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When I was about 13 or 14, I was in Walmart with my mom. She was looking at something in the health section, so I wandered an aisle over to the makeup. In that aisle was a man and a woman, in probably their mid 30’s to low 40’s. The woman was looking for something, the man standing idly by.

He walks over a little closer to me and faces halfway towards me, halfway towards the shelf in front of me (within earshot, but far enough away that it wouldn’t look suspicious on security cameras, my adult brain realized years later) and starts talking to me.

Asking me what I’m doing later. If I wanted to go do something. If I wanted to go out to lunch with him. If I wanted to go for a ride. (Also, he might have done the “how old are you, 18 right? Cool…” thing, but to be fair, I can’t remember if that one was ‘makeup aisle guy’ or ‘motorcycle guy’ from when I was 15…)

When I glance at him, thinking surely he’s talking to the woman he was standing with before, his eyes are staring straight at me, even though his face is hardly turned towards me.

All this in front of the woman, who acted like she couldn’t hear any of it and didn’t say a thing, just kept staring at the shelf. I’m just a kid, I don’t know this person, and I’m starting to get creeped out, so I quietly say “no thanks,” abandon my makeup search, and hightail it back to my mom. As I’m walking away, the man calls after me, “STUCK UP!” and moves like he’s gonna follow me.

My mom, seeing my face after hearing him, has a pretty damn good guess about what was going on and yells in her loudest, momliest mom voice, “JAILBAIT!” And the guy and the lady both quickly head to a different part of the store. I feel like if my mom weren’t there and hadn’t made a quick scene, that he would have kept bothering me or worse.

Y’all, kids should be able to exist in public without being approached and hit on by adults; that is just disgusting. If you do it, you are disgusting. If you don’t see a problem with it, you are disgusting. If you normalize it, you are disgusting.

If you see it happening, say something. Say something to the person doing it, tell them to cut it out. Say something to a store manager, police or security if they are near, other bystanders, get witnesses involved. Say something to the kid being harassed. You know that trick we do where we fake knowing someone so that we can get away from a person harassing us? Do that in reverse; fake knowing the kid, they might not have learned the trick yet. Teach them. Strength in numbers.

(In case anyone was wondering how I was dressed / if I looked “mature” for my age [which, that is gross too, stop that], I was wearing some dumb graphic tee, probably with Tweety on it, stonewashed jeans, and those horrid white sneakers with the twin velcro straps on the hightops because it was the mid 90’s.)

And yes, all people should be able to exist in public without being harassed, that should be obvious, but my focus right now is specifically kids having to deal with this behavior from adults.