This woman's tweet about women being 'standoffish' in public went viral for all the right reasons
Going for a run around your neighbourhood and being honked at, hearing a wolf whistle and looking up to see a group of guys leering at you or having a complete stranger stop you to tell you to "smile" – these are all things women have probably experienced at some point in their lives.
As much as some people will try to tell you that "it's a compliment" or "just a bit of harmless fun", it can make you feel really uncomfortable. It's hard to explain exactly why, but hearing unsolicited "compliments" or things like "you should smile more, darling", feels invasive, overbearing, and just a bit creepy. No-one likes being told what to do, and no-one likes feeling pressured into conversing with someone just because they initiated something and it would seem rude not to.
Which is why this woman's story is so important.
Lily Evans was out taking her dog, Echo, for a walk when she had a rather startling experience with a stranger she'd met. She took to Twitter to describe what happened in a thread she titled: "Why some women are 'rude' or 'cold' or 'standoffish' to men in public: a thread".
As she was walking Echo, Evans paused to take a photo of the sunset. As she stood there, a guy on the bench behind her gave her dog a cracker, a gesture which lead to them introducing themselves. As much as she despises small talk (don't we all), Evans mentioned the nice weather and the conversation between the two strangers was fine until he asked where she lived... which strangers just shouldn't do.
She tried to deflect the situation, and after answering with a hasty "yes", she made an excuse to leave.
But that wasn't the last she saw of the man. As she walked down the street, Evans said she stopped to text a friend when she heard him say: "Hey, I thought you were going home?". The guy had followed her, but still she smiled sweetly and explained to him that she was just speaking with a friend.
Already her alarm bells were ringing, and things were only getting worse. The man continued to ask where she lived and said that he'd seen her around here before. "This made me uncomfortable, so I lied and said I live a neighbourhood over," she tweeted.
As he started questioning her about whether she lived by herself and if she had any family in the area, Evans started to get really scared. But still, she didn't say anything about her discomfort and politely answered the man's questions.
She said that the encounter had frightened her so much that she needed to find a new dog walking route and was more reluctant to go out after dark. "All because I decided to be nice to a strange man," she tweeted. "I gave him an inch and he took a mile."
Evans shared her story in an effort to spread caution about people who might seem completely normal, but also to explain why women are often "rude" or "standoffish" to strangers who talk to them or "compliment" them.
The thread received a lot of attention, being retweeted over 44,000 times, with many people sharing their support as well as their own stories of similar encounters.
"Thank you so much for the outpouring of support and sympathy," she said after receiving the comments. "This was really, really scary. If you're a guy feeling lost or upset, please know that I'm NOT accusing all or even most men of being scary. I just want you to learn that when women are unfriendly it isn't personal."
Evans's story is a frightening example of how a seemingly innocent encounter can lead to something more sinister, and it's a reminder to be street safe but also to not feel like you owe strangers anything. So don't be polite if you don't want to.