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?

 

 

 

11 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

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