Last weekend was pretty nice, wasn’t it? We both wanted to take advantage of the fact that it wasn’t a monsoon outside, which is why I took my bicycle and you took your motorcycle and we both went for rides that took us around Walsingham Park. That park is one of my favorite places to go, with all of the trees providing shade over the roads and trails that twist around the lake. The shade is especially important now as most days it gets into the 90s, and that’s really hot, even when you’re on a bike with your self-generated wind blowing past you.
I had hit my turnaround point and was on my way out of the park when I heard your motorcycle engine come up behind me. I figured you wanted to pass, so I moved over as close to the edge of the road as possible, and then I waited for you to pass. And I waited. And then I waited some more. The entire time, I heard the low grumble of your motorcycle just a few feet behind me.
It was fine for a minute or so, but as I kept pedaling and you still did not pass, I started to wonder just what the fuck you were doing. Were you trying to make sure I had plenty of space? I did, that’s for sure. There were no other cars coming from the other direction, so you could have easily passed. Were you just trying to enjoy the last few minutes in the park? Did you see a particularly lovely oak tree, maybe with a bromeliad up in the branches, and it captivated you with its beauty?
I have no idea. All I know is that I was trying to come up with a lot of reasons as to why you were driving so slowly right behind me, and I was searching hard for scenarios in which you were not being creepy and threatening. I don’t like to move through the world assuming the worst about people. I prefer to assume people are innocently minding their own business and that they are too involved with their own shit to notice me until I have good reason to think otherwise.
But after a mile had elapsed and you were still there, I realized I was starting to have a really good reason to think otherwise. I started considering that maybe the lovely view with which you were so engrossed with was the sight of my Lyrca-clad ass bent over and up in the air. And I have to tell you, that was not something that made me feel great. In fact, it made me feel really gross and shitty. A few minutes earlier I had been feeling free and happy, riding my bike in one of my favorite parts of the county, and then all of those good feelings evaporated in the space of a minute.
Don’t get me wrong – I know people have eyes and they like to use them to look at other people, particularly people they find attractive. I don’t have a problem with this. It would be hypocritical of me if I did, because I do this too. What I do have a problem with is people who do more than look – who make comments, who follow the person around, who make weird gestures and noises at them. Because at that point, it’s no longer about admiring someone you find attractive and it becomes almost entirely about making sure the person you find attractive is aware of and affected by your existence.
I don’t know if you noticed, but I started pedaling a lot faster at this point. I knew I had about a mile left until I was out of the park, and I wanted to get this encounter over with as quickly as possible. I was afraid that you might pull up alongside me and try to talk to me. I even briefly thought that you might try to knock me over and do….I don’t even know what, but it would have been scary and painful. You probably never even thought of such things, but how am I to know that?
This is the thing – I don’t. I have no way of knowing if you are just a random guy who is clueless about the impact of his behavior on other people or if your motivations are more malevolent and ill-intentioned. (See also: Schrodinger’s Rapist) All I know is that you are the kind of guy who uses his motorcycle tails a woman on a bicycle for two miles in a deserted park, and that this doesn’t particularly make me feel confident in your ability to respect my right to be left alone. Surely when I phrase it this way, you can understand where I am coming from?
I eventually got out to the main road and onto the bike lane, and then you turned out onto the main road as well. When you rode past me I held my breath, hoping you would just ride on, which you did. The whole encounter, which lasted about five awkward minutes, ended about as well as I could have hoped (although truthfully, I would have much preferred if you had just ridden past and saved me the whole experience).
I ended up talking to a couple of people about this, just to sort of check myself and make sure I wasn’t blowing this out of proportion. Everyone agreed with me – it was creepy. Someone suggested that maybe you thought you were flattering me, which, if that is what you really thought, allow me to disabuse you of that notion – I was not flattered. I did not feel good about myself and my butt. I was scared.
So in the future, I’d like to ask that you consider a couple of things in the future: one, that it is not essential for a woman to know you find her attractive, especially if letting her know requires you engage in some shady behavior, and two, that your actions, no matter how innocent it may be in your mind, can come across very differently to someone who has been raised her entire life under threat of rape and assault. I imagine that none of this feels like that big of a deal to you, but please try to empathize with me and understand where I am coming from and to understand that I am not the only woman who feels this way. I know I would appreciate it, and so will all of the other women who will be spared the dubious honor of being followed by you and your motorcycle.