Early in the morning today (too early to be exact), I had a convo with my husband re: nerds and creepy people. We were talking about whether when we were in school, we knew someone like Howard or Raj (from Big Bang Theory), or a creepy nerd. We talked about how we tried to be nice to everybody (though 16 yrs have passed since we left high school … oh dear God), but we probably were assholes at times. Not very proud of that. We couldn’t remember specific examples or Howards or Rajs in our classes … until it hit me. I did have someone like Raj .. and even though 16 years have passed, it still creeps me out.
The story goes like this:
I was 17, and we were near the end of our last semester in high school. School had approved a local reggae band to play at school for a day-time celebration and we were able to dress casually (uniforms were the norm). I remember wearing my “cool” jeans, my sunglasses, sandals and a cute little tee with some design in aqua. All I remember is the colour. Anyway. We took our classes, and after that, the band assembled in the yard and started playing. The way my high school was built, it had an inner yard surrounded by classrooms, offices and the cafeteria. There was this big tree that blocked the view from one side to the next and on the top level of our school, the were hand rails … giving the look of a balcony surrounding most of the inner yard.
Long story short, the band starts playing, we start dancing in little groups. I had a biggish group of friends and we made a circle and danced and it was all in good fun. For whatever reason, even though I’m very absent-minded, I noticed that there was a guy on the top floor with a camcorder (remember those?). I thought he was filming the band, which was popular in those days, and it didn’t bother me much. Until I started paying attention and noticed that every time I went out into the yard to dance with my friends, they guy seemed to be zooming in (my sister had the same camera, thus I knew what he was pressing and the motions he had to do zoom in). And when my friends and I moved, the camera moved in our direction.
I noticed that if my group broke down into smaller groups, he seemed to be pursuing the same little group with his camera … and I was always in that little group.
Then it started bothering me.
I remembered that a few weeks before that, we’d had an international celebration/day at school, and I was collaborating with one of my teachers in making a display. At some point I walked out of the classroom to get some fresh air and wait for some glue to dry and the guy that had the camcorder the day of the reggae band was waiting to talk to the teacher that I was helping. I’d seen the guy before. He was friends with some friends but we never hung out in the same group. He was a bit of a car nerd, and while I did like cars and nerding about them, I didn’t hang out with his all-male clique. I stroke up a conversation with him, very short and was able to sell him a chocolate bar to raise funds for our international day celebration. I can’t remember if I was flirty, or anything. I don’t think I was. Plus, guys in school didn’t find me particularly pretty (I was a geek, recovering from years of having acne and wore too-high socks), so I had no inkling that our little convo over him buying a chocolate bar would give him any sort of ideas that I was interested in him.
Fast forward two months, and the reggae band is playing, creepy chocolate guy is recording our group of friends with his handheld camera and I ask one of my friends to tell me what she notices if I hide behind a wall at school. I start dancing with her, and slowly walk behind the wall. My friend keeps dancing until the song ends, and I’m hiding and she says that creepy guy lowered his cam. When the next song begins, I walk out to dance with my girlfriend, and the camera goes up. This goes on and on for the rest of the mini-concert.
At one point I was so bugged that I stopped dancing and just hid behind the wall so he couldn’t record me. Eventually my friends and I switch places to another part of the school yard where there’s the big tree I mentioned earlier and the guy gives up. But I had to get on top of a bench at school, hide behind a big tree so he couldn’t find me, let alone film me.
And it dawned on me … this guy was a major creep that felt entitled to film me, to record my every move on a casual dress day at school for God-only-knows what purpose. I felt dirty, creeped out, used. I still feel it to this day.
My husband couldn’t believe it.
And this was not illegal (probably isn’t to this day either) back in 1999. It would have been dismissed as just a boy thing.
But I felt like my privacy, my right to be a regular 17-yr old, dancing with her friends to the rhythm or a popular reggae song was invaded.
I felt dirty, disgusting for inciting those desires in another 17 yr old (I was extremely conservative at that time, as in, if the guy was filming me it was probably for dirty purposes and I’d be going to hell for (in Duggar parlance), defraud him).
There are many issues in the story I have shared. From how the very patriarchal culture I grew up in made me feel guilty for being a regular 17-year old girl who just wanted to have some fun with her friends while in a school function that had been approved by the principal and teachers.
This same patriarchal society that protected this young man. I’m sure that if I’d opened my mouth, my teachers would have just shrugged and said that in 4 more months I’d be in college and that I could forget all about it and just dance.
I then remembered how one of my oldest cousins had to have campus police escort her to and from her car and to and from every class when she was in the same college as she was a few years prior, to protect her from the creepy stalker she had.
I can’t remember the creepy guy’s name. And maybe that’s good, because I would like to know if he has a criminal record or something for being a creep. I worry about what he did and if he did it to others.
My sense of security felt violated that day. How could I trust that other guys at school, or in college, could keep their pants on and their cameras away from me or my friends?
So that’s my creepy story, or memory of the day.
If I had a daughter, I’d make sure she feels comfortable coming forward and saying “hey mom, this happened, can we do something about it?”
If I had a son, I’d say, don’t be a creep, see how this behaviour makes women, or just people feel. It is not right.
To both I’d say that whatever they do, dancing, sharing with friends, going to the movies, whatever it is … they have a right to feel secure, protected, and not be filmed by creeps. They have to be sure that they are safe, and if they are not, they need to speak up, and know that they can and will make friends, or talk casually with someone, and that it is not OK for someone to stalk them, even at a distance, with a recording device. It is wrong and it must be stopped.
And now, back to work. I just wish I could take a cold shower.