Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Walking and Women

I’ve been lengthening my walk, sometimes going up to six or more miles a day, and it’s been amazing the things I’ve noticed, particularly when encountering others during my strolls. Here are a few.

  • Most women, when they see a largish man headed their way on the sidewalk, have predictable reactions. If alone, they look down at a spot five or six feet in front of them and pass by without a word.
  • One, I swear, began muttering the Lord’s Prayer as we crossed paths.  I sincerely hope it was not because she felt threatened, but I suspect it was.
  • When traveling in pairs, women’s conversations get instantly more intense if they encounter a man on the trail.
  • When they encounter two men, I suspect they feel safer since two men walking together means the men are gay and therefore pose no threat.
  • Asian women look right through you. They are in a different universe.
  • Except for older Asian women. One barred her teeth and hissed at me yesterday, I swear. It sounded like a leaky gas valve, or maybe a sibilant cockroach from Madagascar.
  • Women with dogs will rein them in. Men with dogs will not.
  • Women will not say “Good Morning,” but they may mouth the words.
  • They very seldom return a smile. Occasionally they glare, as if they’re really pissed off.

All of which I don’t really understand as I am not a particularly prepossessing kind of guy.  I wear a small knapsack, shorts and a t-shirt. I have no tattoos, though I do have a large ear ring. Also, I am not in the flower of my youth. I like to think I look friendly rather than menacing.

The funny thing is, a woman friend who is a trained martial arts fighter (I am persuaded she could annihilate most opponents, male or otherwise) told me recently that in all the women’s defense classes she has attended and taught, maintaining eye contact with a possible aggressor is one of the better ways of avoiding being aggressed.  That makes perfect sense—looking subservient, scared, or evasive invites bullying behavior…

I think it’s sad we’ve come to this. We’ve really become a frightened society, and perhaps it’s for a good reason. But I do miss the greetings, smiles, and even the occasional conversation one would expect not that loping ago from chance encounters. Another sign we’re heading downhill, I fear.

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