On Sunday, as I hiked to my retail job, a rainstorm appeared and leaked all over me for half an hour. I reached the mall soaked through, dark stripes of mascara trickling down my cheeks. Did I mention that my work shirt is white? Everyone in the mall now has a masters degree in, oh, MY TORSO.
No big deal. I washed my face at work, dried my head with a paper towel, and reconciled myself to feeling damp and plain for an evening.
Which reminds me! Yesterday, I was mistaken for a man.
And that’s alright. Understandable even, though a wet white shirt might have cleared up the matter.
As a youth, little events like these might have kept me up at night. What if people think I’m a tramp? What if my boss gets mad? Does being mistaken for a man mean I’m ugly?
These days, I have mellowed considerably. Not to brag, but I can sometimes attain a rapturous state of indifference.
Attaining indifference is SO much faster than reaching enlightenment, let me tell you. All it takes is a vague awareness that far better and far worse things have happened to you and will happen again.
Kapow! Instant perspective!
UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE:
I wrote all the above words yesterday but didn’t publish the post. It felt iffy and unfinished.
Well, here’s your update.
With my housemates out of town, I had to walk home from work tonight. I thought about Jesse’s safety tips. Three separate cars honked at me, and I wondered why men do that to women. “Hey baby, I’m gonna create sudden loud noises while you’re walking in the dark— now who’s the boss?” Still, I felt good about life and was singing “Gotta Get Up” along with Harry Nilsson… until someone called out “Miss! Excuse me, miss!”
It was almost 10 PM on a dark, quiet street and I was not delighted to see a young man walking behind me. Grackle once accused me of “treating all men as guilty until proven innocent.” You got it, Grack. He mentioned this when I admitted that ANY time I pass a man on the sidewalk, I take a long, hard look at him in case I should need to identify him to the police.
But I turned to the young man. He asked what street we were on. As a person who is usually lost and always in need of assistance, I helped him get his bearings.
Having eyeballs, I immediately noticed that this guy did not look like me and remembered Cheryl’s post on white privilege. I wondered if this young man had been nervous about approaching me, how often he could see fear in people’s eyes when they looked at him, the way I see wariness in so many eyes since shaving my head.
Naturally, he asked to borrow my phone to call his girlfriend, and naturally, I lent it to him. Then he ran away.
I won’t feign indifference. I stood in the dark, every sense triggered and tingling.“YOU ARE NOT SAFE!” my brain hissed, “YOU ARE A SMALL, WEAK FEMALE AND WILL NEVER, EVER KNOW SAFETY. YOU WILL BE FOREVER AT THE MERCY OF LARGER CREATURES.”
But ever the quick thinker, a thousand other thoughts crowded in:
This could have been much worse; I could have met a rapist, not a petty thief.
He could have run TOWARD my home, not away from it.
He could have stolen my purse or my keys.
He could have been armed or violent.
Maybe he’s been driven to desperation. Maybe he really needs a phone. Or maybe this was a whim or a dare.
He seemed like a nice guy, friendly and well-groomed.
Maybe that previous thought is proof of what an easy target I really am. How could I be so stupid as to trust him? No; I don’t fully trust anyone on the street after sunset, especially men who suddenly appear behind me.
Oh no…. what if he didn’t “suddenly” appear—- was he following me?
What do I keep on my phone? I’ve saved all the important photos and messages… that guy’s got my only menstrual period schedule. Lucky him. Song ideas. Blog ideas. Some bank account information, I might have to close accounts tomorrow…
As I recall, mine was the second cheapest T-mobile phone. Third? Either way, nothing worth starting a criminal record for. I was listening to an iPod Touch when the guy found me. Wouldn’t that have made a better haul?
No, I shouldn’t have been walking alone in the dark. I should have gotten a license at 16 like Most People and gotten a good job after college so I could afford a car like Most People. I should have called a cab, thereby negating my job’s minimum wages.
Could I have pretended not to hear him? No. If I’d been wearing both earbuds, I wouldn’t have heard him at all. Could I have refused to lend him my phone? No, he was bigger than me. Should I have pursued him? Hardly.
I would never be able to recognize him in a line-up.
I’ve been robbed before; clothes were taken from my clothesline in college (only the brand name ones, amusingly), and my bike was stripped twice. My previous, much prettier bike, was stolen. But no one’s ever robbed my person until tonight.
I hurried home, still shaken and vulnerable.
I carried Grendel into the living room, sat down, and cried like a child. Some combination of sunscreen runoff and allergies left my eyes stinging horribly, and when I washed my face I saw stars. I went online and got my phone line suspended, though I’ll still have to pay the phone bill until my contract expires in a year. (Cuss cuss cuss.) I spent two hours trying and failing to reach Ian online. He’ll have to read the news here.
I could refine this post, tinkering and re-editing to create a clearer, more vivid story. Hardly seems worth the bother.
Worse things have happened, and worse things will happen again. Kapow! Instant perspective.
Except that my brain still can’t believe what happened. Oh for yesterday, when going to work in a wet shirt seemed newsworthy.