I'm a Woman, and I'm Not Here For You
Today I was pumping gas, minding my own business, when I hear “Is gas cheaper there?” from the guy pumping gas at the tank diagonally across from me.
Because I’m not making eye contact with anyone, clearly unavailable for conversation, and also clueless as to what this guy is talking about, I assume that he’s chatting with the guy at the pump across from him.
But then again.
IS GAS CHEAPER THERE?
At this point, I suspect he’s talking to me, but based on his shouty, vague commentary, I’m not really interested in turning 180 degrees to speak with him. Instead, I allow my suspicion to pass and keep minding my own business and pumping my own gas.
But then a third time. Even louder.
IS GAS CHEAPER THERE?!
I turn around, look at the guy, and ask Are you speaking to me? just in time for him to ask yet again.
Four times. No joke.
It takes me a minute to figure out he’s referring to my Texas plates. When I tell him I haven’t been there for six months and have no idea, he totally deflates as if I’ve stolen a toy from a six-year-old.
That insult might be considered harsh if he hadn’t then acted like one too, refusing to say another word to me even as I did him the courtesy to continue the stupid conversation by articulating hope that gas prices, in fact, have fallen since I’ve left.
Literally, he said nothing to me.
Just walked away.
This dude SHOUTED at me four times trying to engage me in conversation, and when I’m not over the moon, smiling back at him, totally stoked to be verbally engaged (read: shouted at) by a complete stranger, he sulked way like the entitled teenage boy he still is.
I know, that last part is snarky. But I will tell you I’m totally done with men feeling entitled to connect with me.
Just last month on my trip:
I was parked on a mountainside in the pouring rain, but around 3:00 the sun broke through just enough for me get outside to do my workout.
Mind you, I have grown very accustomed to doing weird-ass Tracy Anderson moves in front of other people. I’ve done my 30-minute muscle exhaustion series at campgrounds, rest stops, and in the middle of a beach in San Francisco.
At that point on the mountain, it had been almost three months of public exercise and no one had ever said a word. They just let me do my thing and kept on walking on.
That day on the mountain was the first interruption.
Let me paint the picture.
My car is parked, pulled to the side of a dirt road. It’s all BLM land, so that’s literally the only thing you can do. There aren’t official sites, just pull off spaces with breathtaking views.
Weights in hand, I’m waving my arms around looking out over the cliff beneath me with my back to the road. Everything about my nonverbal behavior says leave me the eff alone.
I can hear a couple of men on mountain bikes about to ride by, and despite that about a hundred people have silently passed in the three days I’d been here, I get the feeling this time is different.
Sure enough, right after they pass me, the younger guy literally does a U-turn and shouts at my back: Where are you from?
Because my eyes are out of his sight, I rolled them so hard I’m surprised they stayed in my head. I reluctantly turned around, looked him straight on, and said “Why?”
Either the wind was legitimately too loud or my response was so outside the realm of what this white man was used to that it took three times of him repeating himself and me asking why before he finally heard me.
I’m a woman alone in the middle of nowhere. Why the hell would I tell you two male strangers anything?
Oh! But yes.
The world is not dangerous to this young white man and so he has very little capacity for imagining that there may be precautions someone like me needs to take in order to avoid being raped.
The second he finally heard my question Why, he deflated in the very same way the gas station man did. Stopped talking to me, sulked away, and made it very awkward for his dad to have to keep the conversation going so as to not make things all out weird.
I don’t like it when people deflate around me. I really don’t. It’s an unpleasant and sad experience to see such shame.
But I am also done being “nice” to men who feel entitled to my cheery smiles and bashful grins – the charade that every woman who’s ever had to protect herself around dangerous men knows all too well.
It’s exhausting pretending to enjoy someone’s attention! And it’s disgusting that our society has socialized men into thinking that they’re entitled to ours.
Quite honestly, it’s not a lot to ask: If my back is literally turned away from you, please don’t shout at me. If I’m not looking at you, I probably don’t want to talk to you.
I have no interest in being a pleasurable experience for you because I AM NOT HERE FOR YOU.
So just leave me the eff alone so I can navigate this exhausting world that’s stolen my physical sovereignty, exhausted my mental resources, and refuses to pay me the same amount as someone with a penis.
Thank you very much.
MAGIC MANTRA: I'm here for me.