As I write this, I can feel the sting of my sunburn and let me tell you, I feel alive. We all go a bit mad in the sunshine in the UK – I had a Mars ice lolly at 9:45 am and I regret nothing. I don’t think you can beat a British summertime, but there are a couple of drawbacks.
Sunbathing in peace (as a woman) is tricky – a symptom of a bigger issue regarding of the occupation of public space. One of my favourite quotes of all time is ‘A woman sitting alone is not waiting for you’ and honestly I would love to get it tattooed on my forehead, just to ward off men who think I am begging to be disturbed. I’ve never looked at a man lying face down in the grass and thought that he was desperate for unsolicited conversation. Maybe I’ve admired his shapely calves for a moment, but I’ve not felt the need to go over, sit next to him and talk about how nice his calves look while he grimaces at me and looks for escape routes.
Other than the scariness of being harassed in public spaces, the thing that always pisses me off is how much it ruins my day. Maybe I’m on the train to Kings Cross, listening to some Destiny’s Child throwbacks and choreographing dance routines in my head. Maybe I’m reading in a park. Maybe I’m sitting writing my column in a coffee shop. I can guarantee that I am probably having the time of my life. I don’t want to talk to anyone; my head phones are in buddy. I’m balls deep in my own consciousness and it’s insulting to assume that I want to talk to you.
Recently, I was sat in the window of a coffee shop, working on my novel. A man took it upon himself to tap me on the shoulder, pull a chair up to my table and inform me that he ‘was so attracted to me’ and ‘had to talk to me’. He asked if I wanted to go for a drink. I said no. He said ‘Are you sure?’ and spent another 20 minutes trying to convince me. He asked if a) I had a boyfriend and b) how large my hypothetical boyfriend was. He left eventually, after I wouldn’t give him my number and refused to take his ‘just in case.’
This guy didn’t care about me. He assumed that his attraction to me was far more important than anything I was doing. For him, I was an image of a woman in a coffee shop, not an actual person trying to live their life.
Women are not flattered by you interrupting their lives. I know I look good, please don’t invade my space by taking it upon yourself to let me know. We need to relax, we’re very tired from performing emotional labour and trying to shave our legs in the shower without falling over. Next time you’re in a sun soaked park and you see a goddess lying in front of you, eyes closed, her face a picture of bliss, please for the love of all things holy, smile and walk away. She has as much right to exist in this space as you do and frankly, she deserves some peace.