Tonight is the night that I finally respond to a creepy and nameless man that met me at a thrift store over 10 years ago.
A little back story:
During the summer that I turned 19, I spent a couple of months working in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. My primary job that summer was guiding tourists through a life-size replica of the Old Testament tabernacle. To get you up to speed:
- I was a virgin and I was single. I hadn’t dated since my early college heartbreak.
- I was working for a missions organization. I loved the Lord. (Still do.)
- I was from West Virginia, a place where people slow down and smile at one another.
One afternoon I went with a fellow coworker to a thrift store for some laidback browsing. It didn’t take long before a man who looked to be at least thirty years old approached me and struck up a conversation. In no time flat he was eagerly inviting me to join him at a party that night. Now, I didn’t know what sort of party this was. But I knew two things: 1) He looked older than me and 2) he was a stranger. I’ve managed to block out all but the most traumatizing pieces of our conversation.
Creepy stranger, “How old are you?”
Me, taking on a what’s-the-matter-with-you tone, “How old do you think I am?!”
Creepy stranger, “You look young, young… Probably 26.”
Me, “Yeah. I’m eightTEEN.”
Creepy stranger, “Oh! Hey, it don’t matter. You’re legal!”
Oh. Ew. I’m LEGAL?! Well, consider me swept off my feet then.
Dear upsetting and creepy stranger from ten years ago,
The English language is full of colorful and complimentary adjectives that are frequently used to make women swoon. “You’re precious.” “You’re smart.” “You’re breathtaking.” “You’re exquisite.” Take your pick. “You’re legal”? Seriously? Could you be more obviously sleazy?
Listen. The most cherished qualities of a woman come from her heart, her personality, her character. NOT her age. I’m so sorry that your criteria for women are as shallow as 1) looks and 2) age. You’re really missing out.
“You’re legal” still makes me shudder. Lately it has occurred to me that I rarely look strangers in the eye anymore. I rarely smile at a stranger at the gym, a stranger at the grocery store, etc. I used to blame this on Northern Virginia; but it seems wise to make myself accountable for my own actions. I’ve tried thinking back to the point when my friendliness gave way to protective walls and my charm gave way to a cold and silent exterior. And while I don’t blame you for the changes I’ve allowed myself to make, I do think that our little encounter was a big drop in the bucket of reasons that caused me to affect my disposition.
You see, I suddenly became worried that if I smiled at a stranger, he’d think I was flirting with him. Or if I looked him in the eye, he’d believe I was available and interested in him. And for a long time I’ve thought, It’s not worth it. It’s not worth being approached by men who want to hit on me.
Except I’m wrong. Being who the Lord made me to be is always worth it. And while I won’t be accountable for your heart and your actions, one day I will be accountable for mine. So if God has knit me together in a specific way that draws people to me through silliness, attractiveness and friendliness, then who am I to tell Him that He didn’t know what He was doing? That He knit me together wrong and I need to be this other thing? That my square personality is a mistake; so I’m going to surgically remove the corners of my heart to be safe and round? No. I’m going to smile at people. I’m going to let the light of Christ shine bright from within. I’m sorry if you interpret that as flirting. But people will believe what they want to believe. And I’ll never be able to control that. In fact, I’d like very much not to even bother trying to control that and so much more. Rather, I’d much prefer to be controlled by the Spirit of the Lord who gives me breath this very minute. Controlling sucks.
I’ve discussed this with my husband. I’ve discussed that I’m going to try to get back to being the old, friendly Suzy (pre-thrift-store-trauma). It might take a while to find her, but I know she hasn’t gone too far. I’ve warned him that men like you will hit on me because they will interpret my vivacious nature for flirting. And after joking that he’d kill them, he assured me that it’s “okay”. He even said he’ll forgive them. He shrugged, “That’s the problem with having an attractive wife.”
But please stop hitting on eighteen year old girls.