An Open Letter to the Man on the Train

Dear man in the salmon pink polo shirt and grey sweatpants on the train today,

I am ashamed that this is the way I have chosen to address this topic with you. I should have spoken to you when we were together in that enclosed space today, but I was too cowardly. I’ve been going over and over in my head what I witnessed on that short trip, and every part of me is aching because I didn’t say a word. None of us on the train said a word. All of us were complicit, but you, mate, are the worst of us all. I need to say something. This can’t go unsaid. 

You may not remember me; I was the girl in the parka jacket and tartan scarf cuddling in to the skinny boyfriend, stood near your family. I heard every word you said to your partner’s little girl on the journey. I know she’s not your daughter – you referenced this a number of times – and may I be the first to tell that girl how lucky she is not to be!

“I assume part of that smart mouth has developed from dealing with your shit for a few years.”

You were vile to that child for the entire 20 minute trip. I assume she is about 9 or 10; a cute little kid with a pretty face and a smart mouth. I assume part of that smart mouth has developed from dealing with your shit for a few years. Well played kid. My ears first pricked up when you referred to her ‘fat arse’. This is because I caught her eye when you said it. She had her back to you and was facing me, so you didn’t see the flash of pain that crossed her face when you said her arse was fat. I think her mum clocked my expression, because she sympathetically said “you’re not fat, you’re fine”.

But you know what, pal? She’s not fine. You’ve enrolled her for years of years in tears in front of the mirror, pulling at minuscule pockets of belly flesh, imagining she looks like a whale. You’ve sentenced her to refusing that slice of cake, that portion of chips, that bar of chocolate. Every time that kid gives in, eats a pizza, feels guilty and vomits it up as punishment for her own weakness, that is on your ugly mouth.

“That little girl should look in the mirror every night and see a princess.”

You also made at least 3 references to the child’s forehead, which you claim was “enormous” and inherited from her dad. You referenced her face as “hideous” and you called her a freak. You told her that the baby was filling his nappy because looking at her face had made him sick. What the hell are you teaching this child? One day, your partner, who I assume you love, is going to have to deal with this child as a victim in an abusive relationship, because you have taught her that she can be spoken to in this way. You should be ashamed of yourself. That little girl should look in the mirror every night and see a princess. She should feel like she is the prettiest girl in the room. I have a stepfather myself, as well as a real father, and both act treat me like I’m the queen of the world. And as awesome as that is, it’s exactly what YOU should be doing- that is normal behaviour. Everyone should treat their daughters (stepdaughters) that they deserve love, respect, and to be treated like a human being. This is NOT what you are teaching her.

You also called her a moron six times, and you called her retarded. Her mum stepped in when you used the ‘r-word’ and you followed it up by saying “ok, she’s simple, thick, dumb.” At this point, I was just in awe, as I was obviously on the train with Einstein or Stephen Hawking. You are clearly some sort of genius yourself. You’re not? You’re just some chav with an attitude problem? My mistake. By the way, any respect I had for your partner evaporated when she laughed at your “simple” etc comment and remarked “that’s better.” No child should put up with this. I’m sure she’s super smart – I’d put money on her being smarter than you! She wasn’t the one performing a disgusting monologue for a horrified train carriage, revealing a hideous personality to the world. 

“Your hurtful phrases will be chipping away at her self esteem, little by little.”

You also, at one point, described in graphic detail about how you wanted to pull the door open and push her off our moving train into the path of another train. You said how happy would be when she went “splat” when the train hit her. She had something in her eye, and her mum was trying to get it out, and you grabbed her head and said you would squeeze it until her eyes popped out. You also said you wanted to jam her head into the closing doors, so it squashed her head and pulled it off. I have a sense of humour dude; I know you were joking. I also know that she is absorbing every word you say like a sponge. You described her death in graphic detail and took delicious pleasure in every syllable. Your hurtful phrases will be chipping away at her self esteem, little by little. She is in for a rough ride, as you and your partner are teaching her that people can talk to her like shit, and the people who are supposed to protect her will either join in or laugh. The inevitable abuse, depression, self harm, eating disorders and pain that child suffers are firmly on your doorstep.

So, allow me, if you will, to be your mirror. To offer you up a taste of your own medicine. This slim hipped child you said had a “fat arse” must have been extremely confused, as you appeared to be very over weight. Like, I wasn’t staring, but I could see your belly poking out between your polo shirt and your sweatpants. You certainly didn’t look like anyone who should be giving advice on people’s body shape. Also, your face; well let’s just say that old chestnut about “if you’re ugly on the inside, you’re ugly on the outside” is 100% accurate. Your features contorted into a nasty, bitter snarl every time you addressed that child. You looked like a storybook ogre. If anyone on that train made turned the baby’s stomach, it was you. You certainly turned mine.

“Whatever the hell is going on, just stop.”

I urge you, man on the train, please think next time you’re tempted to say something vile to your stepdaughter. You might think that you’re being hilarious, or it might be some sort of insecurity you’ve got because she’s evidence your partner had sex with someone else before she met you, whatever the hell is going on, just stop. You are damaging that child with every nasty word that spews from your mouth. Treat her better. Grow the hell up.

Yours sincerely

The Girl in the Parka

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