Monday, 20 January 2014

Pervy Parisians

The title of this post is somewhat misleading... You don't need to be Parisian to be a perv, and not all Parisians are pervs. Truly they're not.
A few are though. Quite a few.
Now. I am not the kind of girl that merits a double take on the street. I mean, I like the way I look, and if I spend time actually doing the necessary work on my hair and face and wear snazzy, jazzy, hip and happenin' stuff I can be positively attractive. BUT the point I'm trying to make is that I am no more likely than any other 20-something girl to be the object of a pervy Parisian's attentions. So this probably rings true for most of my peers who have spent any extended amount of time in a busy capital city. I know the majority of my friends have experienced it. There was G.B., who would have 'ey princesse, princesse!' incessantly shouted at her on the street. A pretty girl, biensur, but with no traces of royalty in her blood to speak of...
Then there was T.J., my cutie pie Mauritian pal. Poor T would receive marriage proposals in the street, and assuming (for some wildly inexplicable reason) that she was actually from some remote island, her suitors would become gradually more and more offended when she was unable to answer them in their native language.
Then we have the extreme example of S.H., a friend from my home town. She came to Paris with some friends for a few days of 'fun.' She made the fateful (but completely understandable) decision to wear exactly the kind of clothes that she'd wear on an English night out. We're talking big heels, bodycon skirts and false eyelashes. The works. But lord almighty, was that just a feast for the eyes for the scummiest of scum...
S.H. recounted to me how she'd been followed, harassed, and, ludicrously, on two occasions, had her groin grabbed in the middle of the street.
Although her choice of outfit may not have been very well thought out, considering that the girls of the French capital consider dressing up to consist of wearing a slightly different white tshirt with a minimally dressier pair of skinny jeans, and at a push (for the grander occasions in their social calendars) applying a slick of red lipstick to their otherwise unmade-up faces. Of COURSE I'm exaggerating (and don't I just love to?), but what I mean is that it's quite rare for Parisian girls to go all out and have a lot of skin on display for a night out. It's just a whole other mentality here.
I'm not justifying what S.H. was put through though. Far from it. Obviously you should be able to wear whatever the fuck you want and feel comfortable and safe with it. Fuck, if you want to go out in a thong and a feather headdress then that's your prerogative. Probably don't. But if you want to... then nobody should get in your personal space about it. Now, if you're dressed provocatively then I'm going to put it out there that subconsciously you probably DO want a little bit of attention. But attention is one thing. Being grabbed or followed is something else entirely.
And sometimes you can be dressed in your frumpiest get up and still someone will take it upon themselves to bother you. That happens too. Then what?
Take yesterday for example. Early afternoon, I left my flat to take a walk around the neighbourhood because I had an acute bout of cabin fever. I put my headphones in, had Biggy blasting, and was minding my own sweet little business. At a crossing I stopped (obviously), only to find an overly friendly face literally craaane around my own to peer directly into my eyes.
'Salut, ca va?' the owner of said face asked me, admittedly very politely.
I proceeded to crane my face all the way back around away from his just as the lights changed. I hurried off and no harm was done.
A bit annoying, yes, but mostly just fine. It was the middle of the day, he took his cue to leave me alone, and consequently both parties emerged unscathed.
These men don't always take their cues though, and sometimes it's quite dark when they approach you, and that's when it begins to become a bit of a different situation...
One evening last week I met a friend for a few glasses of vin more or less close to my place. So when it came to the time to say goodbye I had no qualms about walking home alone. However... somebody else had other plans...
As I made my way through a busy square I heard, 't'es belle, toi!'
N'aw shucks, thanks mister.
I didn't look over though, I wasn't in the mood to.
'Ey, ey! Comment tu t'appelle?' He inched closer.
I carried on walking.
'Vraiment la, ca va?'
Eugh, he'd cut me up and was walking backwards so he could look me in the face.
I gave him a dismissive smile and dodged around him. By this time we were in a back street and there was nobody else around. I began to feel uncomfortable.
'Je veux juste te parler!' he insisted, with a leery smile that I didn't like at all.
'Excusez-moi,' I said, overtaking him. I tried to keep my cool and stay as polite as possible. But this little fuck was insistent. Plus now that he'd heard my accent he saw me as an even easier target. Merde.
'T'es super belle,' he started up again, jogging to keep up.
By now we'd gotten close enough to my flat for me to want to change route so that he couldn't see where I live. That's when it started to really piss me off. In my head I was muttering, 'I'm just trying to get home and you, utter twat that you are, are impeding me of doing that by being all up in my shit. And what's more is that you can see exactly how annoyed I am, and you're persisting anyway, prick of all pricks.'
In real life I simply glared at him and hissed, 'laissez-moi tranquille.' ('Leave me alone.')
Oooh, he liked that. He got really close and started keeping up with my pace, continually trying everything to get me to talk again. He clearly wanted to wind me up. He liked seeing me squirm. I turned my back and headed in the opposite direction, skyping J.G. as I walked, hoping that me being occupied with something else might put my pursuer off.
It didn't.
Eventually I did shake him off. I managed this mean feat by stopping abruptly and childishly shouting, 'MAIS!' (A tactic that E.V.P. favours when he is really frustrated and can't take one more second of whatever it is that's taking place.)
It's true that no harm was really done, but it's so tedious to have to deal with socially inept idiots like him when you're just trying to get on with your day. If I don't immediately seem like I want to chat with you, stranger in the street, then that's probably because, yep, you've guessed it, I don't want to chat with you. At the end of the day, the rule should always be that no means no.
Discussing this with two of my Parisian girlfriends a few days ago the main idea that we all kept coming back to was this:
Has any girl in the history of humankind ever been approached in the street by someone and, as a result, struck up a conversation so good that she's thought, 'yeah, actually, I will go for a drink with you. Sure, here, have my number! You're someone I want to see again, definitely'? Surely the number of times that an approach such as that has failed compared to the number of times that an approach such as that has been successful is about a million to one.
Who knows?
I just know one thing and one thing only- that this happened to me with a boy that I actually recognised and had always kinda fancied, and even then it didn't work, so... (Admittedly, that might also have had something to do with the fact that he approached me in the same way three times in the same week, never once recognising that not only had he already chatted me up, but that we were in the same French class for a whole year. So the prominent feeling there was one of being incredibly insulted, but regardless...)
I'll end this post with this very simple piece of advice for any males that may happen to be reading:
If you see a girl that you like the look of today and you give her a smile and she either looks away, generally ignores you, or snarls at you, chances are she's not in the market for an in-the-street-chat-up at this particular time.
Bonne chance! 
And me?
Oh, well, I'll be going out dressed like this tonight:
And I expect not to be bothered, thank you very much.

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