Thursday, May 22, 2014

The woman sitting in her car

I read something once, one of those scare-tastic articles about protecting yourself against assault, that tells women all the things they do wrong. You've read them. You've probably read too many. They piss me off at this point, and are one of the reasons my window coverings are semi-transparent and I always have headphones in while I walk, unescorted, at night, wearing skirts. I hate anti-rape advice. MEN ARE ANIMALS ONLY YOU CAN PREVENT FOREST FIRES.
One article talked about women sitting in their cars.
"Take a look around a parking lot," it declared. "Men park, get out of their cars, and walk away. They walk purposefully and directly to their cars, then immediately drive away. Women sit in their cars, balancing checkbooks, putting on lipstick. This makes them targets."
When I read this, at 23 or whatever, I thought, "Shit. I don't do that. How stupid. Women are dumb."
I'm 38 now. I park 1/3 of a mile from my apartment, in a structure. I commute 30 minutes each way on the freeway. I get home, many nights, after work bs and commute bs and downtown traffic and navigating the crazies flying full throttle around the sharp corners of the structure, to park in a different spot every night. I turn off the car, and I'm tired. Cars are a crappy video game I hate playing. And then there is the video game of lugging all my stuff home through the undergrads. I need a few minutes to check my armor. It's heavy, and dented. I sit in my car and look at Facebook.
And I think about being a target. GO GO GO. Always keep moving. Don't sit still. Don't relax.
And my 30something mantra rears its head. Fuck you.
My sister told me about the Fuck You stage. I thought I was there already, years ago. But it keeps getting stronger every year. My Fuck Youishness. 
Fuck being a target. Fuck making other people comfortable. Fuck being on guard all the time. Fuck you.
I had this couples therapy session once and the therapist asked me what I most wanted to say to my partner and my answer was "I want to tell him, 'Fuck you.'" I think the therapist was shocked. Maybe my partner too. I know I was. It's not nice to tell someone you love to fuck off. I'm not the "fuck you" kind of person. That's my sister. My brother. Not me. I'm nice. I make people happy. I smile & try to make people laugh & like me.
When I heard my sister talk about the 35-ish disease of the fuck-yous, I translated it to mean I would be more confident, less concerned about the opinions of others, more able to chart my own course. I thought I was already there in my early 30s. I was confident. I knew who I was, I knew or was learning what I wanted. I wasn't afraid to ask for what I needed.
But the fuck-yous turned out to be different. They are, at least for me, about distancing myself from the emotional needs of others. They are my own teenage phase, which I missed somewhere along the line. 
I don't care what you think.
I dare you.
So I sit in my car, and try to pull the emotional strength together to go back out in the world. To still be not-home, not-safe, not-vulnerable. I don't have the energy to spend so much of my day, 10-14 hours, in armor. Armor is uncomfortable. 
And I think about women, my sisters. How much time we spend pleasing or being pleasant. How much time we spend being bled. How tired we are. Is it any wonder we want to be in the bathroom, in the parked car? I don't want to have anyone call my name, or touch me wanting something, or ask me anything. 
I think about the scene from Jesus Christ Superstar, where he pleads with the crowd to leave him alone. My nightmare about teaching. I can feel the panic rise sometimes. Stop. Stop.
But it's more than just the kids. It's the commute, and the neighbors, and the drivers running me over. The politics. It's that sometimes I need a safe space where I am right now, because I just can't go any farther without a timeout. If you try to give me a hard time about it, I've got two words for you.
I'm going to watch the sunset from my parked car. I'm going to actively unclench my jaw. I'm not going to read your bullshit article that wants me to be afraid. I'm the woman you see sitting in her car. Not ignorant. But learning to measure herself.

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