Leave Britney alone. Leave all of us alone.

Pro tip for men: If the only female humans who will pay attention to you are underage, you’re the problem. Lolita is not a guidebook.

I know I keep using this image of ‘Medusa With the Head of Perseus’, by artist Luciano Garbati, but it’s so appropriate for so many things.

A grown man (loud, obnoxious, entitled) was hassling a teenager in the coffee shop where Mr T and I were ordering our cafecitos to go.

(We were the only ones masked, including the person preparing the coffee. Not relevant to this story, but noteworthy considering we were in northern Wisconsin, in the area with the lowest vax rates in the state.)

The five of us – barista, grown man, teenage girl, Mr T and I – were the only ones in the shop.

As we walked in, the man was asking the barista if the girl could pose with the sweatshirts he had brought in. (My guess is he is a vendor to the shop, maybe selling on consignment?)

Man: I want her to pose with them and then post the photos. Is that OK?

Barista (shrugging): OK.

That’s a little weird. I get using youth and beauty to sell stuff. It works. But it’s still gross when and when you don’t even know the person, it’s worse.

Man: Would you hold these while I take some photos?

Say no! Say no!

Girl: OK.

He finishes and she returns to her table, where she is doing homework.

The man sits at the table with her.

There are a million empty tables around her.

Man: How old are you? Fifteen?

If you have to ask how old she is and your first guess is 15, then you shouldn’t be asking.

Girl (head down, looking at book, still writing): Sixteen.

This is where the man should laugh in embarrassment and leave. Yet that is not what happens.

Man: Sweet sixteen! Did you have a sweet sixteen party? I bet you did!

Girl (still not making eye contact, still writing): No.

Man: Hey! Do you want to come to this harvest festival?

Me to Mr T and barista: Did that grown man just ask out that underage girl?

Barista: He wouldn’t. She’s my sister.

Me (and you are OK pimping her out for him to take photos of her?): UM, OK.

Man: What’s your profile name? I can send you an invitation.

Girl (still not making eye contact, still writing): Yeah I’ll have to check my work schedule.

First, you shouldn’t be asking underage girls on a date.

Second, with grown women, “I’ll have to check my schedule” means “Leave me alone you creep.”

Third, if you want to ask out a grown woman, wait until she makes eye contact with you before you do. Lack of eye contact is a sign. That sign is that she does not want to talk to you.

What do we do, fellow warriors? How do we protect girls and other women from men? What do we say? What do we do?

One friend suggested asking the girl, “Is everything OK?”

Another suggested, “Is this man bothering you?”

What do we say? I like both of those ideas. I also like the idea of just sitting next to the girl and smiling at the man.

It makes me angry that I have to think of a way to protect a girl when I am scared myself. We don’t know what reaction we might get if we challenge an asshole. And it makes me even angrier at myself for putting my own worries ahead of protecting a sixteen-year-old girl.

5 thoughts on “Leave Britney alone. Leave all of us alone.

  1. Your whole account of this situation just makes me cringe! We have all been that girl at some point, mostly raised “not to make a fuss” or challenge someone doing something we don’t like. I like your idea of asking the girl if everything’s okay, and if the man (all too likely) says anything (such as “Mind your own business”), saying, “I wasn’t talking to you, but this all seems a bit creepy to me, you bothering such a young woman. She’s too polite to tell you to leave her alone, but that’s clearly what her lack of eye contact is trying to tell you.”


  2. I know this was a while ago, but you could’ve interrupted the conversation to ask him about the sweatshirts. Where could you buy one? Where does he get them printed? Etc. so many questions! You are so interested in information from him that you ask questions until he gets fed up and leaves. I know hindsight is 20/20, but I bet he wouldn’t have lasted long under your open, “totally innocent” curiosity.


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