How to Escape Unwanted Attention

How to Escape Unwanted Attention

Before we begin, let’s dispel a myth, and it’s this: ‘Only younger women are the target of unwanted attention.’ So not true. Women of any age, and any body type, with or without a disability, with grey hair or blonde, can find themselves bothered by men who make inappropriate comments or gestures, and sometimes refuse to go away.

A friend of mine, in her late fifties, was recently propositioned at a community function by her neighbour’s husband (while his wife was within earshot!). A colleague, who’s just turned 70, found (in the weeks following the break-up of her marriage), the husbands of two of her woman friends on her doorstep, asking if they could ‘help’ her – and they weren’t talking home-maintenance.

My personal experiences of unwanted attention (and I was in my early sixties at the time) include a marriage proposal delivered up by the owner of a small-town Turkish teahouse (I had breezed in for a quick cuppa while my husband was resting in our hotel room), and a shepherd in Albania who gripped his crotch and made thrusting movements as I walked passed the field where his sheep were grazing.

So, whatever your age or situation, it pays to have a few tricks up your sleeve for giving these unpleasant characters the flick. In a following article, we’ll be taking a look at tactics that demand persistent effort on your part (so do watch out for it). But for now, read on to discover tricks that often work, in just a few minutes, to freeze out your unwanted ‘company.’

Dark glasses

‘The eyes have it – it’s a fact. Where there’s no eye contact, it’s difficult to engage another person. So, if you’re the subject of unwanted gazes or furtive looks, pop on the dark lenses. They’re a great way to observe those who are observing you, without giving out any unintended signals.

Ear buds and smart phones

You may be in public view, but you can still appear to isolate yourself from those you don’t want to engage with. When your lecherous company makes his approach, simply pop in the ear buds, get out your phone, and look at it intently (don’t turn on the speakers, though, as for safety’s sake, you need to discreetly monitor what is being said.) Your behaviour is a clear signal you don’t want to engage in conversation, and is a great, unspoken way, to say ‘go away.’

The book

‘Head down in a book:’ it’s a universal symbol for ‘don’t bother me,’ and it can be a simple way to send unwanted attention packing. Keep a book handy in your bag, and when you’re approached in a public setting, take it out, yawn, and focus on the page (turning the page occasionally suggests you really are reading!). If you’re travelling overseas, make sure your book isn’t a guide book as your unwanted company may perceive it as an opportunity to engage.

The foreign language

This trick is especially useful when travelling abroad, but it can also be used at home, depending on what foreign language you have at your disposal. When the unwanted company arrives and speaks to you, simply look puzzled and shrug, then reply in another language. If a foreign language doesn’t come easily to you (and you’re abroad), you can always substitute with a string of Māori place names (just make sure that any book you happen to be reading isn’t in English!).

The wedding ring

Whether or not you’re married or in a permanent relationship, wearing a wedding ring isn’t a bad idea. It’s no guarantee of peace, but it can be enough to ward off some who still acknowledge formal attachment as a reason to back off. It’s also a handy way to communicate ‘go away’ when you and your unwanted ‘company’ speak different languages.


There’s nothing like not being alone to ward off unwanted attention. If you’re in a situation where there are a number of people about (such as in a park, on a busy street, or at an airport), get out your phone and pretend to make a call, then look around, and wave, as if you’ve spotted the friend ‘you’re talking to’. Walk off smartly around the nearest corner, still with the phone to your ear. If your unwanted company follows, wave through the window of the nearest cafe, and head inside as if you’ve found the person you’re looking for.

No one deserves unwanted attention. Do what you have to, to safely give it the flick – and rehearse your tactics before you leave home!