Last week I posted about how I feel when I encounter a man while walking alone at night. Not surprisingly, many of you commented that you feel exactly the same way. Anxious. Fearful. Alert. And ready to run.
One comment from a reader really stuck out to me. Marybeth wrote that she wondered if every time a man encounters a woman at night, if he wonders if she’s afraid of him. Sarah jumped in and said she’d had this discussion with her husband, who said he knows when women are afraid because he’s seen women tense up or get their phones out fast and that he realizes there’s nothing he can really do to make them not scared.
So I asked N. Here’s how that discussion went.
Me: Do you ever worry that you scare women when you are walking and you see a woman by herself?
N: Yes, definitely.
Me: Like, every time? You always think about it?
N: Of course. You can’t not think about it.
Me: Do you ever do anything differently once you think about the fact that you might be scaring her?
N: Not really. I don’t feel like there’s much you can do. Pretty much anything you do that might make her less scared could also scare her more. Like what are you going to do? Say hi? Walk faster? Smile? All of those things might freak her out even more so I usually just keep walking. Sometimes I’ll cross the street, if I needed to eventually anyways, and hope that makes her less scared. There’s just not much you can do though. What could a guy do that would make you less scared?
[I think for a minute, and come up with nothing]
Me: I honestly can’t think of anything. You’re right, anything he might do would probably make me more scared.
Me: How do you feel about possibly having a daughter someday and knowing that she’ll grow up and have these same experiences?
N: Sad in a weird kind of way. Because it sucks that we live in a world where your immediate reaction is to not trust someone. But I wouldn’t necessarily want her to be that trusting.
Me: Do you have any other comments?
N: I love you.
[I roll my eyes and give him the “take this seriously’ face, while smiling just a bit]
N: I don’t know. I would say that I wish people would be more trusting but at the same time, that’s not good advice.
I don’t really know what to do with this besides just be like, huh. I really thought that it didn’t occur to men that women were afraid. But that isn’t the case. As N said, he thinks about it every single time he sees a woman alone at night.
So I guess that in most situations, there are two people walking alone at night. One is afraid, the other is afraid that he’s making the other one afraid. It’s kind of funny but mostly sad, right?
Now here’s a little blogging homework (if you don’t mind feeding my curiosity). Ask a man in your life these questions. Report back here and leave a comment with his answers. How do they feel? Is there anything they do to try to make women less afraid? And women, what could a man do in this situation to make you less afraid?