"I think you've highlighted a tremendous fear that women, who like myself live alone, have about living alone." "It sucks, as a female, that I constantly have to be looking over my shoulder and be on guard." "This is why-I never lived alone. I was always afraid of being stalked."*I was 13, and in junior high when a "self defense" was first formally presented to me, in a school assembly. I distinctly remember the hypothetical question, "what would you do, if attacked?" We knew: Hit! kick! Scratch! The instructor then pulled a boy from the audience, and asked him what he'd do if a girl hits him. "I'd stop it. I'd hit her back." The overall message was that we should try to outsmart our assailants if we can, but what stayed with me this: Should I fight [an assailant], I may only stand to be responsible for my own further injury. Wonderful. Damned if I do, damned if I don't.
Women are inundated with safety information then, from childhood until forever more. Our magazine articles, e-mails, talk-shows, girlfriends, and local police officers are reminding us of how predators think, and what we can do to thwart them. Every woman knows to
- Carry our keys poking through our fingers, hands in fist.
- Avoid walking near doorways and stairways.
- Look under our cars and before approaching it.
- Look in our backseats.
- Don't walk near shrubbery.
- To never leave our drinks unattended.
- When and where to kick. That are elbows are strong. Go for the eyes. Keep porch lights on. Carry your purse in front of you. Don't walk and talk on the cel phone. Move our cars after we load them with shopping packages. Get a deadbolt. Get pepper spray. Walk in pairs. And then some.
I have become, I think, instinctively aware of most of the items on this list. Stairways creep me out bigtime; I enter a parking garage stairway like a cat with an arched back. I listen and watch at every level, and keep an eye on the doors. I walk nearer the streets and stay visible, and try to avoid digging aimlessly for keys while I'm wandering.
I received an email 2 days ago that included this helpful hint:
- If you are ever thrown into the trunk of a car, kick out the back tail lights and stick your arm out the hole and start waving like crazy! The driver won't see you, but everybody else will. This has saved lives.
What?!! If I am ever thrown into the trunk of a car?!! I have to keep all of these things in mind, and NOW I have to remember how to kick out a taillight? I have to keep in mind that firemen and police officers might not be what they seem? And I should also never take anyone up on the offer to smell a new cologne; it's chloroform.
Am I paranoid? I've taken a mini-poll, and I am assured that most of my girlfriends are watchful and aware of these same things. Most of their statements reflect those of my friend and fellow blogger (Room with a View):
"I've talked to [my husband] about it before. He was amazed that I felt fear at night walking through a parking lot. It just doesn't affect him that way."
Right! I also polled my male friends, and my son and his friends with one question: "How often are you nervous when you walk to your car at night?" I was met with blank stares, a couple of "pfffts!" and one "what are you talking about?" The unanimous answer, in a nutshell, was "Never."
Never? NEVER? What must it be like to just wander around all worry-free, oblivious to your surroundings, and the fact that there may be a nutjob in those shrubs? Are you telling me that you just walk to your car without worrying someone's going to grab your ankles?!! You are lucky to be alive, my friend.
I know I do stupid things, put myself at occasional statistical risk, and I have considered myself lucky, in hindsight, on several occasions. Not to advertise it, but I know very well that I would have answered my door and let that faux firefighter into my house, under the same circumstances. I probably make too much eye contact, and speak and offer assistance to too many strangers.
I like to think that common sense and gut instinct will prevail, and I'll just *know* when not to do those things; but that's ridiculous; it serves only to insinuate that other women had neither of these traits. Of course they do.
I'm not saying that I walk around in constant fear—I simply refuse to. But I do try to move through my life exercising a bit of awareness and common sense. It would be nice not to have to think about it, but I'll continue to jump through a few hoops and keep my ears and eyes open.
Because, maybe it's all for nothing, but maybe I have thwarted off just ONE encounter in my life, or stand to, in the future.
And, that's reason enough.
Be safe, dearies.