I had an unusual situation happen to me today in my small-town grocery store and feel as if I'm just beginning to process what happened. I feel gross and violated and very conflicted.
As I've posted elsewhere today, I have bright red hair (see: How old is too old). Not natural red, but a very Look At Me My Hair is Awesome kind of red. It often generates comments from strangers and I've had more than one little old woman compliment the shade, so I'm neither unaccustomed nor ungrateful for positive conversations about it.
While wandering through my local grocer, arms full of last minute supplies for dinner, I walked passed a rather grubby looking gentleman and his buddy. Thing 1, upon turning around, spied me and guffawed, "Sweet Jesus! How do you get your hair that color, sweetheart?!"
I half-laughed and said, "Oh, I just eat a lot of red apples, heh heh." Lame joke but I was very taken aback by his sudden loudness and arm flinging. None of this, of course, was particularly bothersome and as I turned to go, he said one more thing:
"Hey, can I touch it?"
Before I could reply with a polite "No. But feel free to touch yourself." He reached out...and ran his dirty hands through my hair. I don't HAVE much hair as I rock a pixie. The result was his fingers rifling against my scalp like you would perhaps check your child for a bump after a fall. It felt like one of those moments of suspended animation that seems to last forever but you have no control of the outcome.
Afterward, he exclaimed, "Whoa, you sure felt good!" Both Thing 1 and Thing 2 then began to laugh as if it was the funniest thing since Jeff Foxworthy.
I was so shocked and horrified, I simply backed off, mouth agape. I couldn't process that someone would invade my personal space like this. As a chronic sufferer of bitchface and a person that in general does not like to be touched, I never anticipated someone - a stranger! - feeling this was an acceptable socializing technique.
Looking back, after a long shower and thorough hair washing, I should've kneed him in the balls. Or yelled and shamed him. Or even had any reply at all beyond a horrified expression. He thinks what he did was okay, and this deeply bothers me. I should've made it clear that random women are not his to handle and I'm disappointed that all he got was a confused gurgle.
I feel that, for today at least, I've failed as feminist and as a woman. I'm lucky enough to have never been sexually harassed, or inappropriately touched, or taken advantage of. Men rarely pay attention to me and of the 4 men I've dated in my life, I'm married to 25% of them. I'm not accustomed to unwanted advances and handled myself poorly. I sincerely hope there's not a next time to see if I would react with more more gusto and regain one of my Feminist Cards™.