Reluctant Lessons for Darkened Sidewalks

 

I had no idea what to expect on my first visit to Las Vegas, a trip my pool team had earned as State Champions. I’d spent plenty of time in Atlantic City, the smaller, East Coast den of iniquity that I knew to be a wretched hive of scum and villainy.  Surely it’s big sister, nicknamed Sin City, would be much worse, bags of cocaine replacing bowls of mints in hotel lobbies, prostitutes lined up outside of every bar and casino.

It’s nothing like that of course, modern day Las Vegas desperately trying to court families and escape the more notorious aspects of it’s past. There are still Elvis impersonators on every corner, but if any of them were secretly pimps I was unaware.

Like any big city, however, it’s not a place where one should wander drunkenly by yourself in the early hours of the morning, a lesson I learned when my credit card, seemingly safely tucked into the front pocket of my jeans was lifted by what I can only assume was an evil little fairy. A fairy that bought $500.00 worth of CVS makeup in the twenty minutes that it took me to notice it’s absence.

The reason for my solo hike down the Strip wasn’t stupidity (this time) but chivalry. On our last stop of the night my group and a group of Polish women were the only patrons left dancing, a lobby bar somewhere small where a cover band was playing passable renditions of ’80s hair bands. When it was time for us to leave, probably past time for us to leave, we discovered that somehow one of the women had been left behind by her friends. We spent some time searching the area but it became apparent that she had been abandoned.

She was distraught, spoke little English, didn’t have a room key, and wasn’t even sure which hotel they were staying in. Her first night in Vegas was going very badly.

So I walked with her, a relatively short distance to where she was staying, a longer conversation to convince security to let her into her room and produce something inside with a name matching her ID, and I was on my way. Good karma that was rewarded with a few hours on the phone with my credit card company.

I tell this story, now over a decade old, because I was presented with a similar situation this past weekend in Fort Lauderdale.

My wife safely tucked into bed I wandered the half mile to the nearest late night liquor store to stock up on tailgating supplies for the Miami Dolphins football game we were attending the next day. A short walk but a dark one, all streetlights turned off for the month of October while turtles nested or some such business. A significant stretch of road without tacky beachfront souvenir shops or Jimmy Buffet and Bob Marley songs played on acoustic guitars for raised decks full of intoxicated party goers.

 

a darkened road

 

About halfway down I encountered another damsel, seemingly in distress. Arms raised I approached slowly, willing myself to look nonthreatening as I asked her if she was OK.

She blew a whistle and started running.

I wasn’t mad, wasn’t upset or defensive, offended that my maleness immediately labeled me as a potential predator.

It made me sad, more so because if it had been one of my girls walking that darkened pavement I’d want them to do the same. I want to teach them that there are good guys out there, guys that will walk a stranger home without expectation. Guys that they don’t have to run away from just because they are guys and nobody else is around.

I want to teach them that, but not as much as I want to teach them to be safe. I’ll teach them to avoid circumstances where they are drunk and alone in a strange place, a dark road. I’ll teach them never to abandon their friends, never to leave a drink unattended, not to let a seemingly nice guy into your Vegas hotel room to use the bathroom before he begins the long walk back to his friends.

I’ll teach them that and I’ll fucking hate it. I’ll fucking hate it because shouldn’t we instead be teaching our boys to keep their goddamn hands to themselves.

 

 

27 thoughts on “Reluctant Lessons for Darkened Sidewalks”

  1. Spot on, sorry to hear about your experiences. But you’re right, we have a responsibility to teach our boys. As a woman I’m dubious of offers of help from both sexes and I would probably walk/run to a well lit and populated area and ask for help in the safety of a group and I’m also a little reluctant to offer help these days for fear of it back firing

  2. Hi! I feel like I have so much to say here. I agree with you. The permissiveness of the sexualization of women and girls in our culture must change. Yes, boys need to keep their hands to themselves. They need to respect women as equals. But so many layers exist that must be peeled back. “You fight like a girl.” “Don’t cry like a little girl.” etc. Even these small things lead boys to think girls are less-than. We need men like you to stand up to other men who’s seemingly innocuous remarks aren’t so harmless. Hayley from Just Another Blog from a Woman in her 40s wrote an excellent piece about this topic this week. EVERY woman I know, including myself, has been subject to sexual harassment or worse. Is it any wonder we’re afraid? Thank you for writing about this and continuing the conversation. It does matter.

  3. Yes. When are we going to teach our boys? When is the language going to change? I read a tweet today that suggested we need to dig even deeper. When we talk about how many girls were harassed, why are we not saying how many boys did the harassing? We are putting the discussion on the girls and what happened to them instead of on the people who committed the crime.

    1. Its true. I don’t want to have to teach my girls what not to do to keep themselves safe, I want others to be teaching their boys not to make my girls unsafe

  4. Wow, wow, wow. Amazing! Goosebumps even.

    Very strange I was just commenting on another blog just this situation. I did not participate in the “me too” movement to avoid a backlash from family, but that does not mean I have not been a victim. In fact I have never met a girl who hasn’t. It has put in an unfortunate perspective of distrusting men in general. It’s a perspective I wish I could break, but it’s like you said, it’s best to have your guard up, but it’s sad and sick that the barrier is so very needed.

    1. I wrote this last week when we were away and almost didn’t publish it because I didn’t want to be seen as jumping on the “me too” bandwagon, to be using other people’s pain as blog fodder. I’m glad that it doesn’t appear that people are thinking that

  5. That is very true. I taught my daughter to be safe when out with her friends (she is 21) and taught my son (he is 20) to keep his hands to himself and that “No” means “No”. I think I told him if he ever sexually assaulted a woman or anybody that he wouldn’t have to worry about prison because his ass would be sleeping with the fishes.

  6. We should be teaching boys to keep their hands to themselves! I literally just heard a mom say “boys will be boys” as her son (about 6 years old) pushed down a little girl and kissed her while she protested.

    What the fucking fuck?!?! #AnythingGoes

  7. It’s a sad world when we have to teach young girls to be afraid of men. Unfortunately, its doing them a major disservice if we don’t warn them of the potential risks.
    And I wholeheartedly agree with your last point
    Thanks for linking up to #AnythingGoes 🙂
    Debbie

  8. Yes, we should be teaching our boys that. Yet, it seems to keep falling on the young women or the parents of girls to prepare them for an unfair world. I teach my boys every day but unfortunately they will be only two of a very few. It’s sad but I totally agree with you that we need to step up and teach our boys to keep their hands to themselves. #anythinggoes

    1. Two is a good start Michelle. Those two will have friends that will notice. That’s the only way anything can ever change

  9. It is so sad Jeremy, but we do need to be teaching bot, at least in this snapshot of our scary history. I want a world where my girls feel safe when they grow up, but we all have work to do. Great post. Sorry for your experiences… #ablogginggoodtime xoxo

    1. nothing I’ve ever experienced is anything compared to what women have to deal with every day Lisa. Thanks for reading

  10. I totally agree, I have 2 daughters and I am raising them to be strong but also to hopefully know not all men are so horrible, but I am also raising my son to have self respect and respect his sisters and all women. As a young woman I was sexually assaulted and beaten, but I know all men are not that way. I was lucky to have had an amazing role model in my dad to know that there are great men out there and so I fought through the self blame, and the feelings of just wanting to die. I am now married to an amazing man and my 3 kids are lucky to have an amazing role model like I did. I am glad your daughters have you! thank you for linking up #ablogginggoodtime

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