Before I hit the third grade, a family friend once joked that women needed to hurry up and get their first assault out of the way so they could get on with the rest of their lives.
Hey, what did you expect? I was born female. Walk with me for a bit.
My childhood birds and bees talk consisted of the standard mechanics with a caveat; the warning there are going to be people on this earth that believe your body belongs to them. It is your job to put distance between you and those people and alert adults accordingly. My life has been cultivated around maintaining that distance.
Everybody has a morning routine. Mine also includes the walk to the train, where I have to allow the appropriate seconds to acknowledge the four men that block my way to the station every morning. Pleasantries are exchanged, my smile adjusted if I wasn’t “happy” enough that day; my daily performance art. The price I am told I have to pay for being “so pretty miss lady!”
I have only ever been inebriated to the point of needing assistance once in my life. Thankfully, that assistance came at the moment someone tried to lock me in an empty bedroom to “get away from the noise and talk some more”.
When I did go to the club my girls and I had a system; one to the bathroom, one holds the drinks. No one accepts a drink handed to them; we walk to the bar and accept it in person. We came together, we leave together. Everyone gets a text when we get home. Understand the rules? Good, now lets have (not too much) fun!!
I have been told that I can’t live my life as a victim. That I can’t just not have fun. That walking around in fear is no way to live. That I need to drink this shot and live a little.
And every time I have been told this it has been from a man.
It is very easy to live your entire life without ever knowing what your neighbor’s is like. Even easier to judge everyone else’s situation by your own circumstances. To say what you wouldn’t do in a scenario whose possibility is unfathomable in your reality. Stepping out of your privilege in into another person’s reality- even to briefly note by the grace of God go I- is an exercise most never partake in.
But some do-and it isn’t always perfect, and it isn’t always pretty. Not every lesson will be learned the first time. But if someone takes the initiative to meet me halfway, I’m going to do the same. Because we owe it to ourselves to utilize every teachable moment. Because while I’ve lived my life and can explain it better than anyone, sometimes it is better received from a different voice. Because silencing that voice simply because it doesn’t sound like mine does more harm than good. Because I am more afraid of what will happen when we stop discussing it at all.
Or maybe it is just because I believe every person that gains an ounce of understanding gets me closer to a day when I can walk out of my door and just…walk.