Last night I crossed a foggy road and as the air’s moisture clung to the streetlights, giving each lamp an atmosphere all its own, I thought of you. Our encounter must have been barely a blip in your sensory memory, so let me remind you of who I am.

On the night of the Michigan v. Michigan State football game, I rounded the corner onto Elm Street to discover you sitting on an up-ended trash bin with your buddy smashing beer bottles on the pavement. With the rest of Ann Arbor sleeping off an afternoon of face paint and victory, we were the only ones around, and through your own drunken haze you shouted, “Show me your tits!”

I tell this like a funny story sometimes. I’ll be out for sushi with friends and before I miraculously navigate a spicy tuna roll into my mouth without smudging my lipstick, I’ll exclaim, “and then he was like, ‘Show me your tits!’” and people shake their heads and smile as if to say, what a dick.

But I don’t tell this story to make men seem ignorant or perpetually rude. I have always fostered a sure-footed love for guys, and have realized that many men are like lychee nuts, soft and sweet inside their rinds.

So why do I keep telling people about you, Tits Guy?

Maybe it’s because I always get a laugh, especially when I turn to self-deprecation, pointing to my unimpressive chest and adding, “I don’t know why he asked. There wouldn’t have been much to show.”

Maybe I’m looking for sympathy, creating a place for myself among other women who have also been objectified by strangers on the street.

Most likely, I’m trying to prove my bravery. No matter how vivaciously I tell the story, the truth is I was afraid.

I was already nervous when I turned onto Elm and surveyed the situation — me: a five-foot two-inch, mace-less girl in a short skirt, and you: a big, wasted stranger with a glass-breaking friend. When I walked by, you were slumped over but solidly planted on that garbage can, and I instinctually avoided your eyes. I came so close you could’ve tripped me, and in my pocket I held my keys between my knuckles so you’d get a mouthful of metal if you leapt for me.

Once you managed to mutter, “show me your tits,” I was already past you and only steps from my friend’s front door, through which cold PBRs and settling smoke and men who I adore for their good humor and sweetness were waiting for me. I was nearly safe, but I wanted to turn around. I wanted to walk right up to you and yell something along the lines of, “You kiss your mama with that mouth?” but less cliché.

I wanted to march my brave little body over there to prove that women don’t have to fear unfamiliar men on dark, empty streets and to teach you about talking to ladies as equals like I knew you could. “No human should abuse their ability to make another feel like an object,” I’d say calmly. You made me feel like a faceless symbol for woman and sex and I wanted to let you have it.

But fear kept my cowboy-booted feet from moving in your direction. I didn’t want to know what would happen if I approached you, so I froze like a doe does at the first sign of danger, and I’m still pissed about it.

I imagine you years from now. You come home to your family after a long day of working with your hands, and at sunset you say goodnight to your small children and crawl into bed with a woman who both loves and fears you. You fall asleep thinking about deadlines, the blurry nights you had in college and what you want for breakfast in the morning. I never appear in your mind’s eye, and that’s not fair because on cold nights, when I’m making my way down an eerily empty street, I will think of how you ate up all my confidence with a single phrase and my anger will flood back just as white-hot as it was when I hurried away from you in the dark.

Emily Pittinos can be reached at pittinos@umich.edu.

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