I was walking home with a friend after a fun evening out, chatting about her upcoming vacation plans. About 100 yards away, three guys were walking toward us on the same sidewalk. Once I noticed them, chatting loudly amongst themselves, I was no longer even really focused on the conversation with my friend. I was tense, holding my breath, and waiting for our paths to cross, hoping it would be uneventful. One glanced at us and kept walking, another guy’s look lingered. It was the third who slowed and stopped altogether, sort of blocking my path, lifted his hands, looked down to my ankles and back up to my face and said, “Damn girl, you’re gorgeous.” He kept talking, but I kept walking. And, the conversation I had with my friend picked up where it left off.
I didn’t Hollaback at him, I didn’t want to encourage any form of further communication, I didn’t want to reward his behavior or make him to think I somehow enjoyed any of what he had just done. But, the fact that she and I kept walking as if nothing had happened – that was a common response I thought was worth correcting. So I interrupted the conversation with, “I hate how, no matter which neighborhood we’re in, we can’t feel safe and secure on our own sidewalks.” We only talked about it for a few seconds longer before resuming our original conversation before parting ways. But at least we didn’t keep walking in complicit silence, allowing that to be an unnoticed, unquestioned end to our evening.