Danger on Aisle Two

My friend and I have frequently hashed out an argument about grocery store pick-ups. I maintain the belief that hitting on people at a grocery store is strange and something I find extremely off-putting. I would even go so far as to say I think it a social faux pas.

My friend disagrees, suggesting this hang up with someone approaching me in the freezer section is my issue.  I see his side, but every time the discussion comes up, I bring up the subject of safety. And every time I bring up the subject of safety, my friend chuckles at the notion that I think I am going to be accosted in the middle of Ralph’s.

When I read this popular blog post on {UnWinona}, my mind immediately went to the grocery store discussions.  For this woman has tapped into exactly what I was trying to say.  I go through my life and these intrusions from men with questionable motives are pervasive and unavoidable. In fact, what is remarkable to me about this blog’s story is just how unremarkable the story is. Every woman I brought the story up to had a similar tale.  We all echoed the sentiments of the author–this is frightening and scary, but it is a fact of life for most of us.

But what does this have to do with the well-meaning man in the cheese aisle?  Well you see, like she said in her final thoughts, I don’t want to give this man the benefit of the doubt.  I don’t want to be polite.  I just want to buy my low calorie string cheese without having to mentally plan an escape route, frantically search for the nearest employee, or try to subtly reach for my car key. 

And maybe it isn’t fair that I take those steps when a man approaches me at the grocery store.  I am being judgmental. But guess what? I don’t care. Because in the greater scheme of things, I am hard pressed to believe that the guy who thought I was picking out my bananas in the produce section in such a way that was so alluring he couldn’t possibly *not* talk to me really has all that much to offer me. So yeah, there is a small chance I missed out on Prince Charming in the cereal aisle, but if it means I can avoid yet another instance dealing with a creeper and having those feelings of fear and frustration and helplessness that this blogger brings up, I am totally fine with that.

It isn’t fair that I assume any male travelling solo and approaching me unprompted is an assailant until proven otherwise, but stand up comedienne Ever Mainard gets where I am coming from:

Yes, Ever and I may be judgmental and unfair, but is it any fairer that these men get to encroach on my life without my permission?  You might say I can simply politely convey to these gents I am not interested, but as this blogger notes, it isn’t that simple. Because you are hedging your bets to say, “Excuse me, I’d like to shop uninterrupted please.”  It makes you a bitch. It makes you the villain because this person infiltrated your day uninvited.  The feminine thing to do, the polite thing to do is offer a pleasant response and try to scoot away. But even then, I am going to spend the rest of my trip focused on my peripheral vision, who is in the parking lot, and where the nearest exit is.  For you, man at the grocery store, you are paying a compliment with your approach. For me, female on her own, you are a safety risk. 

Plus, who hits on someone at the grocery store? Honestly? Explain to me the series of events that leads to this happening. Who goes lurking around supermarkets looking for a mate? What are you even looking for? Are you surveying their groceries? Is it how they pick out the discount items and the store brands? You’re just that turned on by their thriftiness?  When I am roaming the aisles in my gym clothes with no make up on, consumed with the Nutrition Facts of my Wheat Thins, I don’t really get what would be appealing about me to someone else.

More importantly, I cannot fathom what about my presence suggests I want to be bothered.  It does not take Sherlock Holmes to deduce I don’t want to chat. I haven’t made eyes at him, my gaze stays on the floor, I am not dressed to impress. If you can’t figure out I don’t want to be bothered, you are either not bright enough for me to waste time conversing with…or up to no good.  

That goes for you too, man at the gas station. I’m pumping gas, staring at the ground, not hanging out at singles night at a bar.

Same to you man at the coffee shop who does not understand that book and headphones equals do not disturb.

And you, man in the drive-thru behind me? Don’t think I forgot about you. I can only hope you have learned asking a woman in a car at a Carl’s Jr where she is going and if you can follow her is not an acceptable means of introduction.

What all of you guys can’t seem to grasp is that the onus is not on me to convey that I don’t want you to approach me in situations outside of a bar or a party or some other social gathering where conversing with strangers is to be expected.  The onus is on you.  You need to realize I want to be left alone.  You need to understand that unless you have received an abundance of body language to the contrary, we woman don’t want to talk to you in the subway, at the DMV, while running full speed on the treadmill at the gym, or while I am shopping for dental floss.  

I already walk with my head down, pretend I am engrossed with or on my phone, and wear garish colored headphones so there is no mistaking the fact they are there, though plenty of times they are purely to ward people away and there is nothing playing through them. I’ve even worn fake wedding rings, “uglied” myself up, pleaded with male friends to pretend to be my boyfriend, pleaded with my female friends to pretend to be my girlfriend, and feigned not knowing English.  Short of putting on a “Don’t Eff with Me” sign on my person, I don’t really know what else I need to do to convey you need to leave me alone.  

So thank you UnWinona for putting into words why I immediately go on the defense when a man approaches me unprovoked.  Thank you for getting it.  And thank you for putting this incident to paper because I do think it will get a few more people to realize why I just want to shop uninterrupted.