Yesterday I got tripped up in organizing something upstairs and when I checked the time we’d missed the bus. Sean wasn’t home and Briar had caught her bus an hour earlier.
“Girls, let’s go. I am driving you to school,” I called downstairs.
“Ok, which garage door do we open?” Ave called up to me.
“The rectangle button.”
“Got it, we’ll be in the car.”
I smiled, finished what I was doing and headed downstairs. I grabbed the lunch I’d packed, my computer bag, and a gatorade. When I got outside I realized the sky looked a bit threatening, but there wasn’t time to go back for my coat. I shrugged, even though my shirt was sleeveless, I wasn’t cold.
“Ok, you guys want the radio on?” I asked.
“Actually mom, can I tell you a story?” Avery asked.
“Sure,” I said and she happily launched into a story about helping a classmate figure out how to pull a loose tooth. When we got to school I asked if they wanted to walk in alone or if they wanted me to come.
“Come,” they shouted in unison. We spilled out of the car together laughing and holding hands. I scanned the parking lot, knowing all too well that the closer it gets to kids being marked late, the less the cars slow for you. There was a man in a yellow shirt watching us as he got his son out of the car. I squeezed the girls hands and said, “C’mon, let’s go. Don’t want to be late.” They immediately fell in line with me. As we sped up, so did the man. I dismissed it. I kept my eyes forward and pulled the girls along.
We pushed through the heavy doors the man stopped while his son hugged an aide. I could feel him watching us. The girls leaned in for kisses and I hugged them as we walked to the hallway doors. Once over that threshold they both race walked, eager to be as early to class as possible. I called out a last “I love you” and turned on my heel for the door. As I pushed through and held it open slightly for the person behind me, I saw the yellow shirt.
“Why are you wearing heels? You’re so tall,” he said to me standing closer than felt comfortable.
I chuckled awkwardly and said, “We still like cute shoes.” I shrugged, smiled and sped up, ready to be done.
He kept pace with me, laughed and said, “I looked over and thought wow, she’s tall,” he kept laughing and then he ran his hand from the top of my shoulder to just above my elbow as he said, “Then I realized you were in heels.”
I’d been annoyed that he commented on my shoes, but I was so taken aback that he was touching me that no words came out of my mouth. I tried to mask my discomfort and a shrill laugh came out. “My daughter will probably be tall and look like a giant in heels,” he said. I shook my head and sped off. He kept laughing and all I could think was, “Why did he touch me?”
I drove to the office unable to shake the unexpected and unwelcome sensation of his hand touching my bare skin. It had been uninvited. When I got out of the car I tried to leave it behind me. I crossed the parking lot and then the street. I saw a man on a bicycle coming toward me. He looked like a business man, the hem of his pants strapped back and a collared shirt peaking out beneath a backpack and helmet.
“Hi,” he said. I smiled and said hello back, thinking that it’s nice to live in a place where people say hello.
“You should have your winter clothes on,” he said to me.
My mouth slipped open. “I’m ok,” I said, incredulous that in the space of ten minutes two different men had questioned my choices.
“No,” he jutted his chin in my direction, “You should be dressed in winter things,” he said and nodded.
I walked toward the building, toward my business. I struggled not to curve my shoulders in and walk so that my heels were less noticeable. When I left my house I’d felt incredible, dressed for a day at work, yet two men felt it was their place to questions my decisions. No matter how many ways I turned the events around in my head I couldn’t fathom touching a stranger, literally stroking their body. I would never have my first sentence to a person be to suggest that they were dressed inappropriately, in fact I’d likely afford my children a statement more along the lines of, “If it rains do you think you’ll be warm enough?” but even that might be more than I’d do.
I am not a paper doll, not a plaything to be touched or a toy to be redressed. I am a human being.
I guess I just wonder when it is that a person goes from being taught to not touch what isn’t theirs to feeling as if anything or anyone is theirs to touch.
Have you had seemingly small things happen in the day, that when you reflect upon them you realize, you know what, that was wrong?