I went hiking for the first time since I was twelve years old with two friends a couple weekends ago. My dad, the avid outdoorsman used to coerce me into hiking and camping (by offering carefully meted out sweets, which were usually forbidden in our house) from the time I was a young child, which I resented as I transitioned into a makeup loving, phone-glued-to-my-ear preteen. I’m an indoor girl, and that’s just how it is. My dad eventually let it go, and I promised myself I’d never hike again as an adult.
And there I was, humping it up Camelback because a dear friend had asked me to for her birthday–ten months earlier. With each heave and grab and stretch forward up the mountain, I thought about how worth it the strain would be–a 360 view of the Valley. Yet when I reached the top, something even better was presented in the form of three twenty-something women having a conversation about creepers.
“What’s with guys being creepers?” I heard one woman say. Screw the view, this conversation was what I needed to take in. I took the opportunity to stretch near them, the better to overhear. (speaking of creepers). “I know”, another woman added. “It’s like they spend all this time buttering you up and then act like dirty old men.” I sneaked a glance at the trio and saw a group of attractive women in flattering workout wear. I leaned in, in the guise of a quad stretch. “Seriously!” the third woman chimed in. “These guys are young, but they are totally dirty old men. Like, they pretend to be a friend and the next thing you know they’re trying to hook up with you.”
The first woman continued her story, delving into a situation she’d experienced with a specific guy. “When we were hanging out he never acted like he was interested in me as anything but friends. He would say things like ‘I don’t use Tinder because I’m looking for something real’.” I listened intently, having been out of the dating pool since before Tinder made its debut. I was learning something. “Oh, gross!”, one of the women responded. “I feel like that’s proof right there that a guy is a creeper.” “No, I know”, the first woman went on. “Because the next thing you know, he was texting me at like 11 o’clock the other night telling me to come over and drink with him, that his buddies were there and it was cool.” Her friends broke in, “no way, they would have totally molested you!”
One of the friends I had climbed with gave me a look, are you getting this? I returned her look with an unspoken, oh yes. I kept up my stretching, trying to look absorbed to avoid being caught. “Well, I didn’t go over that night, and I’m not responding to him anymore. I’m so sick of guys with hidden motives”, the first woman fumed. And then the conversation drifted in another direction. I scrambled to my phone to make notes. At last I stood, looking up and around, taking in the marvelous views. The hike had been totally worth the effort.
The conversation struck me especially because it was on the heels of seeing Aziz Ansari perform his stand-up live, where he did a long bit on women dealing with creepy men. Ansari had spent several minutes asking the women in the audience if they had ever been followed, received unwanted hook up texts or had a man expose himself to her in public. I kept thinking, which time? As he cleverly riffed on these topics, I sensed he was also working to build awareness with the men in the audience—how public life can be fraught with grossness and danger for women, on a daily, unsolicited basis.
I appreciated Ansari even more as a result, for using his platform to call out bad behavior in his gender. Isn’t it the job of the comedian to have his fingers on the pulse of contemporary society, thereby illuminating the current moment through humor? And he did. That weekend, everyone seemed to be talking about creepers, an issue that’s slowly making its way into the light. I appreciated my fellow hikers for calling it out from a mountaintop.