Thursday, March 19, 2009

What Part of "Stranger Danger" Do You Not Understand, Idiot?











We grow up in an environment where we are told not to talk to strangers. We hear stories about children who are snatched from their beds, from shopping carts, from playgrounds. We see Today Show reports every week about the new ploys child snatchers are using to lure children into their cars. No T-shirts with your name on them. No helping anyone look for his lost dog. No eating Halloween candy that looks like it's been tampered with. My parents did a good job. I was told about every single person who could potentially do me harm and how to avoid those people. My dad once handed me $10 and told me to put it in my pocket because, "If someone tries to take your money from your hand and you won't let go of it, he'll just take you instead." You know what? It worked. I was scared of strangers as a child, and I'm still scared of strangers as an adult.

I am terrified of vans with tinted windows. I'm scared of dark playgrounds and seedy bars. I'm afraid of men with so much facial hair, you probably wouldn't be able to identify them in a lineup if they shaved. So, why is it so hard for people who are strangers to me to understand why I prefer to not speak to them?

Yesterday afternoon, I was on my way back from the library and I passed this panhandler that I see probably every day. I've never spoken to him. And yet yesterday he decided was the day to get offended that I ignore him. As I walked by, he said, "So you're just not going to even look at me? Is that it?"

No, panhandler guy. I'm not. You know why? Because I don't know who you are. You could be a rapist or a murderer or someone who sleeps with his dead mother's corpse at night. Maybe you aren't any of those things. Maybe you really are just a guy who is down on his luck and needs some spare change to buy yourself some dinner. But I choose not to chance it. That doesn't make me a bad person. It makes me a safe person. It makes me self-aware. I don't feel sympathy when I look at you. I feel fear and distrust. And there is nothing wrong with that, so stop being an assface.

I once watched this Dateline special about keeping your children safe and talking to them about strangers. And there was this one kid who, when the stranger approached him, stood on top of the jungle gym and screamed his head off. The stranger didn't even speak to him first. This kid took no chances with this person who could potentially do him harm. As far as I'm concerned, he had the right idea. If having that attitude is wrong, I'm fine with being wrong. I'm okay with offending panhandlers and homeless people and guys who just give me a weird vibe. If it keeps me safe, then I will continue to be unfriendly to strangers.

If you have a problem with that, panhandler guy, maybe you would like to take it up with this can of pepper spray?

11 comments:

lalaland13 said...

I love your attitude, because I have pretty much the same one. I figure all strange men are out to attack/rape/kill me unless proven otherwise.

Once I was in the parking lot after a late night at work, and some guy comes up to my car and taps on the window or says "Excuse me" or some such. I freak the eff out, and drop the phone on which I'm talking to my mom. Thankfully my doors were already locked (I try to lock em as soon as I get in and start the car). While I'm frantically putting the car in reverse and trying to get out of there, he's all "No no I'm not going to hurt you!" To that I would say: You're a man. You can always hurt me.

Once I even gave the brush-off to a guy in a scooter who seemed to be disabled and approached me asking for help unloading something from a car. I told him they might want to ask someone in the apartment office. Maybe I'm paranoid and heartless, but oh well. If you don't know well enough not to approach a single woman in a dark parking lot, I don't trust you.

nadarine said...

@lalaland13: DUDE! do you not remember the beginning of "Silence of the Lambs"?!? The "please help the crippled guy unload things from the car" ploy!
Who knew that it was an educational film?

The Honorable Mayor of Bethville said...

@nadarine: Every single time I hear the song "American Girl," I get a little bit scared.

@lalaland13: There is nothing wrong with being cautious. We are given instincts for a reason. If something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't.

bubblegumculture.com said...

I'm so freaked out by strangers too. And honestly, if I were a man, I wouldn't even go there at all because you have to know most women see you as a threat. I don't care how nice and harmless you look. Look at Ted Bundy. Or that BTK guy. Just because you look like you might not kill or hurt me, doesn't mean you won't.

I never feel bad about being perceived as "rude" if it saves me from being a victim. No woman should.

Anonymous said...

You have some serious issues there. You're far more likely to be struck by lighting than having an encounter with a stranger who wants to hurt you. If I was in your neighbourhood and saw you walking down the street from time to time, I'd eventually nod my head otherwise formally greet you, aknowledging the fact that I recognise your face, and that you're a human, too. If I was being ignored at that point, I'd be pretty annoyed, but wouldn't talk to you anymore as a result.

Anonymous said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IfrSoiaLixg

The Honorable Mayor of Bethville said...

@anonymous: You are a man. Just based on that comment, I know this to be a fact. And I'm not saying that in any sort of dismissive ball-beating way. But when you walk down the street at night, your fears are different from mine. You might be mugged. But there is almost no chance at all of someone violating you in a way that is more personal than that. Women deal with the fear of that happening every single day. It's not "issues" as you put it. It's a healthy level of paranoia that comes with being a woman. I prefer to fly under the radar when it comes to strangers, just like I prefer to stay indoors when there's a lightning storm.

Greta said...

I didn't have to worry about stranger danger. I was a fat kid, and every stranger knows fat kids are harder to kidnap.

Julia said...

I fully support always being afraid of strange men, and I do not care if men think I'm a bitch because I ignore them if I'm by myself. I am little, and weak, and easy to kidnap so my only line of defense is taking no chances with strangers.

Galadriel said...

Can I just say (entering this issue at such a late date) just because you think you are weaker than a man, it doesn't mean you are. Most women are as strong as most men; because women perceive themselves as weaker, they act weaker. You are strong! You are as strong as a man! You can totally kick a man's ass if you need to!

The Honorable Mayor of Bethville said...

@galadriel: While I agree that women have the ability to fight back and should, I think the point is that it's best to avoid that kind of situation to begin with.