A London 'Gyal' On The Tube

London transport is really filled with all kinds of weirdness and apparent normality – such as the fact that you can’t stare than a moment longer at your fellow commuters because that’s just weird, or have a long conversation with the lady whose pram you just helped bring down, or give more than a smile to the elderly member who you just offered your seat to. Its all a split second smile, a brief nod and a quick walk away. So what exactly do we make of the human contact that lingers on for a bit too long?

In  moments like this, do we mistake social awkwardness for sexual harassment? Am I overthinking the way that guy stared at me? Perhaps, he was just trying to be friendly and start a conversation, and he is not used to the London public transport norms. Maybe where he is from, commuters have daily conversations and do not just ignore each other. After all, his smile wasn’t harmful and there’s no definite way of knowing whether his intentions were to be intimidating or not. Is it my fault for getting intimidated too easily and perhaps its high time for me to get out of my little bubble. But the thing is, with experiences like this, we know how to tell the difference between a friendly civilian smile and a smile that seems slightly too perverted, desperate or wrongly interested. But anyways, for the benefit of the doubt, I did actually smile back. I thought, you know what, he might just be a tourist that needs help with directions or something, or even just a friendly commuter. But then it just got weird, even when I looked away and got about my business, I could feel him continuing to stare. And at this point, there weren’t many people on the tube – a few scattered there and there but they were all minding their own business like reading a newspaper or on their phones.

And every time I looked back, I saw him continuing to stare. He never bothered to look away. And I don’t know if I’m over-speculating but his smile just seemed overly cocky, as though he was aware that I was uncomfortable with the constant staring. So me being me, eventually I asked if there was anything he needed help with. I don’t remember his exact answer, but I remember him shrugging and grinning, even when I asked why he was staring. Eventually I got off the train and had to wait for another one to come. I know many will ask why that wasn’t my first action? If this man was causing me so much discomfort, and a stupid stare really bothered me that much why the hell didn’t I just get up in the first place? Or why I didn’t report it?

But report what? Some creep staring. Yeah, I’ll know how seriously that will get taken. But that’s my point, things like the ‘lad culture’ simply undermine misogyny. We are expected to take the next train or take extra precautions if we feel that unsafe.

But don’t get me wrong. On most days, I feel very safe on the tube. I just go about my own business, plug my headphones in, base out some music and just go on my phone. It is on very rare occasions that I feel slightly intimidated. But I guess, that’s not even intimidation, its just my nerves acting up on the days that I feel overly conscious of my surroundings. I just overthink, get overly anxious and worry unnecessarily. But that’s okay, and that should not be used as an excuse for my experiences of public transport intimidation to be used synonymously with social anxiety.

Like I said, most days I feel safe.

And I guess, its because the big groups of drunk loud guys don’t bother me anymore. They’re not saying or doing anything direct to me. It’s just ‘lads being lads’. And besides, I’ve learnt to take the extra precautions – such as never coming home alone if its too late. Because, I know if I had gone home that day with a colleague or friend, that man would not have stared too long.

Think I’m over exaggerating a stare, have a look at what minor actions could turn into:

p.s. some would say that I should have just stared and smiled back but what kind of response do you think that would have encouraged? The stupid creep thinking I’m bloody interested


Image Source: https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/sexual-assault-train-bus-public-transport-what-to-do-british-transport-police-a7718426.html


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