The other night, I got back from somewhere that I had gone by myself and it was dark. G was reading in bed, and I puttered around the house for a while, getting myself settled in for the night. I got into bed with my book and G said something about wanting a fruit bar, a box of which was in the fridge out in the garage. I mentioned this to her and she looked at me kind of sheepishly and said, “I know, but it was dark.”
Now she is not afraid of the dark. We wander around our house in the dark all the time. As the sun goes down, we rarely turn on the lights unless I’m doing some project in the kitchen or we have company over. We have our bed lights for reading, but other than that there’s just not a lot of illumination in our house at night or even early in the morning, when I make coffee, shower, etc. all without turning on the lights.
But. The walk from the house to the garage and into the garage, alone, in the dark, is not something she will do willingly. We have no curtains on our windows, only shades that, in every room other than the bedroom, are rarely drawn, and then only in the day time to protect from the heat. G. must be able to see out the windows at all times.
I don’t think about that. I don’t think anything about getting up at 4 am and going for a 3 to 5 mile walk in the neighborhood alone. I take ID and I take my cell phone and I take a walking stick, but that’s mainly for any stray dogs I might encounter. I don’t think about taking a 10 mile bike ride at the same time of day up a frontage road that has a number of abandoned buildings on it. It just doesn’t occur to me to modify my behavior because I’m female or “of a certain age”. Because that’s where the hesitation comes from. It comes from a fear of being overpowered. I think it lurks in the back of every woman’s head, but it’s not something I’ve ever really given a lot of thought to.
It doesn’t occur to me to think about not planning a trip somewhere alone. It doesn’t occur to me to not go to the grocery store at 10 p.m. by myself. It doesn’t occur to me to not see a movie by myself if G doesn’t really want to go.
I don’t think a thing about walking down to the bus stop near the house and taking a day out on the bus, making transfers, ending up miles from the house, alone. Maybe that’s why I’ve never been threatened or stopped or accosted or anything when I’ve been out alone. This includes my first sojourns in to the wilds of downtown Atlanta on the bus when I was 16, living alone in New Orleans when I was just out of college and way more attractive, traveling alone to the UK, walking in Spain, you name it.
Maybe I don’t have that “vibe”. Maybe it’s my size. I know that when I was working in the hotel biz as a banquet captain, I could get my staff 30 primadonna waiters to pay attention and do what I needed them to do without much worry. I have a friend who was a big “hoo-ha” executive at a major beverage company at the same time and she used to moan and groan about how “bitchy” she had to be to get anyone to listen to her. But she’s 5’2″, wore designer clothes, looked the part of “the lady”, etc. Even in my corporate days, I rarely wore dresses, opting for tailored slacks and blazers, and if I wore heels it was to look eye to eye with the guys, not to show off my stiletto Manolo Blahniks.
Regardless, I just don’t spend time thinking about what might happen. I had friends when I lived in Atlanta who would have died in their houses rather than take a bus or god forbid, the MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit) train. I rode MARTA to work every day, and buses, too, and loved it. I rode MARTA to concerts and ball games and other events and usually rode alone and never got bothered.
I used common sense, of course. If I was riding home at night, I made sure to get the car right behind the driver and sit up front. I made pleasant chit-chat with seatmates, and when I walked out of the station I made straight for my car with keys in hand. The usual things they tell anyone who is walking alone at night.
So, when G made the comment about her hesitancy to go to the garage in the dark (especially with me not home) it got me thinking. People marvel at some of the things I’ve done, but to me it’s just living my life. I can’t limit myself by worrying about what might happen. I MIGHT get creamed by a semi-truck every single time I put the car on the road, but it doesn’t stop me from driving.
The news, the political climate, the economic pundits all want you to be too afraid of life to move. Stop it! Stop it right now! Life isn’t going to hurt you. Do the things you want to do. Talk to people. Travel. Eat things. Go to that late movie alone. Walk in your neighborhood. Say hi to your next door neighbor. You might have the adventure of a lifetime and you could miss it by thinking about all the bad things that MIGHT happened, but don’t.