Street harassment always increases in my Brooklyn neighborhood in the summer. Maybe because it’s hot, maybe because we’re all outside, maybe because women wear shorts and tank tops and skeevy motherfuckers take that as an invitation.
Today I was coming back from the store, nearly staggering under the weight of my groceries, and there were some dudes standing in front of my building who made some kissy noises as I went by. I ignored them. But as I went to open the front door, one of them caught my eye and began to croon, “Ay mamí linda, ven acá.” It wasn’t aggressive so much as just plain skeevy and unwelcome, and since I’d already ignored the kissy noises, it pissed me off that he wouldn’t quit. Also, it was hot, and I hadn’t eaten for a couple hours; it’s a bad idea to fuck with me when I’m sweaty and have low blood sugar. I gave him my best bitch face and yelled, “¿Qué dijiste?”, daring him to repeat it. He looked a little startled and then gave me a conciliatory smile and said, in English, “I just said ‘mami linda,’” like he was supposed to get a cookie for being such a nice guy. He actually looked hopeful, like, hey, he’d gotten my attention and maybe this would end in a date. Frankly, that was what pissed me off the most. I gave him the bitch face again, and said in Spanish “Do you know me? No? Then leave me alone!” and we began to quarrel in Spanglish, at high volume.
Just then, the front door opened and out walked two beat cops from the local precinct. I have no idea why they were there, although there’s a drinks machine in the laundry room and sometimes cops come in for a soda when it’s hot. The two cops looked at both of us, and asked what was going on. I fumed that this guy needed to back the fuck off, he pleaded that he was just being nice and I was crazy, which then led to me cussing him out in Spanish some more. One of the cops said, “Oh, are you Spanish?” to me, which I took to mean my cussing at least sounded fluent. I didn’t answer the question, because I didn’t want it to seem like I was just some white chick being snooty about non-white men, which is often how people dismiss my anger about harassment, as though I wouldn’t complain if the harasser was white (which I have plenty of times when I lived in white neighborhoods, but where I live now is almost exclusively non-white, so the neighborhood skeevsters usually are, too). I just told the cops–both of them Asian, for the record—that I was pissed about the disrespect and the way he kept doing it even after I didn’t respond. The other cop said to the harasser, “Look, my man, you can’t just act that way to women walking down the street.” The other said to me, “We got this. Why don’t you go inside?”
At this point, I had cooled off a little and was concerned about my ice cream melting, so I picked up my bags, shot one last stare of death at the harasser, and went inside. I sort of hung out around the entrance—they couldn’t see me—and listened to the cops explain politely, but in no uncertain terms, that the dude needed to leave women alone, that what he was doing was wrong, even if he thought it was just being friendly. I’m not normally a fan of the NYPD—the recent NYPD rape case has really soured me, and the precinct where I live has never quite lived down its reputation for police brutality—but in this case, those guys got it right.