Wednesday, 12 October 2016

FEAR THAT COMES WITH BEING FEMALE - a serious post



I’ll start this post with the time I was followed by a sailor in downtown Vancouver.  How my mother had gone to one department in Woodward’s, and I had stayed on the first floor happily looking at things that would interest a 15 year old.  Until the sailor started following me, closely, doggedly, and I was ducking behind pillars, frantic to get to away from the shadow that wouldn’t leave me alone…


That was my first time, and on the scare scale, it was off the charts at the time.  Now, looking back over my life, that incident would only score ‘moderate’ on the scale.  Because there have been scarier times since.  Times that were – notably - closer to home.


In first year university, I met a nice guy in the first few weeks of school.  He was cheerful, affectionate, responsible.  Well-liked by my friends.  We became a popular couple, in demand for social events.  He went away to England for the summer, to visit his family who lived there.  In those four months, something changed inside me.  I don’t know why.  But sadly, I no longer felt the same way about him.


He arrived back at school with gifts and delight to see me.  I burst into tears and told him that distance had changed my feelings.  I was so sorry.  We parted sadly.


And then the telephone calls started.  Bitter, accusing calls.  I won’t repeat the words, but the message was clear: he was angry – angry enough to risk his pride and get public about it - and I was very frightened.  I did the classic female thing and tried to defuse the situation by repeating that distance had driven us apart.  It was no one’s fault.  I thought that would be the end of it.


I was wrong.  That wasn’t the end of it.  Why did I run away when he crossed the street?  I was being unreasonable.  He just wanted to talk to me.  And show me that I was wrong about us.  He could make me love him again


This man lived a few blocks over.  He would be on campus for another two years. 


Friends both male and female were appalled.  I took to going nowhere without them. I didn’t walk to campus, or between classes, without a friend at my side.  I let my male friends know that I was frightened of my ex, and they stepped up.  I’ll always be grateful.


When I think back to that time, I remember the fear.  The blinding panic.  This is what I recall:  Your ears turn off.  You can’t hear anything when you are gripped by that fear.  You can hardly see.  Your heart pounds and you have trouble breathing.  All of you – every bit of you focuses on getting away.


To this day, I wonder what it is in some men that makes them think that frightening you can possibly entice you to love them again. 


That was forty years ago.  Since then, I’ve been a bank manager in a scuzzy area of town.  I’ve taught college kids for years and years.  I’m pretty hard to intimidate now. 


This is what age and experience does for you.  Back then, I was frightened.  Now, I am angry.  This is bullying.  This is what a bully looks like.


It looks like a young man who won’t take no for an answer.


9 comments:

  1. I don't think there's a woman over the age of 16 who doesn't have a tale to tell. My sister had a boyfriend like that in high school. I didn't realize it at first, but that's when Joey started letting me answer the phone first rather than running to get it herself. Fortunately we were living at home with a supportive parents. In fact, one of my favourite stories to tell friends (especially the male ones) was how my father used the flat of his fist instead of a hammer to "tap" in windshields. It was both impressive and cautionary.

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    1. You are so right about every woman, Ali.

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  2. I recognize that panic, Melodie. I got so good at pretending I was calm in front of angry, potentially abusive men that I started to think that was normal. My father is a very calm guy who was always gentle with us and usually kind. I didn't learn those feelings from him, but from so many men around our family, from my friends' parents, from guys I dated or didn't want to date, from men offended by a mere woman daring to hold an opinion they didn't hand her, from my ex-husband who is presently terrorizing the second wife who has recently left him. It never seems to end. I too am a lot harder to intimidate but I'm also very much aware of danger signs and I still feel that panic when I know I'm alone/vulnerable and there's an angry man with me in his sights.

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    1. I think with age, we are more quickly alert to that danger, Jayne. Better at seeing it for what it is. For so many years, I felt guilty. It was my fault he was that angry. I want to kick my old self.

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  3. Melodie, this brings back a similar horror I lived through. And I was an adult. I was going through a divorce, so I dated a number of men, just to be out and about. I knew this guy was a dud, but I went out with him 3 or 4 times before I realized he was a controlling creep and politely declined another rendezvous.

    He went postal. He stalked me and broke into my house and assaulted me. I knew I didn't have a good case for rape because it was he-said/she-said. But I got a restraining order. Which did no good. He'd hover around the theater where I worked, just across the street. I had to quit my job, sell my home, leave town and move in with my mother at the age of 30. It was years before I felt safe again. I Google him every so often, and I've never found him, but I haven't found his obituary, either. That's the only thing that would really make me feel safe.

    I think most women have been there in some way or another.

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    1. Anne, that is a terrible thing you have gone through. It makes me shiver, just reading your comment. Thank you for sharing this. We aren't alone.

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  4. Those are terrible stories and I feel for each one of you. However, reverse the participants and it remains true.
    37 years ago, my then wife and I divorced. I had 3 daughters. They were told terrible things about me... that I had had affairs with a female work colleague, with the mother of one of their friends and finally, with the woman I married 2 years later. It took a while to convince my girls that this was untrue and 35 years later I'm still unsure if one of them still believes their mother, I haven't been able to get in touch with her since she moved house 16 year ago.
    On the plus side, I adopted my new wife's daughter and she's been a pleasure to know for all this time.

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    1. I hope there is a special type of hell reserved for people who manipulate children, David. So sorry you experienced this.

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