Why Today’s Run Left Me Tired
A couple of times a week I work from a café I love. It’s got delicious food and drinks, a perfect energetic vibe, wonderful staff, and it’s gorgeous, sunny exposed brick in an old renovated silk mill. Like many old mills, it was built along a river.
On the opposite side of the river is a trail that was built recently to honor a local sculptor. It’s really well done – wide and paved, with large sculptures, a dog park, and views of the water. It’s a great place to run. A perfect way to end a day spent tapping away at a screen. And it was perfect today. Except for the bit where a fisherman catcalled me as I ran past.
I don’t know why it bothered me. That sort of thing happens. It doesn’t matter whether you’re 14 or 40, whether you look good or bad, whether it’s the middle of the night or broad daylight, whether it’s a city street or a creek in the woods.
Creepy men yell weird things at women. They just do. Often it’s much creepier and weirder. This, even in my own very small sphere of experience, was nothing.
Maybe I had a lifetime tolerance limit and today I reached it. I don’t know. At first, I kept running and pretended I didn’t hear it. As you do.
But then I stopped. For some reason, for the first time in my life really, I just desperately wanted to go back and confront him.
Now, not being an idiot – or, at least, being an idiot with a decade of self-defense training – I knew it’d be dumb to provoke an altercation in a secluded place with a man who’d proven himself to be aggressive.
So I didn’t. I talked myself out of it and kept going. But I just kept getting more angry. And again, I don’t know why. Why should this one time bother me?
But then, that itself started to bother me. Because… shouldn’t it bother me? When a man, unprovoked, gives me cause to feel unsafe, we agree that the acceptable response is to pretend that it isn’t happening?
When I got back, I came across my friend the café owner with his dog. I mentioned it, and they sympathized. (Well, he did; I choose to believe the dog did too. Though they’re both tall. I have a feeling neither of them is often physically intimidated.) He said maybe I should have confronted him. So I kept thinking.
And I did go back. I drove there, slowly looking for the fisherman. I didn’t want to yell. I wanted to give him the chance to see that the things he said, probably thoughtlessly, really created a problem.
I didn’t see him. I never got back my chance to say anything.
So what’s the point of my story? I don’t really know why I’m telling it. It’s a terrible story. No exciting climax, no satisfying resolution, no profound moral.
By the way, I do get that not seeing him is definitely not the worst outcome, and is probably safest for me.
It’s just that, for some reason, today, I am completely tired. As the author Sarah Hagi put it: “God give me the confidence of a mediocre white dude.” I am tired of making room for mediocre white dudes to create problems. To BE problems. To take up so much more space than they deserve.
I have spent an annoying amount of mental energy this evening on an interaction when I’m sure that guy barely even remembers this moment happened. And that’s the exhausting problem.
He gets to try to make people feel scared and unsafe – for fun? out of habit? – with zero cause, zero effort, zero repercussions. Because he hasn’t been held responsible for acting civilized, he doesn’t. Because we’re accustomed to letting people like that be problematic, they are. We believe it’s easier and safer to be quietly upset than rationally confrontational.
But it isn’t. Not in the long run. In the long run, it’s far harder and more dangerous. Because as we all know, ignoring small bad things enables much bigger and worse things.
So maybe that’s why I’m telling this annoyingly useless story.
Because today maybe I should have spoken up. Because maybe I should have spoken up all of the other times. Because maybe everyone else should have spoken up, all of their other times.
But most of all, because there are so many times. So exhaustingly many. And writing this down doesn’t change a single one. But maybe it’s even just worth facing that. Instead of pretending it doesn’t exist.