Her head remained upright, her speed never faltered, and she walked straight past them. The only assumption I could make was that she had the same mentality as I did: “Ignore them, ignore them, ignore them…” The way I chose to travel in South America may have had an impact on how much of this attention I received, of course.
I spent a lot of time in places that weren’t hugely populated by tourists, so I knew that the stares were often simply for being white, being foreign, and being alone.
Walking along the street and noticing a group of teenage boys ahead, a cluster of old men, even a single male figure leaning against a wall while smoking a cigarette; all would prompt a stiffening of my body, a lengthening of my neck, a slight curl of the fists, and a quickened pace.In India, I was respectful to the point of deference, because I knew how important the act of covering a woman’s shoulders, cleavage and knees was to the local culture. I can easily say I’m probably more self-conscious than most women.I often feel people’s eyes on me – or rather, I continually notice where the people around me are looking – and I knew that I was often being stared at.He was sweet; his suit looked a bit too big for him, and I immediately thought of the quintessential photos you see of male Latino pensioners. “Mi princesssa…” he hissed with a wide grin, turning his wrinkled and liver-spotted neck to keep his gaze on me as I picked up my pace.My head was swimming as I marched along the street, thinking disgustedly about how many grandchildren he probably had.
Not just annoying or uncomfortable – it was downright threatening.