Numbly trudging home last night with over 50 pounds of groceries hanging off my body in various packs, slings and totes, with aching feet and groaning shoulders, I found myself walking alongside a young man munching his way through a bag of chips.
I was barely aware of him for over half of the long block before my building when he said, "I'd offer you a Dipsy Doodle but you don't look like you're in the mood."
As with most women in the city, my first impulse was to cross the street and get away from this creep.
In the past, I've spat, screamed and hissed at men who have approached me on the street. "Who the FUCK do they think they are?!?" I rage and boil.
But then I realized that there was, in fact, nothing creepy, leery or even weird in this particular man's tone. If anything, it was a little shy -- rough and good natured.
Plus his remark was about my mood, and did not strike me as being slimy or patronizing.
Creeps -- inasmuch as they ever notice a woman's mood -- say things like, "Hey baby, I got something to cheer you up."
But that was not this guy.
I laughed and turned to him; he grinned and shrugged sheepishly, raising the bag towards me.
"You know," I chirped, "I am in the mood!"
I reached in and pulled out his last Doodle.
"Have a good night!" he smiled, turned a corner and went on his merry way.
So -- for all the guys who think it's OK to say whatever they want to women on the street -- I began to think, what made this guy's actions not creepy?
In most cases, those exact same words in that exact same situation could have been very creepy indeed. I think part of what disarmed me was that I had come up behind him while he was walking, and not the other way around.
But mostly it was his tone. It was simply not the tone of a creep.
Creeps view any and all attractive women as potential sperm receptacles and little more. They have no more concern or ability to consider a woman's point of view than they would to consider the point of view of candy bar.
In the creep mind, women are there to be consumed.
If a woman tells a creep she isn't interested, this means nothing to the creep brain. If she says she has a cop/boxer/football player boyfriend, then this will usually (though not always) make a dent in him.
To the creep mind (and this is the most generous definition of the word "mind") only the presence of another male possessor can deter his "right" to whatever woman he wants.
Any action of the woman, up to and possibly including bashing him with a soup can, is seen as a come-on. (Once a Ruskie creep asked me for directions while I was pulling gristle out of my teeth. "What is zis sing you are doing wis your tongue???" he slathered. I wish I had puked on him.)
None of that was present with Mr. Doodle.
Granted, he might not have felt the liberty or desire to say something to another man walking down the street, similarly burdened and sad.
But I don't think it's completely wrong for men to speak to women on the street, or for there to be a hint of flirtation about it, especially if their approach does not assume anything.
And Mr. Doodle didn't.
He was just a nice guy who saw a woman in the dumps and wanted to make her laugh.
And it made me sad to think how close I came to shooting him down -- but doubly glad that I didn't.