When I was a Senior, I had a stalker. To understand why, we have to blame my mother. Oh, thank you, Freud. You see, my mother taught me that if any boy worked up the courage to ask a girl out, she owed it to him to say ‘yes’ at least once. In my mother’s world, you never knew who would “stick”. So, a Junior boy, 2 feet taller than me and vaguely creepy, asked me out. We’ll call him Greg because that was his name and if you know him, you should stay away from him. Anyway, I agreed to meet him after school for something, ice cream or something else that barely passed for a date in my go-dancing-until-2:00 AM life. After the date, I repeatedly turned him down for other dates. I tried to be nice about it, which meant I never said, “No, you’re weird.”
As I grew progressively less responsive to him, he became increasingly more bizarre. We had one class together, the last hour of the day. I sat in the back and he sat in the first row. Each class period, he would turn backwards in his seat to stare at me. Our teacher often reprimanded him, but he refused to stop.
Then, he began showing up at my house at random hours. He’d hang out by the door if I didn’t let him in. And again, because I didn’t want to be a “bitch”, I didn’t tell him that he made my skin crawl, that I thought he was a freak, that he scared me.
He started following me around the school, hanging out after class or after my meetings to walk me to my car. Or he’d stand across the hall from my locker, staring at me. When I changed lockers, he found my new one and hovered around it.
Things got scarier. He began calling my private phone at home. He’d call dozens of times in a row. If I answered, he’d tell me how I made him want to kill himself. My response after 2 months of this? “Go ahead, freak.” If I didn’t answer, he’d keep calling, or he’d leave messages of him crying or singing Beatles songs or just breathing. Once, he told me to turn the TV on to a certain channel. The program was about men who had committed violent acts in the name of love. I started forwarding my phone at night to the local police station. I started hanging out with the teacher after my last class of the day so I would be with her until I thought Greg’s bus had gone. I started surrounding myself with the track team, the football team--any large male group that happened to be around after school.
Then, one day, I left my teacher’s side just a bit too soon. Greg was waiting in the hall. And he was the only other person in the hall. I ran to the girls’ room, thinking I could out-wait him. After 10 minutes, I walked out to find him still there. I ran down the long hall toward the outside doors and my car. A male friend waiting for practice to start saw me running and asked if everything was okay. I nodded because I didn’t know how to explain what was going on. I’d tried to befriend a loony guy and had no idea how to stop get out of it.
I reached my car and started to unlock the driver’s side. Greg walked around to the passenger side. I got in, locked the door, and started the car. Greg got in front of the car, between the car and the parking lot exit. In that moment, I understood how to stop him. I stepped on the gas. Hard. I intended to hit him--I wanted to hit him. He jumped out of the way, and I narrowly avoided another car. I drove up on the sidewalk and exited the parking lot.
After a sleepless night, I made a decision. Sitting by my locker before school, I saw him walk toward me. I jumped up, ran to him, shoved him against the wall and screamed, “You don’t look at me! You don’t talk to me! You don’t call me! You don’t talk to my friends! You don’t even breathe the same air I breathe! If I ever, ever, ever see you again, I will kill you!” Although my legs were shaking and we had gathered a crowd around us, I believe that I wanted him to make a move. I think, now, that I would have tried to kill him if he hadn’t backed down.
So much for not liking confrontations.
We still had one class together, but from that day on, he sat with his back to me and never once turned around. He never called, he never came over, he never mentioned my name to anyone I knew.
So, here’s what I tell my kids. Be nice to people. Look for people who are scared or lonely or in need and invite them into your life. But if you feel weird, if they give you the creeps or if you’re uncomfortable, listen to those feelings first and forget the whole “draw a circle that draws them in” crap. And I tell them that if they have those feelings, they should tell me. And if I’m too stupid to listen, they should tell their Dad or their Grandparents or their Aunts--just keep telling until some adult gets smart and listens. And when my kids are older, I will tell them what Gavin de Becker says. Bitch means "Boys, I'm Taking Control Here."