With this essay, my goal was to convey how I felt about situations I have been through at the moment, versus how I feel about them now. I wanted to show how my opinions have changed as well as how I have changed as a person over time. I’m really proud of how I was able to show moments in my life, as well as how I was able to analyze and break down those situations. One of the ways that I would improve next time would be to plan out exactly what I was going to say in what order. Overall I am pretty proud of this essay.
The first time I was ever approached on the street was while I was waiting for the bus in 6th grade. An older man, in his late thirties, stopped me and said, “I just wanted to let you know that you are so beautiful.” I had no idea what to say, so I just said a confused, “Thank you,” and the man walked away. I was 11 years old, wearing a gray turtleneck and jeans. The situation didn’t exactly scare me; I didn’t feel threatened. For a while, I was pretty flattered, but over time that flattery turned into anger. Not at the man himself, but at the conditions that made him feel like what he said was okay and that something like that would be flattering and not super creepy. In a way, I was also angry with myself. That I had smiled and said thank you, that I had boosted this man’s ego and allowed him to think that what he had said was ok. If I could go back, I would have simply told him my age and allowed him to deal with that information. Throughout middle school, people never really expressed to me that I was pretty. The only validation I got was from the occasional creepy man on the bus I took home every day or someone calling out to me from their car. As scary as those situations were, they also felt new and exciting and grown-up, like now I was invited into the real woman’s club. When I was 14, my mother and I went to the thrift store one day after school. While I was looking through the men’s t-shirt section, a man who looked to be in his sixties came up to me. He started making conversation, asking me if I had found anything good yet. I answered his question and continued making conversation with him. It’s pretty common for older people to talk to me in public. I’m unintimidating, short, young, a girl, all these qualities make me seem approachable. The man and I continued talking until out of nowhere he looked at me straight in the eyes and mumbled: “I live alone just around the block.” I was confused as to why he had said this, so I nodded and went back to looking through the shirts. The man, in a slightly angry voice, restated what he said before, “I live alone just around the block.” Now I understood. All I could think of to say was “I’m here with my mom,” to him, this must-have seemed encouraging because he then said, “Well I can give you my phone number.” At that moment, my flight mode kicked in. I fast-walked away from him and found my mom in another aisle. I whispered what had happened and we left. I tell that story to a lot of people, In my mind, it’s something interesting that has happened to me in my life. In my opinion, if something scary is going to happen to you, at least make a good story out of it, and for a while, I held onto that story like a prized possession. Something about it had oddly flattered me and I couldn’t say why, but I knew that that situation would stick with me forever. It wasn’t until recently that I realized how I was feeling was normal. I was scrolling on Instagram when I saw a post that said: “When you are so used to being catcalled that when you aren’t, you feel like you look ugly that day.” I realized that the way that catcalling made me feel was the way it made a lot of women feel. From a young age, I was conditioned to believe that the only way men were going to find me attractive was if they could view me as a sexual object. Not as a peer or equal. So when I was catcalled or harassed, while I was scared, I also felt complimented, because, in my mind, it was all the attention based on looks I was ever going to get. Over time, I was able to get over the way I was feeling, but it wasn’t easy. It took a lot of personal reflection, therapy, and eventually, medication to get to a place in my life where I didn’t feel like I needed the validation of others to feel attractive or wanted. As I got older, I was exposed to more romantic experiences that I asked for, which helped me realize what I wanted and deserved out of relationships. When I told my mom what the man had said to me at the thrift store, she got extremely angry and wanted to go over and scream at him, but I begged her not too. Now, I wish I had let her. I wish I had taken a picture of him, I wish I had found his workplace and called them. I wish I could make him feel as embarrassed, scared, and small as he had made me feel.