I have Resting Friendly Face

That does not mean I want you to sit next to me. Well, maybe YOU, fellow female human being, but even though #NotAllMen, I don’t want a man sitting next to me

You know, I think I like it that despicable stupid ignorant people are branding themselves. Makes it easier to avoid them.

I consider it a great success that on my recent flight on Southwest Airlines – a flight that was not full, I maintained an empty seat next to me.

Those of you who have never flown Southwest might not know what a monumental accomplishment this is.

For me, it meant I made no eye contact.

Head down.

Even though one of my favorite things is to watch people board and try to guess their stories.

But I kept my head down.

I don’t want women sitting by me

Women will sit next to me rather than in another empty seat. This would not be a problem except for the woman who whipped out her phone and started playing a loud game on it as soon as she sat.

After takeoff, after I had sent several her several Death Stares of SHUT THE HECK UP, Death Stares she had ignored, I finally asked, “Would you mind using a headset, please, so I don’t have to hear the sound?”

She rolled her eyes and said, “I FORGOT THEM.”

“Then,” I asked through gritted teeth, as this woman was older than I me – that is, Old Enough to Know Better, “would you please turn the sound off.”

She heaved a deep sigh, rolled her eyes again, and turned the game off completely.

I guess she showed me?

But at least she did not hog the armrest (although as the person in the middle seat, the armrest was by rights hers) or spread her legs into my space, moving them even further into my space each time I pulled my legs in so I would not have to be touching a stranger.

But I really really don’t want men sitting by me

I was in the middle seat on a flight from Atlanta to Dubai.

That’s a 16 hour flight.

Maybe 13.

Whatever. Very long.

Even before the plane took off, the big man in the seat next to me was screaming in his phone. “FUCK YOU RENEE!” he yelled before he slammed the phone down.

(That is a disadvantage of cellphones – there’s not really a satisfactory way to hang up on someone. It’s a quiet hangup, no matter what you do.)

His arm was on the armrest, as was the arm of the man on my other side.

Both of them sprawled into my leg space.

I pulled myself in and tried to make myself small. I didn’t even dare to ask them to get out of my space. The man had shown that he was willing to scream in public.

I did not want him to scream at me.

When I am on a plane, I tell the person in the middle seat (if it’s a woman – I never need to tell this to men) that the armrests are theirs.

But these men had not gotten the memo. They thought any available air was their space. That none of the space was mine.

It’s not just me

The always-brilliant Caroline Criado-Perez wrote about women and public transit in her book Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men. (If you have not read this book, please get it immediately. You will not regret it, I promise.)

A recent Brazilian survey found that two-thirds of women had been victims of sexual harassment and violence while in transit, half of them on public transportation. The proportion among men was 18%. […] A 2016 study found that 90% of French women had been victims of sexual harassment on public transport; in May that year two men were jailed for an attempted gang rape on a Paris train. A 2016 Washington metro survey found that women were three times more likely than men to face harassment on public transport.

Caroline Criado-Perez’s free newsletter

There’s a reason we shrink

When I lived in Miami (long before the flight to Dubai), I took the train to work. I got on at the first stop, which meant the train was always completely empty when I boarded.

One morning, a man boarded with me. We were the only two people in the coach.

He sat right next to me.

Right. Next. To. Me.

“There are a million empty seats on this train,” I said. “Why do you have to sit by me?”

He did not say, “Oh I am so sorry! Of course I should not have invaded your space? What was I thinking?”

No. He glared at me and said something along the lines of “F U bitch.”

He did move.

But not before making me afraid of what he might do.

That’s why I don’t say anything now. That’s why I keep my head down.

4 thoughts on “I have Resting Friendly Face

  1. Public transit – yuck! Years – well, I actually mean decades – ago I worked in downtown DC and rode the shiny new Metro to and from every single day, and while morning were bad, afternoons were hell. The trains were always crowded and seats nonexistent, so we’d all stand packed together like the proverbial sardines. (Is there really a proverb about sardines – probably not!) Anyway, at least four days a week some unseen guy behind me would think it was ok to massage my … er, derrierre with his hand, or sometimes something that’s attached at little closer to a man’s body.

    At the time I worked for Xerox and mentioned my frustration to one of the technicians I knew well. Webb, says he, “you carry a 25 pound briefcase. Stop putting it down on the floor. Hold onto it and when that happens swing it backward as hard as you can.” Well, I can tell you that Mother never suggested that, but boy does it work well, especially when what’s being rubbed is that thing that’s closely attached. And, boy, is that satisfying! I pass that along and give you permission to use it at any time. No charge!


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