Dear boy I walked by at the park,
Hey, how are ya today? Those are the only words I said to you. Words people hear every single day, words that I'm sure you're not up late at night thinking about at this moment. Words that are a simple gesture of friendliness and openness. With those words I invited you in to speak to me. I don't regret it. But now I'm the one up late pondering the words you said back to me and wishing I would've taken the time to talk back.
You couldn't have been more than 15 years old. Walking by the playground to get to wherever you're off to, with your friend by your side. Maybe he dared you to say what you did. Maybe you were never taught the right way to treat a woman. Maybe you felt like you had to be someone you're not. Maybe you don't have a single woman in your life that you respect. Maybe your life is spinning out of control and pushing boundaries makes you feel in control of something, anything. I wouldn't know, we're perfect strangers.
That's why what happened next has sent me into a tailspin of thought.
When you called me baby, when you looked at my body like it was a piece of meat, when you and your friend laughed at your own remarks in regards to me - I should've turned around. I should not have kept on walking like I did. I should not have passed up the opportunity to tell you that the way you were acting was harmful on so many levels. Maybe not so much to me, but possibly to the next girl you treat this way.
When you gave me that look into who you are, I should've seized the opportunity to tell you that how you acted is no way to treat a woman. That is no way to treat anyone for that matter. I should've reminded you that you were talking to another human being that deserves just as much respect as you do. I should've told you that you could be better, you could be a man who makes women feel safe and protected and valuable. You could give a sense of security and warmth with your words instead of discomfort and danger.
Your thoughts stated so disrespectfully didn't damage me personally, but if I had been a girl looking for any sort of love and validation I could find, your words could've had a different outcome. You didn't make me feel unsafe, I was surrounded by people, but if I had been alone it's safe to say my sense of safety and security would've been fractured. You may have thought you were being harmless, but then again we are perfect strangers, maybe your intentions were more malicious than I think. It doesn't matter, I should've spoke up, simply for your sake and the next girl's sake. I should've made you think twice about treating the next woman you encountered in such a way. I should've made you want to ask yourself if you were being the kind of man you hoped to be one day. I'm so sorry I didn't.
If anything you gave me something today. You made me realize that if my daughter was old enough to understand the way you just treated me, that I would've wanted to react differently for her sake.
I would've wanted her to see that confrontation in the name of standing up for yourself is nothing to shy away from. That everyone is deserving of certain levels of respect and you can be gracious while still demanding it from strangers.
I hope the next woman you treat poorly takes the time to see the person inside and pushes back, pushes you to be better.
I hope it causes you to want to change, to want to be the man who protects instead of shatters.
I hope the next woman speaks up.
image via theconversation