A recent survey asked 600 women in France if they had ever been sexually harassed on the Metro. 100% of them answered yes. 100%. I had talked about it with Geep last week or so, and said that I had never really had a problem in Paris. I am not the ideal parisian shape, I’m a bit chunkier than the stick thin girls here ( but cute!!!), so i figured that was part of the reason I have been left alone. Fine by me. However, today I joined the 100%.
I had a mission to visit Chez Ladurée and acquire a large box of the Marie-Antoinette Thé macarons for Geep. It isn’t far from our flat, but it was raining so I took the Metro. Since I had a lot of errands to run, I had just slapped on a green rain coat, black rainboots, jeans, pulled my hair back with bobby pins, and ran out the door. No makeup, no anything really. I grabbed the train and waited for my stop. A man jumped on at Invalides and stood next to me. He was about 50 years old, well dressed, and on the shorter side. I watched his reflection in the glass door and saw him reading the tattoo on my forearm. Soon, he turned to me and started asking me questions about it. I was polite and answered him, but then turned back towards the door. He kept talking to me, smiling, switching back and forth from French to English trying to gauge what I spoke. Finally, he stopped talking to me until we got to my stop. Now, this is weird in itself, because you don’t talk to people on the metro unless you know them or it’s an emergency. I would have shrugged it off as a strange occurrence, but when I muttered au revoir and jumped off the train, he jumped off behind me. He started talking to me again, telling me about how he was a physics professor at some college and how he was going to Dubai next week for a conference (trying to impress me?). I was still shocked he had followed me off the train, so I listened to him as he rattled on while I was trying to figure out what to do. He started asking a lot of questions: How long will you be in Paris? Where are you learning French, What is your phone number? ( I gave him a fake one after he asked 5 times) Will you call me? Where are you going right now? Can we get coffee? Are you American? He thrusted his business card into my hand and started peppering the questions with ” You are very pretty. You have beautiful eyes. I loooooove blonde hair.” He asked me to please email him so we can get together to help each other “improve our french and english“. I was really uncomfortable, and it was probably obvious since I was caught off-guard. I tried to figure out what to do since he wasn’t being super rude, but he was being aggressive.I had tried to back away and say I had to be somewhere, but he just followed me and kept talking. I thought he was going to follow me out of the Metro. Luckily, he said goodbye, making me promise again to contact him… but then he hugged me. I backed away and said goodbye and walked briskly down the corridor to the exit. He stood there a second, maybe deciding whether to follow me or not, but then hopped back on the train. I ducked inside the C&A near the metro exit to get out of the, then pouring, rain and think about about just happened. I called Geep and told him about it and explained how weirded out I was. I laughed it off as I talked to him, feeling more comfortable knowing he had left. If he had kept following me, I doubt I would have found anymore humor in it. As I milled around the store to wait out the rain and look at summer dresses, I realised he had gotten off the train only to bother me. It wasn’t even his stop.
After I got home, I looked online for phrases in French that could be more helpful in situations like that. I have learned a lot of French, but nothing specific to interactions like those. Next time, if it happens again, I have a little more French ammo to use against them when I am uncomfortable, but also to ask for help from others in the event I ever need it. Lesson learned.