Yesterday my son and I were downtown, people watching and strolling and enjoying a nice day. At one corner with a lot of pedestrian traffic, an older man sat in a wheelchair wearing a “Jesus Loves You” shirt and calling out “Hi beautiful” to all the women who passed by.
“Hey beautiful, nice hair you got there,” he said while I tried to keep my eyes straight ahead. The first time we passed him, I was too surprised to say anything to him, but I did lean over and tell my son “Street harassment for Jesus is a new one to me.”
I put him out of my mind and continued hanging out with my son, stopping for a photo or to laugh at a funny bird or whatever. As we walked back, the man did it again “Hey beautiful!”
I turned to look him directly in the face. “I don’t like strange men calling me beautiful,” I told him.
“You don’t like being beautiful?” he asked in mock shock.
“No, I don’t like *you* telling me if I’m beautiful or not. It’s not your job,” I said.
“Yes it is!” he replied. Then he started telling me if I didn’t like what he had to say, that was my problem.
I muttered something like “Just shut your mouth” while grabbing my son’s hand to go.
As we walked on, I felt a need to explain my reaction to my son. So we talked about how the man we saw was only calling women beautiful; he was treating women in a way he wasn’t treating men. And we talked about how quickly he became angry with me for not liking what he had to say. He didn’t care if his compliment made me feel good or not. He was displaying power. And I pointed that out, and he was mad.
I hope at least my son learned from yesterday.