. But also that I didn't approach his car and/or say more. Punch him in the throat, even.

The whole thing, from every direction, was upsetting.

I stewed for a long while, then, once we were home, decided to share about the situation in a private support group I belong to online. I needed their feedback, which, it turns out, was the right thing to seek.

Their understanding, matched anger, and logic helped me see that even while I regretted what I did, and second-guessed what I didn't do, I should be proud that I spoke up when so many others wouldn't or couldn't. That I didn't shy away or show him fear, nor that I was intimidated. I brought attention to his behavior. I stood up for my kid. For both kids, in fact, because what affects one affects the other. That's where my focus should be.

So today I've decided that while my reaction may not have made a difference in that one man---he'll continue being an asshole unless or until real consequence meets him---it makes a difference to my daughters whether or not I defend them.

Maybe it's possible that someone observed the whole thing, quick as it was, and next time they're in a similar situation, they'll speak up, too. If so, then I've won. And this is what advocacy for women is about as much as anything.

[For more about my advocacy, check out my side bar.]

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