I have a pretty gross story from when I was twelve about some guy who must’ve been at least out of high school, 19 at a minimum, flirting and asking for my number. Repeatedly. In a hair salon while my mother was maybe fifteen entire feet away, just out of eye line and earshot (because, y’all, I was twelve and sitting in a waiting room, none of this should’ve happened).
I did the “uncomfortable girl” dance for a while: the forced smile, the “I’m reading”, the polite non-answers.
And finally, I told him, nope. I don’t have a phone.
“You don’t have a phone?” he asked incredulously.
“Nope!” I declared.
“Who doesn’t have a phone?”
“Me! So sorry! Oh well!”
He left shortly after that and I went to sit with my mom. Another woman in the salon was seated next to us and she told my mom what happened; my mother was a little horrified, but the other woman told her I handled it well and we all relaxed.
BUT WHY DID I HAVE TO HANDLE A MAN TWICE MY AGE AT ALL?
“Girls and women: How old were you the first time someone made a sexually inappropriate comment to you? How did you react, and did it affect how you saw yourself or acted?”
The question came from u/I_LIKE_LIMA_BEANS and I felt all these personal stories so hard. So, so hard.
1. Bend over
“I was hanging out with a group of friends — all girls — and we were all about 12 or 13. We were wearing shorts and tank tops because it was summer. Then, this group of four or five guys — all easily in their 20s — walks by, and they start saying things like, ‘Hey, pretty, bend over!'”
2. Too young
“Eleven. We were on a family vacation in the Dominican Republic. My 12-year-old sister and I were out for dinner with our parents, and our dad went out for a cigarette. He overheard a group of 50-year-old men talking about what kind of stuff they would do to us in bed. Our dad punched the one straight in the mouth.”
“They did stop, but we felt uncomfortable the rest of the trip. It’s a beautiful place, but that ruined it for me.” —yyccourt
3. Wearing bras
“In fifth grade, my dad told me to put on a bra right after I started developing. My mom would yell at me anytime I didn’t wear a bra because it ‘makes my dad feel uncomfortable.'”
“I think these are the worst ones for me.” —kpthornton02
“I was about 12 and wearing a bikini, and my uncle made a comment about my new boobies.”
5. Vegas at 13
“When I was 13, we went to Las Vegas for a dance championship. My parents were on the slots while my sister and I entertained ourselves in the kids’ arcade. Men walked by and asked to take pictures with us as if we were ‘for hire.’ I was too scared to say no because no one was there to protect us if they had gotten mad.”
“I took it the best way I could — that it was a compliment to my looks — but I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was wrong and made me feel scared.” —kellir7
6. Schoolyard BS
“I remember when I was in sixth grade — I was 11 — that this boy was obsessed with me. At the end of the school day, when we were walking out to the buses, he kept trying to grab my ass. I yelled at him to stop, then the teacher (she’s a woman) yelled at ME for yelling at him. When I tried to explain why I yelled at him, she said she didn’t care and that I needed to stop yelling.”
7. Cover up
“I was wearing shorts, and I was told by my father to ‘cover up.’ My mom looked at him like he was insane, and I pretended to not hear him. I went into my room and immediately changed into sweatpants. I didn’t wear shorts until long after that.”
“He’d also slapped my butt a lot when we walked upstairs and he was behind me. I was scared, so if he was ever behind me, I would go very fast.” —annalorraine
“When I was 11 years old, I had a long, silk nightie that I really loved. I used to get ready for bed early just to wear it. My aunt had given it to me. One evening, my mom took me aside and told me it was ‘immodest’ to wear it in front of my dad and brother.”
“I never wore it again.” —clara1meade
9. Abusive kids
“When I was in eighth grade, there was this kid in my class who was a real creep, and I always brushed it off. I was pretty developed by then and big-chested, and he used to say that I was trying to impress him. He sat at a table by the door, right by the bin that we turned our work in. I was putting my work in the bin, and he started teasing me. He poked me in the side — too far north for my liking, almost brushing my chest — and I told him to stop, but he didn’t. The teacher yelled at him. I also had this teacher in an afternoon class, and he had me file a report to the school. He really tried to get the kid kicked out of the class or get him out of any classes with me, and the school just didn’t do anything about it.
“The teacher sat me all the way across the room from him after that and had the other teacher of the other class I had with him do the same thing.” —ravenclawlaw05
“When I was in eighth grade, my class was arranging an Easter breakfast, and everyone had to bring in a food item. I brought a cucumber, and one of the boys in my class told me, ‘I know you’re going to have fun with that in the restroom afterwards.'”
I didn’t dare touch the cucumber after that.” —sawthorn
11. Unicorn Sweater
“The first time I was catcalled, I was 14. I was walking home in shorts and a unicorn sweater. Multiple grown men whistled at me, honked their horns, and winked. I remember going home and taking an extra-long shower that day.”
“I was 15 years old in the hallway after school. I was about 4’8″ at the time, and a friend’s older brother, who was 6’6”, turned to one of his friends and said, ‘I bet she wouldn’t even have to get on her knees to give me a blowjob.’ I guess he thought I was far enough away that I wouldn’t have been able to hear, but I did.
I’m sure other people nearby did, as well. It was a pretty crowded hallway. We’re both in ours 40s now and Facebook friends, but I’ve never mentioned what I heard him say or how it made me feel.” —bacire
13. More schoolyard grossness
“I was about 11, and I went on a school field trip. I skipped a few grades, so I was sitting with 13-year-olds. On the bus, the boys who sat in the back kept making these suggestive moves. They didn’t touch me physically, but they acted like they were having sex with me by making these moves.
I asked them to stop, and they just laughed at me. It made me very uncomfortable.” —bellaevans18jsgjf
14. Eight years old
“I was 8, and my mom’s friend was over with her daughter. We were playing on the floor, rolling around. I was wearing bike shorts, and my mom’s friend said that my pussy looked huge in the shorts. I was so confused. Even now, I don’t wear trousers, leggings, or shorts unless they are baggy because I don’t feel comfortable.”
15. Flipped them off
“Twelve years old. My 16-year-old sister and I were driving around, putting up garage sale signs. I got out at the first spot, which was a stoplight. These fortysomething assholes were whistling, leaning out of their cars, and honking. I was a snarky kid and told them they were desperate pieces of shit and flipped them off. They called me a bitch, and I said, ‘Thanks!’
This happened at three other intersections. One of the guys was in the paper a week later under rape charges.” —theonethatsamess
“When I was 14, I was walking to my grandparents’ apartment after interviewing for a summer internship. I was wearing my best business-casual outfit, and the interview had gone well. I felt SO confident. A car then pulled up alongside me and started following me slowly down the block. I immediately started looking around and trying to figure out where I could hide if I ran. The window rolled down, and this guy leaned out and started catcalling me. I tried to ignore him, but the car stayed alongside me the whole time. Finally, he went, ‘Why don’t you say hi?’ I quickly waved at him, and they drove off. My confidence was gone, and I felt so gross. I immediately began blaming it on what I was wearing. Ever since then, I pretty much only wear giant sweatshirts that I can hide inside. It’s been over 10 years, and I still don’t have that confidence back.” —marmalady
17. Tickets to India
“I started working at a cafe when I was 14. We had a regular who would always come in and get tea. Obviously, at my job, I have to be friendly to customers, so I was always pleasant. One day, he asked me when I would be going back to Pakistan, to which I replied I’m half Indian, not Pakistani. He was from the Middle East, himself, and looked absolutely disgusted before walking away without a word. The next day, he came in to get his tea and chose the longer line specifically to talk to me. He said that he had two tickets to India leaving in three days and that I should go with him. I didn’t even know how to react.
“I just said no thanks and walked away. My manager and supervisors were really great about it. Any time he came into the store, I was able to sit in the back until he was gone.
It took me a few years to realize just how disgusting it was for a man in his 50s to ask an obviously 14-year-old to run away to another continent with him.” —a_piri_piri
18. Absolutely not
“When I was about 10 or 11, I was at the mall with my mom, sister-in-law, and newborn niece. I wanted to let my mom and SIL have some alone time without me or my niece, so I stood outside the store while they shopped. My niece had started crying, so I took her out of the stroller and held her in my arms. This big man — maybe in his 30s or 40s — walked up to me and told me to ‘suck his dick.’ I was so scared; I didn’t really look at his face. At first, I didn’t understand what he said, so I asked him to repeat himself. He did, and it set in. My face turned white, and I started to tear up, so I ran back into the store.
“I told my mom what had happened, and she and my sister-in-law took me to walk around the mall and find him so they could ‘have a few words with him.’
We never found him, but for the rest of the day, I was too scared to leave the house, and it scared me for a few months.” —jadynmarie
“I was a tomboy when I was 12 and lived in jeans and T-shirts. I had to wear a dress to school for a band concert, and my teacher, a fiftysomething-year-old man, leered at me and said, ‘Oh, you do have legs, and they’re really nice ones.’ It was a while before I wanted to wear a dress again.”
“At 12, I wore a T-shirt to the beach that read, ‘Beach or Bust.’ A stranger in his 40s approached me, fixated on my chest, and said, ‘Well, you got the beach part right!’ and laughed. His family had set their towels down near ours, and he had two young daughters.”