Open letter to Shoshana Roberts

Dear Shoshana,

You can trust me on this: street harassment ends. I’ve been walking the streets of New York for decades, often wearing black pants and a black tee shirt very much like what you wore for your ten-hour experiment. While I didn’t get as much attention as you did, I had plenty of offers that invariably included the word, “pussy.” I was of particular interest to hardhats, but there comes a time when you walk past a construction site and the only sounds you hear are being made by machines.

Though relieved, I didn’t understand the change. “Don’t any of you want to do anything to me?” I stopped and called out to a group of construction workers. They looked over and then returned to what they’d been doing. “What about dinner. A movie?” I shouted. “Don’t you remember all the things you wanted to do to me?” Nothing. “Should I come back with some Cialis?”

They looked pretty much the same as they did back when they were seductive with me. What was different? Was it the shoes I now wear? The ones I’d gotten at Eneslow that require a prescription and are wide enough to accommodate orthotics? Was it the two inches I’ve lost in height that have found their way to my waistline? Or was it my shopping cart filled with bags from Fairway?

It’s not that I don’t get approached on the street. I still do. Most often, the opening line is:

-Will you sign a petition against fracking?

-Do you have a minute for Greenpeace?

-Would you like a sample of yogurt?

-Can you spare any change for a veteran?

Just a few days ago, I was stopped by a young woman standing in front of a store that sells skin care products, who insisted I come in and let her massage two creams into the areas below my eyes, talking to me about anti-oxidants and free radicals, promising I could improve my appearance by spending $400. I didn’t bite, afraid I might return to looking the way I did when I couldn’t go around the city without being noticed. I’m sympathetic, Shoshana. I, too, resented being accosted by men who give themselves permission to be aggressive, but it won’t always be this way. The only man who started up with me on the street this year wanted to sell me a lulav and etrog.