Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The continuous threats on my life as a woman

Growing up in a small Kansas town our school’s student population rarely altered; but in the sixth grade a brother/sister duo joined our grade school. They were both in my grade, I don’t know if it was because they were twins, or one of them skipped, one of them failed or if they were only step siblings, but in any case. The girl, Rainy, was in one of the other 6th grade classrooms; she was able to mesh into the thick of things seamlessly—she even started her own group called the Pink Ladies—based off of Grease—which all the more popular and decidedly jealous girls made fun of for being so immature and nerdy. The boy on the other hand, did not make friends easily. The boy was in my class and he came to it everyday wearing a blue hanes t-shirt, his hair greased back with too much gel. He never really talked to anyone directly just sort of under his breath and he would say things about his Rottweiler’s and his bb guns back at his house. None of the girls thought he was cute, which is quite the rarity for a new guy in town to not even be given the label of potentially cute but too mysterious to determine. He was just creepy, we all thought that since they had moved from California and that he always wore blue that he was or wanted to be from the Crypt’s gang. We all started wearing red to see if it would agitate him.

There were only about two days of school left. I am walking to my mom’s work from the school. The boy happens to be right next to me as we leave. He starts pestering me. I shoot back some witty mean remark that only sixth grade girls know how. He rebuttals. He looks me in the eyes and he tells me he’s going to kill me. He tells me he’s going to come back to the school with his dad’s real gun and shoot me. I know he is not joking.

Skip ahead thirteen years and that story is just a distant memory. Except it’s not. I’m standing on the platform of the Chicago redline waiting for the train at Belmont. I head toward the heat lamp. I am listening to my i-pod. I am holding a giant bag full of all my books from my grad classes. A black man, assumedly homeless, comes up to me and asks me a question. I can’t hear him because my i-pod is on. I take the earphones out and turn the i-pod off. I apologize and ask him to repeat himself. He asks if I have any money, any change. I check my pockets. I say sorry, all I have is this lip gloss; he asks me to look harder, I repeat myself and pull out the lip gloss to prove it. He asks if he can have it. I think it’s so weird that I give it to him. Whatever. 30 seconds later the train comes. We both end up on the same car. He comes and sits by me. He hands me the lip gloss back. “Why do you think I’d want your lip gloss.”

“I have no idea.”

He stares.

“Listen dude. I don’t have a job. Why would you think I have anything to give to you?”

“Just wait until you get off the train.” He stares harder.

“Are you threatening me?”

“If that’s how you want to take it, then yes. Call the police, do whatever you want.” He stares. Whether he is serious or not I am not going to take any chances.

“This conversation is over.” I head to the other end of the train, hoping it would stop quickly so I can get to another car. But he comes up behind me. I do not know what I am thinking, a mixture of fear and fight enter my head.

“I’m sorry.” He says.

I keep silent and wait. He moves on to his next target, a group of people drinking Heineken.

I move to the next car still unsure. Is he alone? Is he working with a group of people that could attack me when I get off the train? Should I report it and how by pressing that silly button by the handicap section? And what would they do, slap him on the wrist and then he’ll really come after me.

So I sit there and I cry, but not just because of him. I sit there and get pissed, but not just because of him.

I cry and get pissed and I think of how there is the great possibility that once I get off the train I could die. That “Carry the Weight” may be the last song I ever hear. That Magic Hat may be the last beer I ever drink. French fries may be the last dinner I ever have.

I start to think that it is a great possibility that when I get off the train I may have to physically protect myself and I am praying to Tony Horton that all those P90X workouts were not just for glamor. That my taebo will be of use. That we workout not just to look good, but to be in a physical state of protection.

As I sit, I am getting angrier. My education allows me to immediately start analyzing the situation… I start thinking about race relations and money issues. Racism and Capitalism. I start thinking from his side of things. What he thinks of me. And what he would say if he knew anything about me. And how that isn’t really the point.

I am brought back to misogyny.

And I’m truly enraged by how men in the lowest of positions find it in their best interest to threaten and manipulate women. That is their power. And their power is nothing but fear.

And it feels never ending.

Just when I was starting to look at that sixth grade incident as a distant memory.

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