The scene: 7:30 p.m. last night on M Street in Georgetown, the D.C. neighborhood known for its charming colonial architecture, but constantly overrun by prepsters, jocks, young Republicans, and deep-pocketed Europeans.
You may be asking yourself why I was in Georgetown at all. The simple truth is that Georgetown is the only neighborhood in the city with a very concentrated number of clothing and book shops, both chains and independent stores. It also has some decent restaurants.
So last night I was heading down busy M Street to a vegetarian Indian place with my friend Britt, chatting about the death of print (typical D.C. journo), when somebody hit my butt very hard.
At first I thought Britt might be playing a joke on me, but when I turned toward her, she looked confused. Then I assumed I had run into a friend who mistakenly thought I’d find it amusing to have my ass smacked as a surprise. But no. When I turned around a perfect stranger was smiling and waving at me. He was very well dressed, in a black wool pea coat and fitted blue jeans. He was in his early to mid twenties, clean shaven and square jawed.
"WHAT THE FUCK?!" I screamed. "DID YOU JUST FUCKING HIT ME IN THE ASS?!"
He simply turned around and walked in the opposite direction.
Now, I’ve had my ass grabbed twice before by strangers in public. The first time was in high school, while I stood in a pool of people waiting to cross a street in Times Square. The offender was a homeless guy, though, so at least I understood there were probably mental health issues at play. The second time was on the Champs Elysée when I was living in Paris, just a few blocks way. But French men, for all their sophistication on fashion and food, are actually quite a few lessons behind American men when it comes to women’s liberation.
And I get cat-called several times a week walking around D.C., and every other city I’ve ever lived in.
But something about last night’s incident was different. It was the shock of the physical contact, the absolute demeaning quality of it, and the fact that it was perpetrated by someone who seemed completely in control of himself.