As a woman, working by myself, on my own house, I have been plagued by pests.
Women speaking privately amongst themselves exchange stories of the pests they have encountered. It would be easy to view the act of pestering on some type of spectrum – like the unknown catcaller on the street is somehow less bad than the serial rapist in the workplace. I don’t know a single woman who has never been bothered by a male who interrupts or attempts to interfere with whatever she is doing – her job, walking down the street, living in an apartment. The apartment I lived in when I was 19 and starting my first year at art school had a particularly bothersome caretaker, who lived across the hall with his wife who hated him and his preteen daughter. Mr. Fell would make up any disgusting excuse to knock on my door. Like the time that his pal had allegedly just bought a video camera (this was the 1980’s), and Mr. Fell wanted to know(whispering) if I “might know anybody who wanted to be in a porno movie?” Like this was a reason to knock on ANYONE’S door, let alone a 19 year old female tenant’s door ? It was unwelcome and creepy and bothersome. But the apartment was a good deal and in a good location…I stayed until everyone got evicted three years later when the landlord renovated the entire building. Amazingly, Mr. Fell found another superintendent job. They obviously did not check references.
A friend had to move out of her apartment after her (male) landlord let himself into her apartment WHILE SHE WAS SLEEPING. This is illegal, and inexcusable unless the building was on fire.
There is a curious dynamic that happens when I am working outside. This doesn’t happen when I am gardening, or sweeping, but when I have been doing any other task that involves basic tools – like fixing or painting – these conversational pests come out of the woodwork. Women are usually complimentary as they breeze past ” That looks good ! ” or “Wow – what a lot of work !” My old neighbourhood had a lot more foot traffic with the Beer Store one block away. I had an awful lot of free advice when I was painting the ornate, hand-wrought iron fence with lots of tight curlicues. These passers by would stop and tell me how I “should” be painting it – like the guy who told me I should use a roller ! How that could get to the inside of a small curve is beyond my comprehension. A few male passers by were curious about the products I was using – and once I had demonstrated the chemical rust killer – and mentioned what steps needed to happen before, during and after – they left me alone. Most of the male pests treated me with the assumption that I was an incapable moron, who could not possibly complete the impossible task of painting the fence. Which I did, properly and thoroughly, using the correct products.
My current area is less conversational. However, while painting the house I collected some real gems. Said to me while using the lift, to paint:
“Hey, how come your old man isn’t doing that ?” (No “old man” on the property anywhere nor any person who could be construed as such)
” I guess you have to learn how to use that thing” (on my third or fourth weekend, using the lift with reasonable competency).
A “neighbourly” pest emerged a few years ago. This guy allegedly owned a house a couple of blocks away. Despite his own house being in poor condition, with no repairs or improvements he could describe or show me – this guy felt that he could somehow help me. Like the work that I was doing was so incompetent that he, a man, with zero experience, could be more helpful than what I had been doing on my own (scraping, heat stripping, sanding, priming). I would be working on the scaffold when this goblin would appear to offer help, again, which I always refused. He phoned me – I never picked up or called him back. He would come to my door – which I never answered except by accident when expecting a parcel. He pushed stupid cards with cute cats on them through my mail slot – which I never read. I started taking the long way around to the bus stop to avoid any chance encounters with this pest. I got so repulsed and fed up after ANOTHER card intruded into my home via mailsot that I sent him a registered letter telling him to LEAVE ME ALONE. Finally last summer his house was sold and flipped(definitely not by him) and he was gone. Gone ! What a relief !
When I have been working on my house I wear cruddy clothes – old baggy jeans, ripped painty t-shirts, worn out boots on their last legs. This is what I see men in the trades wearing. I don’t wear makeup or do my hair. I wear a hat, which I hate, when it is too sunny. Plus prescription glasses.
My conversations with the interrupters are typically brief – and to the point. If I am painting I talked about painting – or the lift – or paint colors. I am not batting my eyelashes and sighing about loneliness and expressing the desire to have some “big, strong help” or other nonsense. I am not talking about my “sore body” or in any way attempting to draw attention to myself except through the work that I am doing. The finished work should speak for itself. It was bad but I made it better – or at least I tried to.
Yet I made this mistake AGAIN. I spoke to a local man, over the age of 70, who is married, about some negative neighbourhood issues. Then he started dropping by without his wife when I was working outside. Somehow this dude needed to be told that the lift was getting picked up in the next hour and that I needed to finish what I was working on – as though being suspended 2 1/2 stories in the air on a mechanical device wasn’t obviously the greatest time/place for conversation. This dude then took it upon himself to drop by after the house painting was done.
I was hoping to get some neighbourhood dialogue going about the issues in the area, which were affecting many residents. My street is very un-neighbourly, so I welcomed any local to discuss the ongoing problems. Instead this guy brought me photos of himself as a young man, and then got all touchy-feely attempting to show me some pressure points and exercises and massage something – WHICH I NEVER ASKED FOR – nor desired. I was APPALLED and enraged.
He was NOT pestering the male roofers a few doors down, nor was he attempting to massage them !
There’s this bizarre-to-me attitude that a woman alone is somehow empty – and inherently desires companionship. Like how North America was “vacant” because the original aboriginal residents weren’t…human…or using the land the way Europeans did ? Since there was no man around there was this empty space just waiting to be filled, by any male who could cram himself in that space whether I wanted this or not.
It sounds a lot like rape !
Local man then seemed very surprised, and somewhat alarmed when I asked him if his wife knew he was visiting me (in the backyard – why would I let him in my house ?). I got angrier and angrier.
Now I have to take the OTHER long way around to potentially avoid this pest.
I left the old house forum I belonged to for over a decade after the intrusive actions of a particular boor there. I noticed that several other female members had fallen away – one after a series of extremely condescending replies by a male member, directed specifically to her. This was after a long period of her being under seige by her City for an issue that was done by the previous PREVIOUS owner, that was not disclosed to her prior to or after she purchased that house. She only discovered this when the City showed up one day, after she had been living there for several years and posted official bright orange “Notice To Vacate ” signs on her front door ! Many members were not at all helpful or supportive and offered unkind “advice” about how the city was just going to take her home and bulldoze it ! I kept in touch with her – and the city did not take her property. She managed to resolve the issue but it was an extremely stressful, protracted headache that took a couple of years.
The boor that chased me away is a trying blabbermouth who would write 5000 word posts about topics he had no personal experience with – just his rhapsodies of how a house issue “could” be solved through convoluted means, in theory. He felt my ongoing issues with the gas station next door were “boring” and posted links to some stupid comedy about a gas station. Several members spoke up, outraged by what he said and how he said it but no moderator stepped in. That was it for me.