I read this on Facebook and thought all of you would be better people if you read it. Faith D’Amato wrote it, and in scrolling through her page, this is not an abnormal occurrence – but it should be. (you should probably check her out on twitter and IG too, she is pretty rad)
Tonight I walked home from the bar, which is about a mile away from my house. I like walking. It gives me time to clear my head and enjoy the beautiful street art in the city. The road that goes to my house is an I iconic street which, even at night it is one of the most populated streets in my city. It is well lit and has a good amounts of cars and houses near by just in case I think someone needs to see and hear me calling for help. All things I think about before picking a route home. A boy, who is a friend of mine, lives more than half way between me and the bar. He walked with me until the turn for his house, at witch point we said goodbye.
From there I walked alone, playing music from my phone to keep me company. I paused it the two times I spotted homeless people asleep on the street as to not disturb them.
Within a block from departing a car pulls to the side of the road. My hyper-awareness kicks in, Spiderman has nothing on me. I fix my gaze hard in front of me. I have been taught not to engage. Engagement of any kind can be considered consent in the court of law and the court of public opinion and one must constantly keep themselves as pure as possible to be considered a true victim. Though, the fact that I was walking home sans escort, I was already to be considered at fault. The car slowed down to the point where it was right next to me. My gaze remained forward. Stone cold. I walked faster. The window rolls down.
“Do you need a ride?” A faceless voice calls from the car.
“Nope”. Frosty. Defiant, I continue.
I am aware of every car that passes, every person who strolls by, and ever animal who rustles ominously in the bushes. I curve my way gracefully around every bush and every doorway in which a person could hide. If someone were to jump out at me, I want as much room as possible to run and call for help. I have been trained well to prevent my own attacks. I stay extra prepared as most of my training has taught me that any attack would likely be my own fault anyway. Men just cant help themselves.
Another car slows down near me, unacknowledged, it moves on.
As I get closer to my house I reach a corner of an intersection near my house. This is the point at which I usually turn left to head up a side street to get to my house. I like this route. It takes me by a neighborhood school and a couple very cute houses. It allows me to avoid the corner which is often populated by homeless men. At this point any of those men will likely be asleep, but I am always responsible for my own safety so I choose to avoid it if possible in case of incident. It also lacks the traffic noises on the main road. During the daytime it is the perfect route home.
I turn left.
A car who is waiting at the stoplight next to me starts to back up as if backing into a parking space on the side of the road. The stretch next to me is a fire lane. The first spot isnt until several yards back. These are things that I notice because I am a woman and I am accountable for my own safety.
Since this strikes me as odd, I choose to pull one of the oldest tricks in the book and I cross the street. The car still seems to be trying to pull into a nonexistent parking spot. I am momentarily relived.
The car then bows out further in the street to avoid the cars parked along side and quickly backs up further into the direction in which I am walking. This is no longer a safe route for me to use. I turn around. As I start to walk the other way back towards the main road the men from the car start to shout at me. Something that I tune out for the most part, as I have been taught to protect myself, I am taught to not engage. Engagement puts me in danger. The men from the car call me “mamacita”.
I walk quickly back towards the main road and feel more comfortable as I round the corner to the left and the men’s cries of “mamacita” are drowned out by the noise of other cars. Other cars seem safer. While they might be driven by drunk drivers or drivers who have no interest in stopping and helping me if I were to be attacked; other cars at least have the statistical advantage of not actually wanting to kidnap me. So again, I feel marginally safer.
I continue to walk quickly in the direction of my house, wanting to get as much distance between myself and the car calling after me. I smile at a piece of street art urging me to “Protect yo’ heart”. I send mental vibes to the street artist that I am currently doing just that. As well as protecting the rest of my body, as that is my responsibility.
A man shouts from a car beside me. I remain cold. Gaze fixed forward because I must not engage. Engagement can be viewed as consent and I want to make it clear that I do not consent. My safety is my own responsibility.
The car speeds off. I feel better. I continue on my way home.
The shouts come unexpectedly from the opposite side of the road. I do not hear the rest of what they are trying to say to me. I remain focused on keeping my gaze fixed ahead. I have been trained well and it is not their fault that I am beautiful and by myself. They clearly cannot help themselves. I briefly worry about the things that they will teach their daughters that they will not even attempt to teach their sons.
I make it the extra block past the homeless me to where I turn for my house. My pulse quickens as I make the left. I have no other route from here. Going up this side street is my only option to get home. I get my keys from my purse and plant them conveniently through my fingers. I have been taught that in case I have to take a swing at someone, the keys protruding from my knuckles will injure my attacker. I secure them so they are stable, as my safety is my responsibility.
As I hear each car turning up my street I tighten my knuckles and slow my pace to see if the car is going to pass me. There is a moment of extreme anxiety until I am able to see each car pass me and see it is not the car that was calling me “mamacita”. Despite two or three false alarms and rising adrenaline I reach my front door.
There is a slight moment of panic as I drop my keys weaving them out of my fingers. The time that it takes me to pick up my keys can be the difference between my safety and something unimaginable. I cringe.
I momentarily blame my parents for my reflection in the mirror. I blame my father for my X chromosome. How nice it must be to not help yourself. How nice it must be to be hunter rather than prey. How nice it must be to walk home and not be aware of where there are fire lanes and where someone may genuinely looking for a parking space. How nice it must be to not be conscious about the noise you make around people you pass on your way home. How nice it must be to get into a car with a lyft or uber driver and have the overwhelming statistics on your side that you will be getting home safely. “Very nice” , I think as I pick up my keys and enter my building, “Very nice indeed.”
Bottom line: This should not be “normal.”