I had finished work early and was heading to the public library to return a book. I was walking along Cambridge Street, listening to my iPod quite loudly to drown out the sound of the cars. A man (probably late teens/early 20s) walked by me. Because my music was so loud, it was like a whisper, but I could hear him say something along the lines of “You’re beautiful.” It took a few seconds for me to process what happened, and normally in this kind of situation I would just tell him to “fuck off.”
But I decide to try something different. I stopped and turn around. He must have realized that I’d stopped, as he also turned around, and I said, “Does that ever work for you?”
He’s asking how what he said was so wrong, that it was a compliment. I told him that I’m a complete stranger walking along the street, listening to my iPod. He said, “Yeah, I saw you with your music. I can’t believe you even heard me,” and I said, “Well, I did, and I don’t need you to compliment me. That’s not why I exist.”
He said that he didn’t mean to offend me, and that he’s sorry if he did. I told him that I appreciate that he’s sorry, but I’m trying to let him know that, even though he didn’t mean to be offensive, many women (including me) do take it that way, so he should watch what he says from now on. He slinks away and says again that he’s sorry that I was offended (which is still missing the point, but it’s a start).
I then walked away feeling like maybe I had overreacted. Even writing this now, I still kind of feel that way. But at the same time I’m thinking, if you know I couldn’t hear you, why were you saying it out loud? To prove something to yourself? Hopefully next time he’s tempted to say something similar to a stranger, he’ll think about it more.
Submitted by G.