The following is my husband’s take, his view on what happened to me the other morning:
There’s a fine line between pursuit and harassment, a lesson every young man needs to learn.
My wife came home in tears today. She was out of breath, sweating, and very angry. During her routine morning walk, a man had followed her and would not leave her alone.
It all began with a simple “good morning”. That’s where it began and should have ended. A polite, impersonal greeting between two strangers. But to this particular man it was an invitation. Never mind that she never said another word to him. Never mind that she completely ignored him, shut him down cold. Never mind that he was scaring her. He followed her anyway, talking all the time, flapping his gums. Perhaps he was trying to impress her. It doesn’t matter. She wanted nothing to do with him, didn’t even hear what he was saying because she was listening to music on her iPhone.
However, she was very aware of his presence. Deciding not to say anything, knowing that if she told him to go away or get lost, it might only encourage him, she simply walked away from him. And he followed. Finally, after some time had passed, she darted around a corner, ran down a side street, cut up another street and lost him.
At last she felt safe to come home; she did not want him to know where she lived. And then she told me what happened in a voice shaking with anger, fear and outrage.
What makes it worse, of course, is that she has been sexually assaulted before. And to a lesser degree, we had recently moved to a new city. Now she was afraid to walk along the beach, because he might be there. And she was angry that her freedom was being taken away from her by some clueless man.
Before I was married, before I became a father to my daughter, before I came to know and understand women, I was one of those clueless young men. If a pretty woman smiled at me or said hello, I assumed it meant she also liked me. Sometimes I tried to talk to her, sometimes I watched her from across the room or bar. And one time I followed her, because I wanted to be near her. Because I thought she was leading me somewhere. She wasn’t of course, and now I realize I frightened her on that day some 30 years ago.
Just as my wife was frightened today.
If I could give young men some advice, it would be this. Just because she says hello, it doesn’t mean she wants to talk. Just because she says hello, it doesn’t mean she likes you. Just because she says hello, it doesn’t mean she wants to sleep with you. That is all fantasy on your part. The reality is this. Hello means hello, nothing more or less. So don’t pursue her, don’t follow her, because it’s the wrong thing to do. Because you’re invading her privacy. And because there’s a fine line between pursuit and harassment.