I was walking home around 12:30 a.m. after a party Saturday night. I was listening to Company of Thieves on my phone with my earbuds. A group of three or four people were standing on a corner at Lawrence and either Drake or another street just before Central Park Avenue. One of them, a man, tried to hand me what looked like a rolled-up Red Eye. I shook my head, said no, and kept walking. I did not break stride, I did not make eye contact.

That man grabbed my arm and shoved the rolled-up newspaper under my arm.

I was stunned.

I whipped around, yanked out my earbuds and shouted “WHAT?” I held the paper in my hand, not looking at it — looking at him.

“That’s yours,” he said, surprised by my anger.

“No it’s not,” I seethed, shaking the paper back at him. “Take it back.”

He started to walk away toward his friends. I moved to throw it at him, but a woman who seemed to be part of the group stepped forward.

“Hey, hey, hey,” she said, and took the paper back from me.

“Thank you,” I said, annoyed, and walked away.

I wanted to run but I felt stupid. I honestly wasn’t sure what had just happened. It didn’t seem like the typical street harassment situation — were those people an organized group, distributing literature at midnight(!!!)? Or was that guy just being your garden variety douche bag trying to get my attention, having no clue that all I wanted was to get home without feeling afraid?

I realized after I got home that it didn’t matter. Call it street harassment, call it general, unsolicited attention — neither made it okay for him to grab my arm, or to touch me at all. I felt immediately angry because I was scared.

That night I ranted on Facebook, I ranted on Twitter. A friend saw and texted right away. The next day, a lot of people who know and love me told me I shouldn’t walk alone at night.

I thought about that a lot. A day later, I responded to those online comments.

I will not let asshole behavior dictate my choices and actions, like when I leave a party, or when is and isn’t a good time for me to walk on my own street.

I will, however, be taking a self-defense class in the West Loop on Saturday, Dec. 6. If you’re a woman in Chicago and you want to come, let me know. I’m waiting to hear back on pricing.

It’s not on us when we get harassed. I’m doing this because I want to feel more confident walking around my own neighborhood but I hate that I have to.

I am fed up. I hope you are, too.

4 thoughts on “Defense

  1. Those comments on your FB post irked me quite a bit. It is not on us as women to change our behavior to avoid harassment; it is on the harassers and their friends and society at-large to learn that this kind of behavior is not OK. I just don’t understand why this is difficult for people to understand, but there ya go.

    I’m sorry you had to deal with this again, Meryl, but I’m glad you’re going to keep doing exactly what you’re doing 😀

    • Thank you so much for your support, Molly — I know this is an important issue to you too. Let’s keep talking about it until it’s understood. You keep doing just what you’re doing, too!

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