Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sometimes I wish I were a boy

Not that life isn't as scary and threatening for boys, either. Not that crazy people don't attack boys, either. But I bet they are less frequently targets. I mean, they probably don't have encounters EVERY DAY where they have to think, "Is this safe? Should I be doing this? Don't forget to be aware of your surroundings, have your keys ready, walk confidently so you don't look like an easy target, have your cell phone ready to call someone but don't look distracted talking on your cell phone, keep your hair tied up and don't wear long earrings because attackers can pull those..."
I don't verbally have these thoughts every day, but I think I am in a situation at least once a day where there's this low-level awareness and I think most women feel that way. Do you? How frequently do men think this, I wonder? (I mean, maybe I'm being unfair.) It's like being a paranoid animal...like a dog who's been beaten or a cat walking around with its hair standing up ready to hiss and pounce on things before it can get them first.
Anyway...I forgot where I was going with this. Oh. Well, I mean, people tell you, oh just be smart and stay out of bad situations. But if you are to do that, you can't live your life. I mean, you can't even stay home to stay out of trouble, because a Woman Living Alone could also be a target. I have a roommate now, but she's been gone a few days and it's brought back the anxieties I would sometimes have, living alone at my former apartment. Lately, what will happen is I'll hear a bunch of noise and think, "Oh my God! Is that someone at my door! Is that someone trying to open our back door!?" And realize it's just the neighbors...going into their own home.
What brought all this on is that while I was waiting for a bus last night, there was a man standing at the opposite corner. He stood there a long time. I didn't really think much of it; he looked like some scraggly goth leftover from the late 90's, but I figured he had every right to be on Hawthorne as I did. It's not like the city was dead at this time of night. Cars went down the street with normal-looking people in them. Every once in awhile cops would come by, sometimes parking for a bit before moving on to something more interesting. Frequently, young, normal-looking people would zoom by on their bikes. But no bus came. Because the bus had stopped running. I did not know this, because I am from a place where you can't fathom that there is not 24-hour public transportation of some kind. That just doesn't make sense. I have not yet adapted to a place where things close at 6pm on weekdays (but that's when I get home from work!? What do you mean I have to go on the weekend!?) and people do not keep crazy late hours.
Anyway, crazy man made some faces and gestures and I'll write about it at more at length when enough time has passed that this has become funny--but anyway, it was definitely directed at me and meant to get my attention and whether it was just exhibitionism or a threat, I do not know. I just acted like I didn't notice, or didn't care, and turned and walked in the opposite direction, praying that the next street over (and there was only one street between me and the Williamette River so I didn't have many options here) would have more signs of life and a phone book or something with phone numbers of cab companies. It was maybe five minutes before I found a cab, but it felt so much longer, and a very pleasant cab driver took me home for half the price of my two-week bus pass...which was still cheaper than a night out in New York. Once I got home, I realized that this incident was scary and maybe I should have called the police.
Anyway, my point is that I did not plan to be out by myself late at night. I know that's the big No-No, the thing with which every woman gets indoctrinated. Don't be out by yourself after dark. (Well, what are you supposed to do if you want to buy groceries at 8pm?) I planned to take a bus, with people on it, to a show, with people at it, and then take a bus home--with people on it--to a stop that's only a block from my apartment. Other than not leaving one's home after dark, there's just no way to guarantee that you don't sometimes, by accident, end up on a potentially unsafe (and let's face it, they're ALL potentially unsafe) street by yourself. And if you don't find yourself alone on the street late at night, you could be home alone late at night, vulnerable to a break-in. So!
I guess the only solution is to get married and start making babies like a respectable girl.

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