My little dog loves it when I take him in the car to go walk someplace. One morning I pulled over at a public park. I stopped the engine, undid my seat belt and then saw a guy purposefully approaching my car. He was looking straight at me. Yeah, I know I’m more likely to be the victim of someone I know, but still, us women can’t afford to take chances. Maybe the guy was completely harmless, maybe he needed help. But I got a bad vibe from the way he was walking towards my car. I put my seat belt back on, started the engine, and drove on to another destination.
Some of you might have noticed I didn’t give a description of the guy. Maybe one or two of you are thinking that race was a factor in my decision to drive off. Well, it was. Let me just say this: after I graduated from high school, every single time I have felt like I might need to fight and every single time I’ve chosen to get outta Dodge it was because of a white man. Every. Single. Time. The one time when someone touched me inappropriately? He was a white man. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m white – even down to my surname. That’s not to say that I will never be touched, assaulted or verbally abused by anyone else. And no, I don’t hate white men. I’ve got plenty of ’em as friends and one of ’em for keeps (my husband), so there!
Back to our regularly scheduled programming.
YES, I “know Karate.” It’s not magic, folks. Even though my training gives me a better chance of survival, I could be disfigured, crippled, raped, and/or fatally wounded anyway. Karate doesn’t stop bullets and knife wounds are nasty. NO, I do NOT want to prove myself in the streets (that is to say the rational part of me doesn’t want to). Us karateka are not trained to pick fights. We are trained to respect others – and picking a fight is disrespectful. Driving away is the opposite of picking a fight. So… I guess in a twisted way I showed respect to the guy.
Wait… Whaaaat? I showed respect to some guy who gave me the heebie jeebies? Some jerk who’s up to no good isn’t worthy of respect, right? Well, so what if I showed him a bit of respect? It didn’t cost me anything but a bit more gas to drive to another park five minutes away. Frankly, it was the best I could do for him.
Let’s say I was wrong about that guy. I know myself. I would have entered that situation with adrenaline pumping, suspicious to the core. Sure, I’d have listened to whatever request he made. But no matter how reasonable the request or how easy it would have been to grant it, more than likely I would’ve snapped, “Nope, sorry. Can’t help you. Good luck.” I’d have been edging away from him the whole time. I would have let my silly little dog yap away (there are times when I do NOT tell my dog to shut the heck up). How would any of that have been respectful?
What about my right to receive respect? What about my right to walk my dog in a public park? Yes, I have those rights, but I choose my battles. If someone threatens my family member all bets are off. That’s worth fighting for. But let’s say that I put exactly that high value on my right to go to the park of my choice.
Let’s say I got out of my car. Let’s say that guy attacked me. Let’s say I sent him to the hospital or the morgue. There’s a good chance I’d have to explain my actions in court.
What would the judge ask?
“Why didn’t you just drive away? There are other parks within five minute’s drive of where you were.”
I’d be in trouble. Big time. You see, there’s such a thing as accountability. If you’re carrying a gun you can’t just discharge it anytime you want. Same goes for fighting skills. “Self defense” wouldn’t have held water in this case. Self defense was me avoiding the situation altogether. All anyone can truly say is I was rude. I’ll own that but I won’t feel guilty for it.
Maybe it was rude of me to spray a bit of dust and gravel over the guy’s trousers. That’s how close he was when I pulled out. But I’d have been pretty rude to him anyway even if I’d talked to him. Something I’ve heard in almost every self defense class I’ve attended is us women want to be polite and there are people who will take advantage of that. The part of me that wanted to be polite did yammer a bit as I drove to the next park. At the same time, the dark part of me, the part of me that would love to prove myself in battle, grumbled and growled. Folks, I’m human. This is why we have areas of our brains that are dedicated to being reasonable and rational. Karate is one way of training those reasonable and rational parts of our psyche. As a bonus, you get a good workout 🙂
Update: Two weeks after I wrote the draft for this post, I saw the guy again, two miles away from where I’d seen him last. He was shirtless (good thing the weather was nice) and waving his arms around, discussing something very animatedly with absolutely no one. I pity him and hope he gets the help he needs.
P. S. – if you think avoiding a totally unnecessary fight is cowardly, you need help. Seriously. Get counseling before you get thrown in jail.