Monthly Archives: October 2009

Thoughts on predatory males and safety in the ‘hood

I’ve been thinking a lot about what happened Monday night (when a psychotic man tried to follow me home). The encounter really shook me to the core of my being. I’ve also been thinking a lot about how I handled the situation, and how other women could diffuse a potentially violent encounter.

I think one of the reasons the situation didn’t escalate to anything physical is because I did this:

When I turned around and fiercely asked “Are you following me?” instead of looking afraid and continuing to walk forward, it no doubt threw him off-guard and caused him to re-think his initial plan of simply tailing me. He was way bigger than me, and my doing that was the equivalent of what the little puffer fish puffing up to say, “Don’t even TRY to eat me or I will fuck your day up.”

Some other examples of this in nature are:

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In which the Millikan thinks on her feet

Woo. I almost just got mugged. Or worse.

After a night of baking pumpkin bread (well, consuming pumpkin bread. I didn’t actually take part in the baking) and watching the original version of Beauty and the Beast with one of my lady friends, I stopped in to have a margarita at my favorite bar. I tutored the bartender’s daughter in chemistry this spring, and he wants me to help his other daughter pass a test now. I’m not good with little kids but I’m great with teenagers. I still remember what it was like to be one and can relate. I took a car service there, $6 to anywhere in your neighborhood, and the driver told me how he used to live on my block, and how it used to be dangerous. “Is it better now?” I asked, knowing that many people are restful towards the gentrification. “Oh yes, no crime is always better than crime.”

After a rousing conversation with Charlie, the bartender, I began to walk home, the same route I’ve treaded hundreds of times since I moved to this apartment about a year ago. Not that I have gone to that bar hundreds of times, but it’s on the way to lots of stuff, and from it.

Anyway, I was about to turn onto my block when i noticed a man in front of me. He appeared to be in a daze, like he was tipsy or on drugs or something. But when he saw me, something in him kind of… changed courses. He perked up, slowed his step and turned his posture to address me when I walked past.

“Hey, do you have an extra cigarette?” he asked, smiling congenially.

“No, sorry,” I said and kept walking. There was nobody else on the street but the two of us.

“Has anybody ever told you how beautiful you are?” he called after me.

It’s lame when people use those kind of crap lines on women in the middle of the day, to impress their friends or something; it’s scary for it to be communicated in isolation in the middle of the night. “Yeah, they have,” I muttered, quickening my pace. After I’d gone about five steps I heard the man’s footsteps slow to a halt. A few more steps and I realized that he had actually turned around and was walking behind me, following me, going in the complete opposite direction from which he’d come. I felt my sympathetic nervous system activate as I turned onto my street.

I walked passed the corner bodega, and looked over my shoulder. Sure enough, the man had followed my onto my street and was moving faster.

I think this must the point where some people freak out. Or where women don’t freak out like they should and second guess themselves out of the instinctual distrust they feel towards certain individuals, and keep walking — and eventually running towards their apartment. Because they’re so close, almost there, even though they’re moving away from potential help. It’s the horror-movie scenario that was mocked in Scream: Why are women always running upstairs when they should be running out the front door?

Well, I’ve scoffed at enough dumb broads in horror movies to not let myself become one of them. My mind was racing, and with every step I took forward, I felt my options being eliminated. So I stopped walking. I turned around, looked the guy in the face, and started walking toward him.

“Are you following me?” I demanded to know.

“What’s your name?” He asked. He leered creepily at me.

“Because it really looks like you’re following me, and that’s not a good idea.”

I was completely talking our of my ass, of course. Probably. I’ve gone to one Kung Fu class and one Krav Maga class, and between the two I feel like I could’ve landed a solid punch if I needed to — I was ready to — but obviously I didn’t want to have any physical contact.

“I just wanted to know what your name is, so I could tell you how pretty you are,” he continued, stepping to the side to intercept my path. But he was too slow, and I darted past him.

“I’m not interested,” I said, making a go for the bodega. When I reached it, my momentum was met firmly by the resistance of the locked door.

“They’re closed,” he said, smiling turning and walking toward me again. “There’s nobody there.”

Neighborhood secret: The bodega is open 24 hours. And while the worker may lock the door at night, someone is still there to make sales through the bullet-proof window.

“Habeeb!” I yelled, banging on the glass. It’s a term of endearment in Arabic that my roommate and I refer to the bodega guy as. My roommate doesn’t know Arabic, she just heard me say it and started calling him that one day, like it was his name. It was funny and it stuck, and he’s come to know that it’s us behind the glass when we call through it to get beers at 4am or whatever. And tonight he knew it was me at the door, and he rushed around to open it.

As he fumbled to find the right key, I turned around and looked at my potential attacker, who was backing away, and I glared triumphantly at him. Not this time. And when Habeeb opened the bodega door, I collapsed inside, and he locked it behind us. Bodegas may not be stocked with tampons when I need them, but they sure do come in handy sometimes.

I stayed in there for about 10 minutes, called my roommate to see if she was home and tell her what happened. She was at her boyfriend’s, so Habeeb went outside first to make sure the guy was gone and stood on the corner and waited for me to walk down the street to my apartment.

Disaster averted.

I don’t know what would have happened if I had handled the situation differently. And I’m glad that I don’t have to know, to have to bear the memory of an attack for the rest of my life. But it could have been bad, I think. Generally, I try to think the best of people, but there are alot of fucked up individuals in the world, and for that reason I will never let my guard down. Not completely.

And I will definitely keep going to Krav Maga classes.

Advertisers acknowledge the primary purpose of the Facebook is indeed stalking…

… and adjust their strategies accordingly:

facebookad-booyfriend

It was creepy enough when companies annouced products for parents to keep tabs on their teenage children via GPS. This is just over the top….

Luckily, there’s one for reverse-stalking as well:

facebookad-reverse stalking

I know advertising models are falling apart at the seams, but do they really have to resort to giving people the willies to secure click-throughs? This image haunts my dreams.

Tampon scarcity in Brooklyn

I have been inspired recently by one Naomi MC of Vagina Dentata. Besides being an awesome writer in general, she chooses to tackle some topics that are somewhat hush hush, nay taboo, in the blogosphere and society at large. Namely, she has written one whomper of a post about periods, encouraging the discussion of them. Not the punctuation, but women’s monthly reminder of our fertility.

Right on, Naomi.

Now I’m going to tell you about a major problem* with the perception — specifically, the MALE perception — of periods as taboo: It makes things really bloody inconvenient for women when they have them.

Image 1: A man in a vagina with a tampon in it. This is symbolic of the way menstrual products are distributed in Brooklyn.

Image 1: A man in a vagina with a tampon in it. This is symbolic of the way menstrual products are distributed in Brooklyn.

You see, in Brooklyn, we have to deal with the problem of tampon scarcity. How, you may be wondering, can a product be scarce when it is a necessity of approximately half the population in any given area? Why wouldn’t a commodity always be readily available when it is something that this large consumer base will never NOT need — barring a Village-of-the-Damned style mass impregnation of women??

I have no idea, and but it is one of the most ridiculous things I have encountered living here.

In Brooklyn, there are no Walmart Superstores. No Targets, no K-Marts, no Meijer. Even major pharmacies are rare in the more recently gentrified areas. Where I live, in Williamsburg, the nearest Duane Read (the equivalent of a Rite Aide or Walgreens) is about 15 blocks from my apartment and just opened last month.

So we Brooklyn-dwellers get our necessities via bodegas. For those unfamiliar with the concept, they’re small, abundant corner stores fully-stocked with your typical New York necessities: Beer, snacks, toothbrushes, batteries, toilet paper – you name it. They have everything. EXCEPT TAMPONS.

Ok that’s not completely true. Some of them do have tampons. However, it is a complete crap shoot as to which bodegas they will be stocked in at any given time. And they only have one kind: Generic Tampax with CARDBOARD APPLICATORS. I’m going to go ahead and be graphic here and say that shoving a piece of cardboard up your vag is the opposite of comfortable. I’m pretty sure this brand is the absolute cheapest kind of tampon that Tampax has ever made, yet they are RIDICULOUSLY EXPENSIVE. A pack of 20, which won’t even get me halfway through my cycle, is about $7. Furthermore, why someone ever thought a cardboard applicator was a good idea in the first place is FAR beyond me. It had to have been a man’s idea prompted by an attempt to cut costs. For the men out there who are reading this, baffled by the thought of what would be an appropriate vector of tampon insertion, I assure you that tampon technology has come a long way since the cardboard applicator: Plastic makes it possible — possible to not cringe every time you put a tampon in.

Aside from the lack of selection, perhaps the weirdest part of the Brooklyn tampon situation is that the tampons are always kept behind the counter. I DON’T GET IT. Is this some kind of highly shoplifted commodity?? Because of all the things a bodega sells, tampons are pretty low on the monetary value list. Yet they are kept securely behind the counter so that a customer must verbally request them from the clerks who are almost always Hispanic or Arabic males.

Is this because these men, the bodega clerks, want to discourage women from purchasing tampons by making us feel awkward asking them for them? Listen: If I’m on my rag, I am going to purchase tampons one way or another, and I guarantee you that of the two people involved in the transaction, *I* am not the one who is going to feel the most awkward. Furthermore, the fact that I had to ask to be handed one of the boxes of shitty generic tampons, and you didn’t understand that I said “Super” and gave me the regular ones, and I had to correct you, thereby revealing to you and everyone in line behind me that it is a heavy flow time, is just going to piss me off. It might even prompt me to start a conversation with you about tampons, which you probably won’t enjoy participating in. “Why is it, habeeb, that you keep these behind the counter if you can’t differentiate between the kinds?”

“La arif, habeebee,” I don’t know my dear. “That’s how we do it.”

It also sucks because I like my bodega guys. I like speaking Arabic with them and going in at night to buy beer and cigarettes from them and having pleasant conversations. I don’t want to make them feel awkward by forcing them to think about the current state of my menstrual cycle. But there is no other way. Even the local grocery store keeps their tampons — the same two crappy kinds — behind the counter of the express checkout lane, creating an even more awkward scenario. That is, if you’re at the grocery store to buy groceries (more than 12 of them), and you need tampons, the message must be relayed across however many lanes you are away from the express lane, where the box is then transported to you, clerk to clerk, like a hot potato.

Another weird thing about this set-up is that there are always pads on the shelves. Dozens of different kinds of pads. WHO WEARS PADS ALL THE TIME???????? Let me tell you: NO ONE DOES. Maybe Amish people do. It feels squishy, and you can’t do anything athletic or wear tight clothing. Sorry, but I think women are entitled to still work out and dress hot when they are on their periods. I just don’t understand why pads would be readily available for selection, but tampons are stowed away with the Stackers and blunt wraps.

Let me just state for the record – I have very little shame. Acquiring tampons is rarely awkward for me, personally. But I’m sure there are PLENTY of women who this situation is extremely awkward for. For example, there is a high concentration of Puerto Ricans in my neighborhood and it is a very tight-knit community. Just speculation here, but I think there are plenty of women who actually regularly pay $5 to commute back and forth to Manhattan so they can go to the Duane Read in Union Square and buy a nice multi-pack of plastic applicator tampons so they don’t have to inform everyone they know that they’re vaginally bleeding.

Actually, searching “Why do they only sell tampons behind the counter in Brooklyn” returned this forum post on the Brooklynian:

I went to no less than 6 bodegas and a grocery store (the Bravo on bedford) yesterday looking for tampons and NO ONE carried as much as a small travel box. there were always pads ALL OVER the damn place, but not a single crappy generic tampon was anywhere to be found.

WHY IS THIS?! Am I missing something? Was there a PSA about TSS running rampant in the newly gentrified neighborhoods of brooklyn?

I had to take the damn train to walgreens. Am i delirious?

And so I conclude by saying: WHAT THE FUCK BROOKLYN??? If someone can make some sense out of this practice to me, I would really appreciate the explanation. Maybe I’ll go and conduct a survey, both to contribute to the public knowledge back and out of spite, to make bodega-owners feel like chauvinist assholes. Until then, I will assume that, like medicalized childbirth and sex, this is just another example of men controlling female processes to control the females who have them.

_______________________________________

Image1 from TamponFrank.com.

*FYI – this complaint has been internally festering since July 2008.