My 11 year old nephew Zay got stood up by a 21 year old guy who was supposed to take him out on a jet ski on the lake at my mother’s house, where I was visiting with my daughter. Zay was so heartbroken, I offered to go down to the dock, do my yoga practice, and let him kayak around the cove (which he’s not allowed to do without adult supervision.)
So he scooted out in his kayak, and I rolled out my yoga mat and started doing Sun Salutations, Plank poses, and Downward Dog.
It wasn’t long before I noticed a guy about my age standing on a dock across the cove checking me out. I tried to ignore him. I closed my eyes. But I could feel his gaze peering through me as I balanced in Eagle pose. I had to periodically open my eyes to check on my nephew, and every time I did, I could see him leering from across the cove, checking out my Triangle pose, inspecting my Warrior II, gaping at my Happy Baby. I was engaging in what, for me, is a spiritual practice, and yet, with my legs spread wide, I felt dirty. I got pissed.
It was 94 degrees, but because yoga poses can be revealing in a swimsuit, I was wearing gym clothes. But they left me feeling naked. I wished I could build an invisible wall around myself. I would have gone inside to finish my yoga practice, except my heartbroken nephew was happily paddling around, and I had promised him I would keep an eye on him outside. Plus, I wasn’t about to let some creepy dude keep me from my yoga practice.
So I chose to ignore him. I did Pigeon pose. I did Goddess pose. I nailed Warrior I.
Then Creepy Dude disappeared. I breathed a sigh of relief. Until ten minutes later, when he appeared on my dock, saying, “Mind if I check out your landscaping?” (Worst pick up line ever.)
Creepy Dude wandered around my mother’s beautifully landscaped lawn, then he ambled out onto my dock when I had my eyes closed, deep in Bridge pose (which doesn’t lend itself to talking to begin with.)
“So, where ya from, gorgeous?”
I flashed my ring.
“That your kid?” He nodded to my nephew.
I said, “No, but my daughter will be home from camp soon.”
“You married?” he asked again.
"Nice flexibility,” he oozed. “And wow. Those muscles. Strength, balance, and flexibility. Haaaaaahhhht. By the way, I brought you a water. You look thirsty.” He handed me a water bottle. I pointed to my cup of tea and declined it.
“Wow. Beautiful - and prepared.”
My stomach turned while I was upside down in a handstand.
“Sir,” I said, with a formality atypical for me. “I’m doing yoga, and this is a spiritual practice for me. I’d prefer not to be interrupted.”
“Sorry. Sorry. No offense.” He left my dock and trespassed onto our neighbor Tina’s dock next door, where he proceeded to watch me for another ten minutes, while I tried to breathe through the discomfort. Then he started talking again when I was doing Dolphin pose. I ignored him, repeating a mantra to myself to try to drown him out.
He kept going. “Your husband is a lucky man.”
I started getting weirded out. I melted into Chair pose.
He said, “You have the hottest ass.”
I said, “Thank you. Now I’m not going to talk anymore.” And I breathed deeply and sank into Extended Side Angle pose.
“Mind if I just stay and enjoy the view?” he asked, as I noticed his bathing suit poking out right where Mr. Friendly lives.
“Yes, I said. I do. Please leave. I don’t mean to be rude. But I’ve asked you nicely. I’m doing my yoga practice. And I’d prefer some privacy.”
“Oh, sorry. Sorry. Right. My name’s Marcus, by the way. What’s yours?”
My sweet nephew came up to me in his kayak and said, “Aunt Lissa, want me to take care of this?”
I shook my head. No 11 year old should have to protect his aunt, but I was frankly glad he was there. I was already thinking about how I was going to lock the doors I never lock (what if he followed me inside?) I was worrying about how I would protect myself with only my nephew for my defense?
Then the Gremlin in my head started spouting off. What if this guy sneaks into the house at night and tries to hurt me? Was all the attention my fault because I was out here in public doing a Forward Bend in gym clothes? Should I have avoided letting strangers see my ass sticking up in Downward Dog? If he came for me, would someone argue that I was asking for it, even though I had very clearly expressed that I wasn’t interested? Would my brush off inflame him even more? Don’t they say rape is about control, about domination? Might he wants to teach my sorry ass a lesson about submission?
Then I heard him behind me again.
“Looks like you’re almost done,” he said, seeing me in the lotus position, eyes closed in meditation. I ignored him. “My name’s Marcus,” he said again. I stayed silent. “Nice ass,” he repeated.
I wanted to puke. I prayed for comfort. I could hear my nephew paddling up. Marcus must have disappeared, because when I opened my tear-laden eyes, he was gone. I said to my nephew, “Let’s go upstairs.”
He said, “I didn’t like him, Aunt Lissa.”
I said, “Me neither.” And I gave him a 30 minute lecture about how not to pick up a woman.
When I got upstairs, my mother and daughter were just arriving home from camp. It was getting dark. I was feeling vulnerable, with three generations of women in one house, protected only by an 11 year old boy. I felt pissed that this thought even had to cross my mind. I was temporarily angry at mankind for making women feel unsafe when we're just minding our own business. I hated that this thought even flashed into my consciousness, because I love men, and I'm blessed to be surrounded by so many wonderful versions of the gender that I haven't felt triggered in this way for a long time. Somehow, I've been isolated from the Marcus's of the world for so long that I let my guard down and felt violated when he stomped right into my space uninvited.
I’ve been in situations like this before, but I forget every single time how icky it makes me feel. My husband, when I told him, said, “At least it’s probably good for your ego to know young men still find you attractive.” I grimaced. No. It felt disgusting, like the sacred safety of my mother’s home had been destroyed.
But I refuse to let some Creepy Dude keep me from doing yoga on my mother's dock. I will go back out tomorrow in my gym clothes and do yoga on the dock - just because. It’s my right. My body. My mother’s home. My choice. And if he so much as breathes on me wrong, I’ll call 911 this time. No hesitation.
But hopefully, I won't need to call for help because I've asked The Universe to protect me. I can only imagine that this young man must have some wounds of his own that lead him to behave the way he did. I sent prayers, love, and light to his soul so he woudn't need to put some other woman through what I went through. I've also practiced pulling in my energy field so I'm essentially invisible to him. I've called upon my angels to keep me safe. And I'm just going to keep on keeping on.
I know I’m not the only person who has been made to feel unsafe by another person. Has anything like this every happened to you? How did you deal with it? Tell us your story.
Knowing in my heart I am safe,
EPILOGUE: I wrote this last summer, and although I spent the whole summer on the lake and did yoga on the dock almost every day, I never again saw that man. I can only hope something hurting within him has now been healed.
Lissa Rankin, MD: Creator of the health and wellness communities LissaRankin.com and OwningPink.com,author of Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof You Can Heal Yourself (Hay House, 2013), TEDx speaker, and Health Care Evolutionary.
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