The first time I was skeeved on by a man I was 9 – he was the barber up at Laurel Canyon and Strathern, across from the 7-11.
I walked home alone from school once in a while. He would talk to me when I would walk by. One day he offered me a dollar to stay and talk with him for a while. I felt uneasy, but he was an adult, so I went inside and sat down in a chair. I could see into his back room and the walls plastered with hard core porn, there must have been hundreds of magazine pages.
Seeing the pictures made me scared and I got up to leave; as I did so the barber insisted on picking me up to see ‘how much I weighed’. I remember trying to maneuver away and him grabbing and lifting me, his hands across my non-existent breasts.
Just then a customer came in, and I remember the barber getting flustered and telling the confused customer that I was his niece as I made my escape. I was shaking so hard it was difficult to walk home. I said nothing to my mother, instinctively knowing I would get yelled at.
I NEVER – EVER – rode my bike past or walked past his shop again. I avoided that place like the plague. I would turn left at the light and walk down to Cantara (praying he wouldn’t see me at the only light we could use) or ride my bike behind the Corner Store, using their parking lot to avoid riding in front of his shop.
At 9 years old I learned that men could be predatory, and the barber made me feel unsafe in my own neighborhood.