I've always been known as the nice girl. You know, the girl that will smile and chat with whomever. I don't appear to judge based on appearances, social status, or popularity, I just want to know you for you. I'm quiet but approachable. My friends ascribed the "Life's a bowl of cherries" cliché to me.
Guys have tended to take advantage of my easy-going attitude since I was a young teenager, but it wasn't until my sophomore year of college that I realized what I was setting myself up for. A guy at my university just wouldn't leave me alone. He wasn't popular and didn't receive much female attention, so I was sure to be sweet and kind to him. We were pursuing the same degree, which made it difficult to avoid him since our class schedules were nearly identical. His behavior began to show serious signs of stalking: keeping track of where I was at what time and randomly appearing, following me constantly, making comments about my body, staring at me, and showing up at my hotel room. One night, when he knew I was on campus with some friends, he blew up my cell phone with texts, calls, and finally desperate voicemails, threatening harm to himself if I continued to ignore him. It was past midnight.
Even after all of this, I was civil to him. Not as friendly, but still sweet. I told friends and family what was happening, but that was the extent of my efforts to protect myself. I was believing a lie. I believed that it was my responsibility to make sure that everyone knew they were special, to give everyone a smile. I realized the truth when he finally laid his hands on me. When I refused to go eat dinner with him, he grabbed my arm with one hand, my bag with another, and began dragging me out the door and toward the stairs. In that moment, I was scared, and my bowl-of-cherries philosophy came crashing down around my ears. Thankfully, friends showed up and he let go, but he still ran off with my bag, in hopes that I'd follow him.
I wish that every girl innately realized that she owes no man. Respect should be mutual. It is never a girl's job to preserve a man's feelings over her own safety or emotional health. When he laid hands on me, I realized that I no longer wanted to be "the nice girl." I just wanted to be safe, respected, and independent. I finally took action against him, pursuing the legal protection I needed, and cutting off communication with him. Some people don't deserve your smile because with your smile, they will take everything else. You don't owe a man happiness. It is not in your responsibility or even your ability to provide him with happiness. Be the sunshine you are, but don't forget to bring the storm clouds in when necessary. Don't give in to a guy's twisted logic, saying that you owe him something because you led him on with your smile. Don't allow yourself to feel guilty for his behavior. Don't apologize. Be a fighter, and don't ever back down.