“Hey there young lady”

The voice came quietly from behind me. I was sure I was accidentally eavesdropping into someone else’s conversation. It most certainly couldn’t have been for me. Who did I know who would venture out to Oxford Street on a hot Friday evening? All my friends would be lounging in parks or occupying the last of the London sun in a beer garden!

“Hey there young lady”

The voice drew closer and in that instant I knew the first ‘Hey’ was also for me.

The tone of his voice and the fact that he was approaching me from behind made my stomach lurch. I continued to walk pretending to not have heard him.

“Hey there young lady”

I was dealing with persistence and quite frankly I wasn’t in the mood. As I went to turn to face the man who hadn’t yet got the message, I was startled to see how close his face was to mine – I could almost feel his breath on my cheek.

The shock took my words away and landed on my face. This he saw and his response was to shout:

“Look at your face like your smelling shit. Yeah you’re smelling your own shit. Your own bullshit. Look at you. Who do you think you are? FUCK OFF”

I felt like I had been punched as my stomach went into overdrive. My voice still wouldn’t make an appearance and I just watched in disbelief as the stranger turned and walked in the other direction – not giving me a second glance.


What the fuck happened? And more importantly: why the fuck did this happen?

I could feel the start of a panic attack coming on as confusion, anger, guilt, anxiety, sadness all surged through my body battling to get noticed in my mind.

I’ve lost count on the amount of times I’ve been catcalled and approached by strangers, where their sole intention was to get my attention – so why did this one make me feel so bad?

He twisted the scenario.

Trying to make me look like the bad one. Before I had the chance to even stand my ground and tell him that he was making me feel uncomfortable. To explain to him that I don’t appreciate being trailed and approached by strangers. That it doesn’t make me rude for not wanting to engage in conversation with someone I don’t know.

He didn’t get the #MeToo memo

Or maybe he did and he chose to ignore it. When the movement was at it’s peak many women I know took to social media to post #MeToo – some even delving further into the detail. I chose not to participate as the cynical side of me didn’t think it would make a difference.

So I didn’t talk about the time:

  • that stocky man, double my age (I was 18) stuck his head in my chest (google: motorboating) in front of his friends. Walking off laughing leaving me standing there almost in tears.
  • the man probably 30yrs my senior sensually groped my arse at a bar before giving me the eye
  • the guy with the white jeans thrust his groin in my face on the underground in Argentina
  • the barman that shouted ‘hey chocolate’ and blew kisses at me in Greece

I could go on – I have a list of scenarios. Each of the times left an imprint which made me believe that although it didn’t make me feel good there was nothing I could do about it. Plus – that’s just men!

I now have to admit I was wrong. The #MeToo movement has made a difference. In my case it did not stop the stranger from approaching but it made me realise that it’s okay for me not to feel okay about it! And to say I don’t feel okay with it.

Yes, on this occasion it was my face that spoke for me – as I have only now found my voice.

We have a long way to go and a channel shift (education) needs to happen but if we constantly call out when we feel something is not right. That is a start.

We need to stop comparing situations and trying to place on a scale how bad an interaction has been and start giving people the space and respect to speak out.

So thank you Tarana Burke for starting off #MeToo and thank you to all that have contributed to the movement.

And to the guy that made me feel uncomfortable and then tried to defend his actions – sling your fucking hook!

Emma x

Instagram: @emmalouhalliday

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