One of the few advantages to Dallas’ obsession with cars is the relatively little time I spend dealing with being harassed on the street. It still happens occasionally, especially since I live in one of the city’s few walkable neighborhoods, but it’s nothing compared to the daily, sometimes hourly, harassment I experienced living in Manhattan. Still, I spend much of my time on my guard, because I never want to be surprised by some assbag cat-calling me. And yet, it happens.
Today, I was pleasantly surprised by a stranger who gave me a genuine, non-threatening compliment. I’ll tell you about that after I tell you about the time I was threatened with rape outside my office.
A couple of months ago, I was getting into my car parked at a curb–in Dallas’ other walkable neighborhood, which is undergoing a fair bit of condo construction, and as I unlocked the driver’s side door, a van drove by filled with men whistling at me. I flipped them off heartily, and as they crept by, one man yelled out the window: “I’LL GET IT WHEN I WANT IT.”
I park on that street every day next to those construction sites. I have to. It’s where I work. Even if I wanted to alter or limit my participation in the public sphere–as women are expected to do if they feel threatened–I couldn’t. I need my paycheck.
But then there are times like this morning. It’s 65-freaking-degrees today and I have the windows rolled down at a red light just before getting on Woodall Rogers Freeway, near some of Dallas’ worst blocks. A homeless guy’s standing at the corner with his Big Gulp cup of change, and I’m thinking ugh, here I am with the window rolled down, I can’t be an asshole and roll it up now. So I’m sitting there and feeling like a jerk for a minute until I remember I just paid for coffee and have some change–I almost never carry cash of any kind–and hold a couple quarters out the window. The guy comes over to take the change, smiles, and says, “Hey, that’s a real nice dress.”
I felt like he meant it in a genuinely friendly kind of way, and not just ’cause I’d just about paid him $.50 to say it. It was an exchange between two people having a real interaction, not someone asserting his power and privilege on the street for the hell of it.