Posted by Irresponsibility
After a month of blissful protection from random verbal harassment, men following me down the street, aggressive staring and the odd obscenity I’ve had a cold-water dunk back into the reality of being an unappropriated female.
I’ve spent the weekend mooching about on my own, sans boyfriend, and presto! the magic invisibility shield is gone. I hadn’t thought about him in terms of actual, physical protection, until I realised how treacherous being on my own feels by comparison.
Yesterday, I pottered down the road to visit a cenote and — at the top of the dirt track leading down to the swimming hole — bumped into the fat, mustachioed gatekeeper. He stepped aside to let me pass. “Is it just you?”
He hesitated a moment, then said: “there are 16 chicos down there, and no women.”
I couldn’t see the cenote from where I stood, didn’t know how far down the track it was. He might have been fucking with me. He might have been being unduly condescending. He might have been completely out of order. But he didn’t sound like he was fucking with me. He sounded concerned. How much was I willing to bet his warning was merely patronising? Was I going to go down a dirt track on my own and do a head count? Three months ago, maybe I would have ridden that road, out of sheer cussedness, but not now.
“It’s not worth it,” I said aloud, wheeling my bike around.
“I’m sorry,” he said, sounding as if he meant it. I set off ahead of him and when he caught me up he called one last time, “sorry!”
My mind was spinning considerably faster than my peddles as I wheeled back towards town. I felt one of those poor mutts with an shock collar — I had no idea where the fence was till it sent a bolt of electricity through my neck.
It jarred me badly to realise how unsafe I feel alone. The last few weeks have been a fuzz of relatively welcome obscurity. Attached, I am invisible. Men ignore me. If they want to know something about me, they ask him. They give him the menus, bring him the bills, make eye-contact with him. There’s a little punk at the gym who used to ask me to parties now studiously avoids me.
None of this is owed to late-blooming respect for me as a human being. I am still a non-entity. Only now I belong to someone. They leave me alone because they consider me his property, and therefore harassing me would have consequences. Without him, I’m fair game.