– By Nikki –
I walked out into the sunny area that I like to run regularly by myself. The day started out well with coffee and breakfast at home, but slowly I had begun to feel depleted by the weariness of my daily responsibilities. I had deadlines to meet, and time was creeping up on me.
I always start out my run by turning on my app that helps me keep up my mileage, and I usually find a playlist that encourages me to keep going even when I want to stop. However, today was different because of the stress my brain was putting me under. I was overthinking certain parts of an assignment I had to get finished for graduate school.
I felt my heart rate picking up at a faster than usual pace. My breath was coming out in small gasps. I slowed myself to a walk and attempted to find a different playlist. Failing that, instead of worrying about what I was listening to I gazed at the path ahead of me. The sun was out, and the normal harshness of St. Louis’s hot summer weather had been replaced with a genuinely nice and comfortable day. An 82 °F (26 °C) day in July? Rare indeed. The trees were green and beautiful.
As I contemplated the beauty of the moment, I felt myself stop walking before I even realized it. I snapped out of my daze to see why my body had stopped moving to see two very large men standing in front of me.
I didn’t see their faces because they were much taller than me. I felt my eyes move up to their faces, and their cold eyes gazed back at me in a manner that made me realize that I needed to get away quickly. Trying my best to hide my fear, I tore my eyes away from the men, and quickly continued on my path. In my peripheral vision I still saw them standing there. I hurried onward.
The scared voice in my head urged me to move forward away from the threat — another voice told me to go back because I realized that I was alone and they knew it. Once I reached the wooded area of the trail, I glanced back to see the men slowly walking away from me.
The voices of instinct were still telling me to do two different things. I felt my blood boiling, and I let out a loud grunt as threw my poor iPhone down hard on the rocky floor of the trail. I stood there staring at my phone that was face down. I let those guys get into my head. I reached down and cringed as I saw a thousand cracks in my screen.
I shot a text to my husband saying that I had shattered my screen. He then called, and I decided to go back to my car. Before answering, I peeled the screen protector off of my phone and to my relief it was fine. I told my husband that it was a false alarm, but I knew that he called because he could tell that something was wrong. I just told him I was having a bad day.
As I approached my car, I saw the two men very slowly walking to their vehicle (still), and I told my husband that I would be fine. I got off the phone and started walking to my own car. The men continued to stare at me in the way that a salivating dog stares at their food. I shrugged it off and decided to go to Best Buy, a large electronics department store, to replace my broken phone case.
I had all but forgotten about the men at the park, and I was now waiting at a traffic light to go run my errands. I then felt something else — more than one person staring at me in the car beside me. I was afraid to look, but I had to make sure that I wasn’t being paranoid (or followed), so I slowly looked to my left. There were two more men, who I had never seen before, blowing me kisses and motioning for me to roll down my window. Their eyes were boring into me like I was their prey.
After what had just happened to me at the park, I had no filter with the disgust that showed on my face. I then turned my eyes back to the road and pulled my car up slightly to get out of the view of their window. This did not stop them from treating me this way. They pulled up to where they could see me again — I was begging this traffic light to change — and they started to rev their engines forward in a way a stallion would try to impress a potential mate.
I felt the fear on my face. My hands were shaking. When the light turned green, I floored my car. They acted like they were going to follow me, but turned at the last second. I drove away and stopped just in time to narrowly avoid rear-ending someone. Hot tears spewed from my face as I pulled into the Best Buy parking lot.
I felt like half of a person, or perhaps like the meat on display at the grocery store. I am telling this story not for sympathy or to scare you. I am telling this story to inform all of you that it is wrong to treat people this way. I got treated this way in college for the first time, and I thought that things would get better as I got older and more experienced. Unfortunately this has not been the case. Despite what I have accomplished in my life, who I love, and what I stand for, I was just another person to be treated as if I have no value by those men.
I know that there are good men out there — I’m married to an amazing one — and I have God who values me so much. But despite all of that, I am here to tell you that it’s not okay to treat people this way, and you are allowed to fight back. This is me fighting back and reminding myself of my own self worth. Although things haven’t gotten any better regarding how some lowlifes treat others, I can say that I am so thankful for my life, and all its blessings.
To the men who disrespected me: You do not give my life any worth, nor does the next woman you choose to disrespect feel any type of good feelings when you do this.
Shame on you.
Have you ever experienced any situations similar to mine? If so, how did you react, and what emotions were you feeling as it played out. I’ll be down in the comments if you’d like to start a conversation!
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