Walking around Paris with my daughter I was shocked beyond reason to find that men stared at her.
This should not have been surprising - if you've read even a little bit about France you would probably guess that cultural attitudes about flirting and sundry mating rituals are specific to the place.
Heck, I'm completely oblivious to such things and even my backwards self has clocked the fact that waiters pet my hair. Elsewhere in the world nobody would dare, but in Paris strangers walk right up and touch my arm.
We talked about the phenomenon of people staring and I pointed out that the French men I know believe the attention is a compliment. I disagree, and would place the attitude somewhere between 'annoying distraction' and 'nefarious social control.' But there is a need to acknowledge the truth that when you visit other countries, you are the guest, and as such it is necessary to be polite.
But, even though we were in the city as an early twenty-first birthday present, I have a very different reaction when people pay unwanted attention to my daughter. She might be an adult now, but I still shove her behind me in crowded trains. I still scissor between her and creepy men in crowds. I still watch, vigilantly, to protect her - even when she doesn't want me to.
Beyond that I have very little advice. I take the position that if I don't notice something it didn't happen. I walk through the world with impunity because I see myself as powerful, victorious. Other people correctly judge that I would rather rip their nose off than put up with nonsense. Even those who want to date me approach with their palms open to show they do not mean any harm.
But my freedom and autonomy were earned the hard way: I grew up poor, with cancer. My life has been defined by violence, both real and metaphoric. I had to fight to survive.
I did not want my children to face the same struggles, and I succeeded: my kids are thoroughly middle-class and relatively innocent. They are now independent and encountering the world as it is, with all of the attendant brutal lessons that implies. And by keeping them safe, in some ways I have failed, because I never taught them how to fight.
I do not know what advice to give a young woman about street harassment, because there is no way to bottle and sell the toxic wisdom of my life. There is no easy way to convey "you have to show with every quivering muscle that you will commit murder rather than be insulted."
One afternoon we were standing on a busy upscale shopping street, looking in a store window and chatting idly about nothing in particular, when I realised that a stranger had walked up between us, reached out, and was caressing my child.
She looked over her shoulder in horror, I looked from the arm stroking my daughter to the face of the leering man committing the crime, and I started to scream.
"NO, NO, NO!"
The man jumped away, but faced me and started to argue - in French - as I continued shouting. He tried to mime that he meant the touch as a compliment. He stood his ground and made eye contact, making little kissing gestures.
My pointing hand turned into a fist and I advanced.
He scuttled away, looking back over his shoulder in dismay.