I was walking to work this morning up Pike Street, daydreaming about hot coffee and fresh peaches and sun and mole cancer. I see a man coming in the opposite direction, so I automatically scoot over to my side of the sidewalk and then, just as we're passing each other, I hear him whisper:

"Nice tits."

And I froze. For a second I was confused—did one of them fall out or something?—but no, an automatic check confirmed that my breasts were still firmly tucked away under three layers of clothing. That guy just had the urge to harass and demean me, and so he did. I froze, so he won. By the time my anger kicked in and I turned around to shout something at him—anything to regain a sense of control over the situation—he'd crossed the street and was turning a corner.

Of course, all women have stories of being harassed. All of them. This isn't even a particularly heinous example—my friends and coworkers have stories of having their boobs grabbed on the street, having their asses grabbed, even being followed onto buses and then home. This just sucked because it ruined my day. My brain has been derailed from thinking about important things—milkshakes, work—to replaying a second-long interaction on loop and wishing that I had the perfect response for that anonymous fuck.

The worst part is, I feel like I failed myself. I'm a pretty loud, mouthy woman and it was crippling to have my brains and my mouth both quit on me at such a crucial time. And that's the point of harassment, isn't it? To make someone feel helpless and disempowered?

So how do other women prepare themselves for verbal and physical harassment that could come from anyone, anywhere, at any time? I've been asking around! After the jump one of my female coworkers explains a tactic that's worked for her and her mother: Acting batshit.

Here's what she wrote to me in an email:

My favorite story, actually, is something that happened to my mom when she was still in high school. She was walking home from a friend's house one night through a quiet neighborhood and got cruised by a car full of older guys (probably in their twenties) who started hooting at her, telling her she was a "hot piece" and asking her if she needed a ride home. She put her head down and ignored them but got worried when she heard the car coming back around the block and realized the guys were coming back to either continue harassing her or possibly escalate the situation.

She stopped right under the streetlight closest to her, pulled out her compact and her lipstick, and proceeded to start smearing it all over her face while looking in the mirror, smiling a terrible smile. The driver stopped right next to her and one of the guys asked her if she'd ever been with a man before. She looked up at him, face covered in lipstick with that insane smile pasted on, and they all recoiled in horror. "She's fucking crazy," the driver said, and they drove away.

I ended up in a similar situation a few years ago late on a Saturday night when I had parked like 12 blocks away from a show at Rebar. I was walking uphill on Howell when a contingent of five VERY drunk, fairly muscle-y tourist guys from Florida stopped me to ask for directions to 13 Coins.

I started to tell them how to get there and one of the guys grabbed onto my arm. "You should come with us!" he said, and the other guys agreed. I tried pulling my arm out of his grip and it tightened. The guys were really drunk. Their faces were weirdly contorted. Suddenly, I felt dumb for not carrying pepper spray. I remembered my mom's story and decided to follow in her footsteps.

"I can't," I told them, "I've got a date in the morning."

"Bullshit!" said one of the guys, who seriously had a crewcut and was wearing JEAN SHORTS. "We're your date," said the guy holding onto my arm.

"Well," I smiled up at him and stopped struggling, "You seem like VERY nice guys and it would be SO FUN to hang out with you. But tonight is Saturday and in the morning I have a very special date with Jesus Christ."

The guy immediately let go of my arm. One of them who either hadn't heard or didn't care started towards me. "WAIT!" I said, smiling brightly, "YOU guys should come with ME! Have you accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as your Personal Savior? He's a very good friend."

Turns out they did not want to have breakfast with Jesus.

I've told that story in the past as some kind of anecdote about how clever I am, but the fact is that those guys were potentially dangerous not just to me, but to every female in their path. Would they have actually turned out to be RAPISTS? I don't know. I never will. But in many cases, women and girls get raped by guys who were just showing off for their friends or had too many drinks or some other horribly casual circumstance that converts a "normal guy" to a murdering rapist.

I regret not pushing that guy who gripped my arm into oncoming traffic. That might seem overly hostile, but he probably would have survived getting hit by a car and maybe they would all learn a valuable lesson about not grabbing perfect strangers on the street at night.

On a lighter note, fervent Christianity appears to have the same Testosterone-dissolving effect as insanity. The more you know.....