All Eyes on Me

I’m a man and privileged. Some of these privileges I’m aware of. I feel them thrashing in my bones when I strut into a job interview, or drive through lawns with “my boys,” when I walk around my neighborhood at night and don’t fear being raped or harassed. And, certainly, I’m privileged in ways totally unbeknown to me; in my most honest moments, I ponder over these shrouded multitudes, trying to identify them, if only to better understand how I interact with the world and the world with me. A guy’s got to pass the time somehow!

Occasionally, though, my utter maleness prevents me from managing certain situations. Albeit rare, it happens. Typically these are situations involving children. If I perfectly fit any criminal profile, it’s that of a pedophile. This isn’t something that I think about often, but I did the other day when I went for, what was supposed to be, a relaxing afternoon stroll.

It was a wonderful fall day, cast in orange haze, and I hoped to find a spot in the nearby park to sit down and read. So I walked. I had my backpack on, a bright blue sweatshirt, a green ball cap and a tasteful pair of black cutoffs. I was also getting my drink on with a delicious Caprisun. I felt quite chipper for a few blocks, but then I walked in front of an elementary school that was letting out. It occurred to me then that I might look a little strange, like a big, hairy, kid, who conveniently emerges at three to offer the children unusual sundries – word finds, say, or sticks of Blackjack Gum. “What’s with that pale giant?” loving parents might ponder from their sedans, a deep unease setting in. But I knew, in my heart, that I didn’t want to molest anyone that afternoon, so I tried not to let it bother me. I pulled up my hood and moved on, hopeful.

To say the park was bustling with children would be an overstatement, but it was certainly buzzing. A few tennis teams were practicing in chipped up courts, some younger kids were running around the sandbox, and a father and son played catch with a football in a small field. It was really a quaint little scene, but I immediately felt my presence disrupt it. Like when I walked in, everyone else tensed up, knowing the evil I’m capable of.

I tried telling myself I was over thinking, that I should just find a bit of shade to plop down in and read some poems. How might that look, though? The man in the shadows? I’m sure some pedophile somewhere, some time, scouted victims similarly. Would other adults creep up, hoping to be the hero who “busts me” performing any number of crude acts on myself amongst the prairie grasses, children’s laughter my soundtrack? Even if I did sit down, would I be able to concentrate enough to read? Or had the fear gotten the best of me?

It had. I made a loop around the park and headed home.

During the walk, a police car passed me, then stopped about half a block up. I continued walking and eventually made it past him without being questioned or strip-searched. But, still, I felt his gaze. And that of the menacing neighborhood watch signs. And that of the elderly neighbor watering her tomato plants. All eyes following me as I marched into my house, up the stairs and into my room, to finally read, free of fear, beneath a blanket.

12 Comments

  • Shira Richman says:

    I’m aware of the ways in which I’m profiled too–harmless, innocent, incapable of anything but kindness or bitchiness.

    I think I’d recommend choosing to live in less wholesome neighborhoods in the future. Do they exist in Omaha? I generally move to the most sex-offender friendly neighborhood in a given city.

  • Cathie Smathie says:

    I love the innocent voice when you describe the outfit you’re wearing- tasteful cutoffs, a backpack, a capri sun…all these items would seem normal….on a 8yr old.

    And I recently talked to a dude here about the water play area in Brownes. It’s hilarious to watch kids go apeshit in the water, but since he’s a guy he can’t just stand and laugh.

  • Melissa Huggins says:

    Eight year olds, dude.

  • tanya.debuff says:

    I watched a comedian recently who had a bit about how he likes kids, but he’s forced to repress it because he’ll seem like a weirdo. Also, the other day my partner saw some elementary school girls booty-dancing (yes! Elementary school!)and he averted his eyes so fast he nearly got whiplash. For my part, as a mother at the park with her kids, I don’t worry about backpacked and Capri-Sun carrying folks, because I’m watching my kids pretty much every second (I may APPEAR to be reading my book, but that’s just a decoy) and following them to the bathroom. Now, have you see the episode of It’s Always Sunny, the one where Dennis looks like a child molester? If you were doing THAT in the park, I would have a problem. It’s an interesting double-standard, though, and one that needs to be discussed, I think.

    • Tim Greenup says:

      It’s nice to hear the other side of things, Tanya. Puts me at ease a bit. I’ll try to chill out next time. But, yeah, weird double-standard for sure. It isn’t something that debilitates my existence, or makes me feel uber-oppressed by any means, but it crops up occasionally.

      • Carol Harrington says:

        I am like Tanya, totally watching my boyz aka Inspector Clouseau‎ style (I was always a klutz at this but got away with it). If my boyz saw you in a park, they’d probably just roll their eyes, comment “Wow, there’s another word nerd, like mom…but with better cutoffs and legs.” You have the right to remain hairy and literate – anywhere you wish.

  • beny says:

    They used to think that they had koodies . Karma says I have the koodies now. Somehow all that can be power for the six chakra if you chose.

  • Marianne Salina says:

    “What’s with that pale giant?” What a question! I believe you conveyed quite clearly the fear/paranoia that goes along with being you. Thank you for your honesty. It’s a brutal world out there, and more so when a dude is assumed to be responsible for its brutality. I guess being a pale, drifting gal has its advantages.

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