Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Creeper and the Dress

Interesting title, huh? Allow me to explain why I felt the need to write a blog post with said title.

Today, I needed to buy some groceries and a new hairdryer ( my fourth one in about a year, but that's another story entirely.) Since I only wanted to go to one place, I decided to go to Wal-mart. I fixed my hair, put on some makeup, slipped on a dress (a Lisette passport dress to be exact), and drove to the store. I was about 2/3 of the way finished with shopping when a man, probably in his late 50's, walked into the same aisle that I was in. I was just minding my own business looking at the granola bar options when he decided it was acceptable to come up to me, rub my back, and tell me he thought my dress was pretty. This was not a pat on the back like you're trying to get someone's attention, this was a full on rub my back. Disgusting!!

I was taken aback that he did that and didn't really know what to do. I moved away from him the best that I could and he wen on his way, presumably to touch other people who don't want his grubby hands all over them. Unfortunately, this is not the first time something like this has happened. Last summer, I want to an auction where a 60 something man repeatedly put his vile, sweaty, repulsive arm around me. This behavior is neither acceptable, not flattering! However, on the drive home I had some time to think of some things. First, I was debating ways to sterilize my dress, and secondly I wondered if the fact I was wearing a dress had anything to do with his obnoxious behavior?

It seems that every time I wear a dress out in public, as opposed to pants, I get more unwanted stares from men, particularly those in the 50 and up crowd. If the dress is vintage or has any hint of retro-ness about it, it is almost a guarantee that  even more men will cast their creeper eyes your way. Want to wear red lipstick with your retro dress? Be prepared for gawking. Creepers love dresses! Ever worn a pencil skirt, sweater, pantyhose, and heels into a convenience store? If you have you most certainly know what I'm talking about.

Now, it's not really the staring by men old enough to be my grandpa that bothers me. Men are men, and men will look, but when they feel that somehow they have the right to touch that's when it becomes a problem. Just because I am 40 years your junior does not mean you have somehow "earned" the right to rub my back or touch my hair. I am not a touchy feel-y person in any way, and I especially don't want strangers to touch me.

It seems that men of a certain age harbor some sense of nostalgia about the past, and when they see a woman dressed in a dress or heels, they recall those fond memories of a time gone by. The reason that I say this is that when I wear jeans there doesn't seem to be as much rude attention by the coffee and suspenders crowd. I think part of the problem could be contributed to the area where I live. Virginia is firmly in the Bible Belt, and the part that I live in is even more reluctant to change and believe the ways of the past are the only good and acceptable ways. The notions that a woman should be in a knee length skirt, barefoot, and pregnant are still held by a lot of people in this area. It stands to reason that if you believe that above notions, then you still hold to the belief that you can put your hands all over women whenever you so choose.

So, I guess the bottom line is, it doesn't matter how you were raised or what your beliefs are or how old you are, don't put your hands on me. If I am wearing a retro dress and it makes you think of times gone by, good for you, I don't really care if you look at me, but don't touch. If you really like my dress that much, a simple compliment without any physical touch will get your point across. I get it, you don't see many women wearing dresses, skirts, heels, or pantyhose, you like it, and you wish more women dressed like that. What you don't seem to get, creeper, is that just because I am dressed that way does not mean I hold to the beliefs of the past, and next time you do it, I won't be a "meek and gentle spirit" like you think I should be, and I will call you out on it. You have been warned!

So, readers, have you had to deal with any creepers lately? Do you find yourself getting more unwanted attention from old men when you wear a dress or heels? How about something vintage or retro? I'd love to hear your thoughts!


  1. Wait, you're from Virginia? Which part? I know the western part is much more "Bible Belty", but my hometown of Stafford and decade-long residence in Hampton Roads also have many of those influences. (It's so great reading blogs by Virginians especially now that I'm a Bostonian!)

    You may want to think of a phrase to use in these situations. A catch all that you don't need to think about when caught off guard by a creeper. I usually give the "glare of death" which supposedly I possess. It works wonders in getting vulgar men to shut their traps. However, I'm quite astonished you've been touched. That's not acceptable at all and they're pretty lucky you haven't reported them to store security. Even though it's really difficult, at the very least tell them "Do not touch me." (and don't add "please" in there!)

    If their momma's didn't raise 'em right, then unfortunately we're stuck with the burden. You may be saving another woman from the grimy hands of one of these gross men.

  2. You should not have to worry about being touched by creepy old men! That's just terrible! I would report them to the store manager. I'm sure the store doesn't want it's customers having to worry about being molested by old guys either.

  3. What about carrying a glass of wine/water to throw in their faces? That's old-fashioned and feminine isn't it? Or a nice classic slap across the cheek? lol!

    I'm very ungraceful during situations such as these and would death stare and likely say something rude... However, I was reading about self-defense for women and using a phrase that doesn't give an order is actually very effective against things like this. Instead of saying "Get your hands off me" (or nicer variant), substitute a phrase like "I am uncomfortable with your hand on my back". Gets the same result without the aggression and if the person is genuinely stupid and doesn't realize, they can save face.... If the person says something rude back, repeat and 90% of people will stop. :)

  4. Apologies that this is a bit pushy from a new commenter.
    Whenever in a public place, I go with the loud "Don't touch me" It's like when the lady raised a fuss on the subway in NY and it got the jerk arrested.

    It's similar to the advice good police and defense people give to women about street harassment. The men count on women not saying anything or being "too polite" to do or say anything.

    Hell, I don't even buy "men will be men" though. I've said something if someone is staring because it's rude and inappropriate and they can learn to be grown adults and control themselves.

    I hope you keep wearing the pretty dresses though!

  5. Um, Ew! What a yucky experience. Did the guy think you rolled out of bed and thought, "I'm going to go get all dolled up, head to the Wal-marts, and get me a mister?" I tend to attract creepers too, I like that term. I agree with sewstartingslowly about being loud and direct. I also keep a whistle in my purse for men that just don't get it. As my husband tells me, I also have something about me that scares men. I try to use that too. It seems to work when I look very unfriendly and mean. Not exactly what we want to go for, but it works right? But still, Ew!

  6. Ick! Hopefully, one of the methods mentioned by another commenter will help you be prepared for next time. And hopefully, you won't be like me and not think to use those ideas until well after the experience is over...

  7. I agree with SewStartingSlowly, a self-defence session I attended recently taught me that creepers don't want to get caught or hurt so your first time of defence is to a) be aware of your surroundings to avoid possible dangers (I'm from the UK but I take it that Walmart is not USUALLY a dangerous place!) b) when someone approaches you in a way YOU feel inappropriate (both touching and verbally) you say in a loud voice "What you are doing is making me feel uncomfortable, please step away and stop touching/talking/whatever-he-is-doing." This way you tell everyone around you exactly what is happening and why it is wrong, and then there is no time wasted trying to understand what is happening and they can help you straight away. If the situation is innocent, you will have politely but firmly told him he is in the wrong, if he wasn't aware he was in the wrong he will immediately back down and apologise etc, if he was up-to-no-good he will leave as he doesn't want to get caught.
    If a warning hasn't stopped him then you move to physical defence, which starts with stepping diagonally backwards from him, this gives you control as you have access to all of his body and he has access only to a small part of your body, you can keep stepping diagonally backwards if he continues his approach all this time you continue with the loud firm dialogue ("Stop moving towards me, you are making me feel uncomfortable, I will hit you if you continue etc"). If he still comes towards you then you can hit him in the jaw with the palm of your hands in a repeated pushing action shouting "STOP STOP STOP STOP". All of this will let people around you know that there is something wrong and exactly what is wrong so they can both be a help to you and a witness to say that he was threatening you and you felt it appropriate to respond physically.
    I defiantly recommend self-defence lessons, although it’s a sad state of affairs that we need them but being realistic we need the knowledge to protect ourselves in the hope it will never be necessary. I hope this helps and isn’t too scary information, this is based on what my self-defence teacher taught me and he teaches my girls Kung Fu as I realised they needed knowledge to stop problems arising. One of the main themes of his lessons is not to allow situations arise, by being in control and being aware of your situations, this usually relates to stranger-danger and bullying situations but can be applied in any situation although shopping in a supermarket is not normally and shouldn’t be a situation we need to super aware of!!!

  8. Don't you just love Wal-mart? I avoid it at all costs, though I'm pretty sure Wally World in South Carolina is a bit creepier...

    I've noticed that the older I get, the more comfortable I am telling a creep to back off. I probably would have said something extremely rude. I don't think there's any reason to be polite in a situation like this.

  9. Ugh, gross. I must say, this happens more than it should, and not just in Bible belt land. I think verbal compliments are ok as long as they are innocent, but the touchy feely stuff is NOT acceptable. Sadly, I would have probably run off silently in the other direction as well. But really, why should you have to put up with the crap in the first place, especially when wearing something as perfectly acceptable as a dress? I mean, surely people still wear dresses to church and such? Why should wearing a dress to WalMart (especially during the ridiculously hot summer months) gain any more attention than wearing a dress to church?

    Sigh. Perhaps I should work on the death stare.