So yesterday Yani was in the middle of some racial profiling when a man decided to stalk her.
I had spent the entire day walking around Brooklyn, enjoying the tease of good weather, deliriously thrilled that no one had hissed or catcalled in all my blocks of walking, when I spotted a group of four, young-ish Black guys standing up against one of their cars, talking about a Tyler Perry movie (I can’t remember which one, they all blur together for me). Seeing them I ignorantly thought, Here we go. I braced myself for what seemed like an inevitable comment and hoped it was as easy as “You look nice” instead of some one-upmanship crass thing. Just to be safe, I zipped my hoodie up over my tight tank top. If I hadn’t been focusing so hard on pretending like I didn’t notice these guys (who, by the way, had better things to do than say anything to me and never even looked in my direction) maybe I would have noticed that a fortysomething-year-old white guy had slowed down in his car so he could drive alongside where I was walking.
“I just wanted to tell you that you have very pretty feet,” he said, now at a full stop and leaning over the passenger side of his silver station wagon with a baby seat in the back.
“Thanks,” I said because it seemed like the easiest way to get this over with. As I kept walking I thought, how do you notice someone’s feet when you’re driving? And what do you think telling them how pretty they are will accomplish? Now, I happen to like my feet, even though my big toe is the same size as my next one and my little toe is so tiny that it’s been said that it doesn’t resemble a toe at all, but a nub with polish on the end. And the first day of the year that I get to walk around in flip flops is second only to my birthday as far as a good time, but this man knew none of that and still thought that I would be interested in his thoughts on my feet.
I guess my “thanks” wasn’t enthusiastic enough, because he followed me for two blocks in his car, until he was able to block my path as I was trying to cross a street and talk to me some more: “Hi again. Back there all I wanted to tell you was that you had really pretty feet,” he told me in his thick, Brooklyn White guy accent, not unlike someone auditioning for The Sopranos.
“Right, that’s why I said thanks.”
“I just didn’t want you to think I wanted anything else. You looked at me like you were afraid I was going to say something else, but all I wanted was to tell you that,” he continued.
“Okay, great. So thanks. Have a good day.”
He let me walk away. I’d dialed 911 on my phone and just hadn’t hit send, in case he decided he needed to follow me some more.
So, here’s the obvious question: What the fuck?
And here’s the one I’d love for somebody to answer for me: Does this kind of thing—the telling a woman her feet, her toes (once when mine were polished orange I was told they looked like little tangerines by a man standing next to me on the subway platform), her hips (Ak once had someone just yell, “Hips!!” to her as she walked by), her whatever—ever lead to anything good for the man? Really, does this ever work? I need to know, because it confounds me.