Monday, September 27, 2010

Calculated Risks

Lately, I've been thinking about calculated risks. Twice in the last week I've found myself walking down a dark street escorted by a perfect stranger. Both were dates, and both distances quite short. However, it has gotten me thinking.

The first incident was through an area of town where a friend of mine had been held up at gun point (twice!). We were walking from a cultural center to well-known diverse street with alot of fun and ethnic restaurants. The distance was about six blocks. I expressed my reservations to said date, mentioning my friend and feeling silly the whole time, and he didn't think it was a big deal.

Quickly, I weighed the alternatives - get into car with said stranger (um, that's a big NO) or both get in our cars and drive the six blocks (seemed silly; wasteful). I did this so quickly, in fact, that I didn't even realize it. So, I caved and we walked. Strangely enough, I wasn't worried about said date (he was, as I would later describe to Dave and Susan, 'kind of a marshmallow"), I was more worried about the neighborhood and who we may encounter.

I don't know if said date thought I was being petulant and spoiled by not wanting to walk through a diverse (and also poorly lit - and did I mention it was RAINING?) neighborhood looking for a cute little hole in the wall. I also don't know why I didn't further elucidate on my discomfort about walking in the neighborhood with a perfect stranger. Looking back on it now, I realize that I didn't want him to think that just because the neighborhood was diverse (ie we were the only white people around) that I felt unsafe. Which is, of course, a stupid and dangerous assumption.

The fact of the matter is that I felt unsafe because I felt unsafe. Full stop.

I'm not going to go much deeper in the socio-economic disparity and race gap, because what I've been thinking about the past few days hasn't centered so much on that, but on realizing something very important:

Men do not appear to think very much about situational safety.

I find this not only unfair, but also sad.

When the second guy led me through a parking garage (which give me the heebies anyway) and acrossed a parking lot, it dawned on me again:

Men just clearly don't think about the situations in the same way that women do. That is, as potential danger zones.

(Also, I need to stop letting men lead me down dark alleyways....)

But I digress. It's not like I freak out and head home immediately after sundown (and one friend put to me - "You've shot guns in Rwanda, I think you can handle THIS"). But rather, as a woman, I take calculated risks all the time. I think about where I park in a parking lot (under a lamppost). I check the backseat of my car before I get into it. I hate it when people walk close behind me (this amuses my boss to no end, who often walks in behind me at work in the mornings.) I stop, pretend to fiddle with something in my bag, and let whomever it is pass me.

I think that smart women, who don't want to be easy targets, think about these things. It doesn't have to rule your life, but you don't have to be a sitting duck either. It takes but a second to park under a lamppost or decide to take a well-lit route rather than ignore that little voice in the back of your head.

But I can still begrudge my male counterparts who don't need - and don't appear - to take these few moments out of their day. And when their unobservance puts me in an awkward situation, I get irritated. I'm irritated that they don't have to think about it and that because of this, they don't really think of it at all. In the end, this leaves me with having to be my own safety advocate, and live with what they may or may not think of me because of it.

And to me, its just maddening that we live in a world where one group of people have to take a few moments to ensure safety, and another group can walk blithely along thinking that a dark alley looks like a good shortcut to dinner, wondering: What the heck is wrong with her?

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