Richmond has changed.

This afternoon, I was in Lansdowne Centre, randomly browsing in one of the stores with my mother and sister. I left to use the washroom, and when I re-entered the store, I noticed a man walking towards me, holding a cell phone to his ear. As he walked past me, he sort of leaned in and whispered something. The only word I caught was “sexy”.

At first, I thought I had misheard, was overthinking, or had just unintentionally eavesdropped on a private conversation and decided to ignore the incident and the man. However, the next time I separated from my family in the same store, the same man, still holding a phone to his ear, walked and brushed past me and whispered something at me again. The only word I caught this time was “fucking”.

At this point, I was extremely uncomfortable and wanted to leave the store. As I went to usher my family out of the store, I noticed the man staying within ten feet of me, watching me and talking in a normal tone of voice on his cell phone.

As we left the store, I didn’t look back, but when I left my family an hour later, I definitely kept an eye out for other creepy men.

What the fuck is up with men that get their jollies hissing obscenities at women in public?!

It’s really weird how this incident made me feel. I think it was because it was an older man that I froze up. I’ve been “street-harassed” by guys my age before, and I had absolutely no problem handling them. This incident today, though, it made me feel scared, even though I wasn’t harmed in any way. I think it may be because guys my age are more direct. This encounter put me in a very specific, passive position. It made me feel confused. It made me feel angry. I felt uncomfortable. I know I froze up in the store and concentrated on making my escape as soon as I could. I hate the fact that I froze up. I wish I had called him out on what he hissed at me, and I wish I had the presence of mind to snap his picture with my cell phone. I wanted to ignore this incident and put it out of my mind, but a few hours after I got home, I realized that this could very well happen again. That made me mad, and so, I turned to the internet to see what my rights were.

I swore to myself that the next time something like that happened, I would swear at the man to fuck off. Apparently, that is not a smart idea because it could invite anger and violence. The unfortunate thing is, the suggestions on the website do not appeal to me. They’re not strong or proactive enough to make me feel better about the situation when I am the one being accosted. I’ve used some of those suggestions before, in Calgary, when I saw a man fencing a woman in against a rail at night. It is very true that when a bystander intercedes, the aggressor will desist and/or attempt to justify his actions. If I see a woman being harassed on the street, I will always intercede. If I am the lone bystander, I will have a hand on my cell phone in plain sight.

At some point, I also realized that doing nothing about this incident, simply ignoring it and hoping it won’t occur again, made me feel like a helpless victim, even though nothing really happened… and that realization made me very unhappy. If I don’t figure out something to do, if I don’t take action, I’ll feel like I’ve lost my voice. Feeling victimized makes me angry.

I have sent a description of what happened to Lansdowne Centre and asked them what their mall policy was on incidents like this. The lady who manages their “Contact Us” is out of the office until January 2nd. I wonder if she will respond to my concern. I wonder what I will do if she doesn’t.

I wonder if I’m overreacting, and there is a part of me that is angry at that.