I should preface this story by saying that I am a magnet for freaks, a lightning rod for the weird, and a beacon for the depraved. And lest I forget it, occasionally that side of me likes to come out, dust itself off, and spit in my face.
Take last night for example. Last night, I was walking home from yoga. It was dark and I was the only woman on the sidewalk and the only person without a canine companion. I did, however, have my large green yoga mat swung around my back, and a blue Nalgene bottle hanging from my hip. Several times on past walks back from class, I’ve made the mistake of missing my street because I’m already practically blind and at night it’s even worse, so I had to switch sides of the street. I glanced behind me to see how close the headlights were and gauge if I could make it.
Since I have no peripheral vision on that side, I had to turn a substantial part of my body to see how close the car was. That was probably my first mistake. I unknowingly sent the signal. I made brief eye contact with the driver, a paunchy, graying, middle-aged man, and he slammed on his brakes. He proceeded to honk twice, not loudly, but softly, as if only I was meant to hear.
I ignored him and kept walking. He didn’t like that and drove so that he was once again in front of me and slammed on his brakes a second time. This time he began honking again, flashing his lights, and gesticulating that I should enter the car. Once again, I ignored him. Then, he propped the passenger-side door open and looked at me expectantly. You know the look of a dog hanging his drooly head out of a car window? Replace anything cute about that image with depraved and decrepit and you have this freak.
At that point, I started getting nervous. Obviously, the socially retarded moron was not getting the fairly LARGE hint that I was not a sex worker. I threw my hands up and motioned that he should keep driving. He made final eye contact with me and shook his head sadly. I wondered if he was sad that I didn’t put out for money, or sad that I wouldn’t do it for him.
As a stand-alone case, this would hardly make a blip on the freak magnet radar, except that it’s the second time in as many weeks that it has happened. In the same place at around the same time. It’s a nice residential neighborhood, about two blocks from Apoquindo (one of the main arteries of Santiago) where there actually are sometimes prostitutes of the transvestite variety hanging out by the bus stops.
I’m sorry, but what about the yoga mat on my back tags me as a hooker? Is yoga a normal extra-curricular for prostitutes these days? The flexible ones charge a premium? And, yes, paunchy perverted cuico, even if I could add “sells body for money” under skills on my resume, I still would have rejected you because you repulse me on a molecular level. You, and all of your kind who troll the streets commodifying women, disgust me.
This isn’t the first time this has happened. The first time was about three years ago as I was waiting for a taxi. On a street corner. In Parque Bustamante, which turns into a veritable red light district at night. There I EXPECTED it. There it was a right of passage! Have you been solicited, yet? Yes? Well, then welcome to the neighborhood!
So when the truck stopped, honked, and the guy whispered, “Oye, oye, oye, te llevo. Te llevo,” I wasn’t surprised. (That translates to: hey, hey, hey, I’ll take you. I’ll take you. Right, bucko, I’m sure you will.) The second time a sex-crazed loner confused me for a prostitute was about two minutes after the first time and a minute before a taxi, thankfully, appeared.
I was complaining to my husband (it feels so weird to write that!) “What about me screams I have sex for money? Most of the prostitutes around here are Peruvian, Bolivian, or trannies. Do I look like that?”
“I work with some Peruvians and Bolivians and they are not fat, short, and ugly.”
“I didn’t say that. I just said that I don’t look like o- Wait, so are you implying that I look like a man? A man in stilettos?”
I tweeted about this and received several responses. Some are from women who have experienced something similar, and some from people with helpful suggestions like changing my route home or considering carrying a flamethrower for personal protection.
While it makes me sad that I’m still the same freak magnet who attracts unwanted attention and can’t leave my apartment without a wig, face-sized sunglasses, and a potato sack, it makes me sadder that this exchange of sex for money even occurs. It makes me sad that women (and to be fair, some men) are put in that position, and that there is a steady supply of men who will seek out and pay for their services.
Just in case my sweet, Minnesotan grandparents are reading: I was never in any real danger as it was unlikely the pervert would have left his car, and I will be changing my route after this. And just in case the d-bag from last night somehow finds this: I am armed and have punched a man for less. Be warned.