I got on the bus today, and a middle-aged/older white guy sat down next to me.
It is worth noting that this was a row of three or four seats facing inward. I was on one end, and the rest were empty. He did not have to sit right next to me.
I had my legs crossed, as women do, and he spread his knees apart, as men do.
Every time the bus moved, he bumped into me.
This superfluous touching started to really irritate me. I am usually the calmest person on the bus with regard to the fact that yes, people bump into each other on public transportation. Yes, there will be jostling. But this guy was taking up more than his fair share of space, and his unnecessary invasion of my space bothered me.
I had headphones on, and I was leaning away from him, looking out the front window of the bus.
When other people got on, I glanced toward the back of the bus, in the space-encroaching guy's direction, to confirm that there were many other places he could sit.
He leaned too close to me and said something derogatory about the driver.
I could have let it go. It wasn't that big a deal, right?
But then I thought about the very many ways in which men expect to be able to take over the space around women - spreading their legs wide into women's space, leaning in too close, telling us to smile - and I thought, "If I, with my degree and career in taking-no-bullshit, can't say something when I feel like someone is creeping past my boundaries, who can?"
And so I held up my hand and said, "Just... give me some space," and turned back toward the front.
"Oh, sorry," he said. He didn't change seats, but he stopped leaning in so close.
I had to fight the urge to apologize, to tell him that it was okay, that he could take all the space he wanted, that I might have misjudged him. Women are told, aren't we, that our job is to make life comfortable for men?
I didn't apologize. He made me feel uncomfortable, and I refuse to accept that his comfort is more important than mine. I get to have space on the bus, too. Maybe I helped the next woman, who isn't feeling brave enough to say anything.