My Husband Stood Up For Me
April 20, 2013
It is the men of India who can banish the fears and insecurities that lurk within Indian women.
It feels so different to have someone by your side when you file an official complaint about unwanted sexual attention.
I have only been married for a few months, and I am still discovering what it means to not be by myself anymore. After over a decade of living by myself in various countries, it feels nice to have someone I really like spending time with be at home (wherever that may be) with me at the end of the day. It feels nice sitting down for a meal at an actual table with plates and placemats the way I vaguely remembered people doing in families. I don't feel lonely anymore; I feel like I now live my life outside in the world of chatty people and less inside my own head where it has been dark and echoey for so many years. It's easier for me to sleep in the dark now. Whenever I feel afraid, I push myself into my (chances are) already sleeping husband and know that the ghouls out there in the dark can't get to me with him in the room with me.
Turns out that applies to people as well.
I had been working out at the gym at our apartment complex here in the US pretty regularly for the past few weeks, and one of the workers here - an older white man - had started stopping by to chat with me almost everyday. It had started when he saw my Star Trek water bottle and had proceeded to tell me with a strange expression that he thought he loved me because of my interest in the show. I have lived in the US for ten years, and I know that Americans are generally quite friendly, but something about this man just made me feel ill. Not too many girls like Star Trek, he had said. I gave him a weak smile, then looked away to continue with my strength training. He looked at me for a moment too long and left the gym but then returned to tell me that one of the actresses from the original Star Trek series from the 60s had turned 86 recently. I looked at him and he looked at me, and I smiled awkwardly and looked away. I felt him looking at me a bit longer than he should've, and he then went away.
But then he started stopping by everytime he saw me working out at the gym. This happened almost everyday for a week. Many of the other workers at the apartment complex would use the restroom at the gym or use it as a shortcut to get to the main office, but none would ever even make eye contact with me. But everytime this man saw me running on the treadmill, he would try to get my attention by standing right in front of me to make conversation. Sometimes he would just keep talking, even if I wasn't participating. I wouldn't look at him or even smile. It made me feel particularly nervous if I was on the treadmill, huffing and puffing and cornered. I was usually the only person at the gym, and the way this man would peer into my eyes bothered me. I wouldn't respond to him but that didn't help, he would just stand there talking at me as if we were friends. It got to the point that I started considering not going to the gym anymore - he obviously wasn't getting that I didn't want to talk to him. I began to worry about if he would end up entering my apartment if I ever called for maintenance. My husband is usually at work in the daytime, and just the thought of being alone with this man in my apartment was scaring me. I wondered if maybe it was best to just move to another apartment complex.
It's not the first time something like this had happened to me. A single girl gets approached by some very strange people sometimes, but it had been a long time since my last experience. I had mentioned all of this to my husband, and to be honest, his reaction surprised me. Because his first reaction was not to blame me. That's right. He didn't blame me.
He had been hearing about this man for a few days, and one day he just said that he had heard enough and thought that I ought to complain to the main office at the apartment complex. The thought had crossed my mind at first, but the old doubt had started settling in - maybe I had encouraged him in some way? But I had been wearing full pants and a loose t-shirt to the gym. Maybe my breasts were too big? Maybe I should not have bought a Star Trek water bottle in the first place? Maybe I should just grin and bear it? After all, that's what I had been taught growing up as a good Indian girl. Don't attract attention to yourself, look away when a man looks at you, cover your body until it has drowned (don't say 'breasts'!), don't make a big deal when someone harasses you. No one likes an aggressive girl who wears fitted clothes and glares back. I almost felt small telling my husband about this man. Somewhere deep inside my heart where fearsome memories sleep but never die I worried that my husband would think that I had done something to attract this other man's attention. My husband and I are really like very good friends; we treat each other like peers, but it frightened me how something like this could suddenly make me feel like maybe he too had the same power that many Indian men have over their women. The power to condemn. The power to not believe. I have not been believed before. I have been doubted before. I have been blamed before for the action of others like that old man in the gym.
But my husband believed me. He actually offered to accompany me to the main office when I made my complaint. I spoke to the staff there, and he sat next to me the whole time. He didn't take over or do my talking for me. It was weird. I felt...not alone. Like I was a dying battery that had just been plugged into a power outlet. I felt like someone would always believe me, that I was number one in someone's life now. Every girl deserves that. Too many don't get it. Too many are mistrusted and almost despised for...for what?
I had always heard of real men. I think I married one of them. Mine is from Delhi, the rape capital of India.