This, from a complete stranger who had just witnessed my discomfort as a car full of men catcalled and yelled obscenities at me.
It meant a lot, that one phrase. That apology from a guy who is in no way responsible for what had just occurred. It was one of those moments where you remember that people really are kind, and that the Carolina Way isn’t simply an abstract concept.
For me, and for many of my friends, we sometimes think that invisibility wouldn’t be such a bad thing while walking through Chapel Hill, alone or otherwise. Too many stares that last too long, catcalls, rude gestures, “Hey sweetheart, how you doin?”
I’d be a heck of a lot better if you’d treat me like a human being, thanks for asking.
Is it usually harmless? Probably. Do I still feel violated? Almost always.
And what happens the one time that it isn’t harmless?
Because yesterday, when I was walking home and those men started yelling at me, the first thought that crossed my mind was not a pleasant one. If it’s five grown men to one 5-foot-4 girl, I’m betting I don’t win.
Now, I’m pretty scrappy. Anxiety isn’t really my thing, and I don’t scare easily. But when a car full men starts yelling obscenities, my heart rate skyrockets, my entire body tenses up, and I start thinking about what on earth I could possibly do if they decide to come back. Women’s rights are important, because fear shouldn’t be a part of daily life. As a U.S. citizen, I am extremely fortunate compared to much of the world, but that doesn’t make it okay.
The problem with all of this is that I’m an eternally optimistic, sunshine, glass-half-full kind of girl. So when catcalls and disgusting people somewhat destroy my faith in humanity, it really gets under my skin, because I prefer to believe the best in people.
But then, along come strangers who help me remember that there are kind, considerate human beings in this world, maybe more of them than I think. My new friend was right. Guys can be slimy, but not all of them. Just like people can be terrible, but most aren’t. I’m thankful for the ones that aren’t.