Last night I had an engagement portrait session with a couple who are getting married soon. They wanted photos taken at their favourite local bar so I had said that we should begin the session at a nearby park. I had said we would meet there at 6pm by the fountain in St. James Park.
As usual for me, I was early so I sat at a nearby bench. I was admiring the gorgeous gardens and watching the clouds roll (and hoping for no rain!). Really, I was just sitting because I never have the time, or allow myself the time, to do just that. People walked through the park on their way home from work. A band was wrapping up in the gazebo nearby. It was great. It was peaceful.
A normal looking guy with a backpack started walking towards the path near where I was sitting and I assumed that we would keep walking but instead he sat beside me on that bench. I immediately grabbed my camera bag, put it in my lap and wrapped my arms around it. In protective mode. I wanted to immediately get up and walk away because I felt scared. A couple minutes passed and then he slurred out “What is that tattoo on your leg?” My tattoo that was barely visible under my dress. I told him that it was a skull, I counted in my head to fifty and I walked away.
Of course, I could not go far since my clients would be arriving at any moment. I stood on the sidewalk where people were passing by and where there were two Because I am a Girl people stationed. I wanted to feel safe amongst other people. The guy had immediately started yelling as soon as I walked away. He was cussing and telling me that I didn’t look that good, that the birds looked better than me. From the sidewalk I watched as he dumped a container of food beside the fountain and the pigeons flew to it. No matter what you think about those rats-with-wings, when there is a group of them flying in unison, it is a beautiful thing. Even when it was happening during a time that I felt my heart would jump out of my chest. He continued yelling, took off his shoes and sat on the edge of the fountain with his feet in the water. I stood where he couldn’t see me and I waited for my clients. He finally quieted down and my heart slowed down and then I saw them approach and we began the portrait session.
The thing is, had I been a man, this guy would have never sat beside me. He would had never interrupted my fifteen minutes of peace. He would have never yelled at me for walking away and then continued to put me down. The thing is, these things happen to us women all of the time. It happens so much that we often barely notice it. It happened to me that morning while I was walking to the bank and a man muttered something inappropriate to me as he passed by. It’s horrible that this is just a regular occurrence. I feel lucky in that I am a strong woman and that nothing that horrible has happened to me personally. But I worry about my girlfriends. I worry about my young nieces. I worry about all the ladies that have to put up with these events. I’m not sure what the purpose of this blog post is other than to let you know, that this being a woman thing is sometimes pretty tough.
ADDITION: As I was riding to the studio on my bike just now, I thought of another thing that happened yesterday. When I was in the shared bathroom yesterday I could hear a business guy who rents a space in my building talking to a woman. He said to her, “There are so many beautiful women in the hallways today. Is there a casting happening or something?” The woman replied awkwardly, “No. I work here just down the hall.” He continued talking to her about being beautiful and went on and on about it in a sleazy way while she stood there waiting to pee. I am sure she felt really great about it, especially knowing that she would no-doubt run into this man every working day forward. Stuff like that is so not necessary. There is a way to compliment someone and there is a way to be a total creep about it.