Spiders and Street Harassment

Note: There is some swearing and nasty talk in this post.

Prompt: Spiders

When I was a kid, one night there was a spider on the ceiling above my bed when I went to sleep. When I woke up it was gone. I have thought, since that day, against all logic, that the spider dropped on me while I was sleeping and infiltrated one of my facial cavities.

Note: It is possible that this didn’t actually happen.

I am not a spider person. Slow moving bugs I can handle. Wasps make me nervous but I will chase the stunned ones, fat with heat, out of my house. But spiders! Those two extra legs make them move three times as fast as the six-legged insects. A blatant flagrancy for the rules of nature like that makes me nervous.

– Tiny, non-threatening spiders are still threatening because where is their mother?
– Big, hairy spiders are terrifying. Just look at those words: “Big. Hairy.” Awful!
– Medium sized, long legged spiders are my favourite, of the breed. You can trap them more easily because of their long legs.
– Small, short-legged, fat bodied spiders are the worst. They’re fast, they might be biters, they could scoot up your pant leg without you noticing.

It’s not the spiders themselves I mind. It’s the not-knowing where the spiders are. Wondering if they’re lurking. Imagining they’re waiting until I turn out the light to curl up on my pillow with me and share my breath. No, I don’t actually spend any time lying in bed thinking about spiders. But when I think about spiders I do think about them sneaking around, letting themselves in and making themselves at home.

The other night I walked over to the grocery store to buy milk. It was 7:30 and we had just put the kids to bed. I walked quickly in the cold, clear evening, enjoying the silence and solitude. The young adults who live up the block were out jump-starting their car, like every day this week. People were walking their little dogs. I crossed the street and approached the Safeway just as a young guy on a bike was leaving. He had a puffy coat with a fur-trimmed hood. I moved to the right to let him by and as he passed me he said,

“I’d fuck your ass.”

I kept walking. He kept riding in the opposite direction. At first I snickered. Because he was not even 20 years old. As if. AS IF.

I didn’t snicker for long. Shortly after, I felt all those things you feel when someone treats you like a piece of meat. Angry. Afraid. Indignant. Angry. Mostly angry.

When I was a teenager, that would have been a compliment. I am fuckable! What a wonderful thing, at last, the affirmation I have been seeking. And some random person thinks so! It’s not even some dude who’s obliged to say it – it’s a stranger!

Nevermind why that stranger gets to consider my fuckability at all. Nevermind why that stranger feels it is OK to comment to another stranger on her fuckability, or lack thereof.

And now that I am experienced enough to consider those questions, nevermind why I can only swallow those questions and keep walking, because it is not safe to engage with a stranger on a dark street no matter how young he is, because if he thinks I am that fuckable – or even if he is being sarcastic about it – he might just try it.

One minute I am out for a walk, minding my business, enjoying the air around me and then, suddenly, I am not. Then I am wondering

– is he gone
– is he violent
– is he waiting in the park
– does he have friends
– would a 4L jug of milk to the testicles convince him that he could not, in fact, fuck me. Or my ass.

With one short sentence, that guy reduced me to an orifice, whether he is aware of it or not.

You just never know where the spiders are.

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10 Responses to Spiders and Street Harassment

  1. eva says:

    clever!!

    Also – I hate spiders.

  2. Arwen says:

    Shitty. I was just “reminiscing” about the days of sly comments and constant unwanted attention with other women.

    We’re watching the 1st season of Mad Men on NetFlix. There’s this scene where a receptionist shows up in the office and all the men flock by, checking her out, evaluating her – and John swore under his breath, how annoying it was. And I thought, yeah, I’ve never seen that on film before. They caught the feeling.

  3. Amber says:

    Ew. Just, ew.

    I actually had to un-friend someone on Facebook for similar behaviour. Only I knew him from school. In some ways less creepy (I haven’t seen him in person for lo these many years, so no physical presence), in some ways more (Dude! I know you!). But both creepy, either way.

  4. Lynne says:

    did you have your cel on you? very disturbing….

  5. Beth says:

    Yes. The feeling of fear and vulnerability that a sentence can create.
    Do they know? Do young men know what their words do? Is that why they do it? Was he feeling powerful and venemous?
    Or was he speaking out of his own insecurity – the fake bravado of an insecure teenager trying to act tough and experienced – a virgin trying to sound like he’d been around the block and knew about fucking.
    These are the things that make me cry about the human race. It is with other humans that we can find the comfort and support to face the crap that life throws at us, but instead of being there for each other we become part of the crap. From brutal rape and murder to dirty insinuations, we send out hurt and I just don’t understand why.

  6. Perpetua says:

    You’d think the fact that this has happened to every single one of us at some point in life would make it better, like, oh, street harassment. No big. Happens to everyone.

    But it doesn’t. The fact that it happens to everyone somehow multiplies the power of the utterance. Fuckers.

    When I lived alone I used to sleep with a crowbar tucked into a stuffed bag that my mom made for me. We called it Crowbar Buddy. And boyfriends and men it general (except my father) thought it was SO FUNNY. Yeah. Not funny.

    • cheesefairy says:

      Crowbar Buddy. Wow. Yeah.

      Because it’s been a long time since this happened to me, I’m out of practice. So that first shock, it felt like the very first shock..which I don’t remember but I was probably 12 or something. And then, so quickly, my brain moved in to downplay, stuff it away, “no big”. That’s partly why I wrote it down, wanting to capture what that first feeling was instead of all the rationalization/ minimization / scoffing that follows it. The things you tell yourself so that you can move through your life with a minimum of fear and disruption, right?

  7. eva says:

    That has never happened to me. Not when I was 12, not when I’m 34. Should I feel left out? Honoured? Ready to accuse all the Creeps and Pervs of racism for picking the white girls to assault? Hmmm.

  8. Liz says:

    Wow. Yeah. That’s not OK.

    Part of me wants to mobilize to form gangs of 3 or more middle aged women who threaten young men who venture out on their own. But the thing is, we’d have to be in groups, and that makes what happened to you, to all of us, even less acceptable.