All that was necessary was for him to scoot over in the backseat. Instead, he got out, waved me in, and walked around to the street side of the car to get back inside. 

It was quite chivalrous, and in return he looked over my shoulder to read my phone, tried to make eye contact with me for rest of the Uber pool ride. 

These are things I have to come to expect. 

Twice this month I have been followed off the bus and into Trader Joe’s. 

“Excuse me, I think you’re really pretty and I’d like to take you out to dinner,” he said, pushing an empty cart and whispering at the back of my head. 

“Oh, I’m very flattered, how nice, but no thank you,” I said. I kept walking. He returned his sham of a cart and left the store. 

The time before that, a man with no cart followed me around, hiding behind end-caps and slowly picking up objects nearby. I told the store manager and they walked me to the corner. 

Which things do you ignore and which things are worth getting riled up about? And why is there a distinction?

When I started teaching in Chicago, my mom told me to, “be like Teflon - let everything just roll off of you.” Sort of the adult version of, “I’m rubber, you’re glue.” I think they discontinued Teflon, though. 

A few months ago, tired of feeling like too much glue in too many conversations with girlfriends, I decided to sort this out. Literally. It’s been a while since I took a math class, but a Cartesian graph still seemed like the most efficient choice. 


Benign v Malignant on perceived intentions, and I generally give people the benefit of the doubt. Tolerable v Intolerable on a can-I-be-Teflon scale. 

In relaying my multiple Trader Joe’s encounters, I tried to downplay it because that is what we are conditioned to do. 

“I think maybe I’m just approachable.” 

“You are not approachable,” my male friend said. He laughed. “Like not at all.” 

We had been out for the day, in public, waiting in lines, being in crowds. He told me he had counted how many times men stared at me, and that it had struck him, stuck to him, glued.  

But these are things we have come to expect. 

If I let every stare from every person on every day get to me, I wouldn’t be able to leave the house. None of us would. We have to draw the line somewhere, chart it somehow in the sea of Patriarchal Problems. 

As my Uber pool co-rider left the car, he made eye contact, told each of us to have a good night. He waited for me to smile at him. 

“You too,” I said. I did not smile. 



Note: I fully expect every woman’s graph would look different, and I actually would love to see what other people come up with on this.