Saying No to Strangers

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Today I have another post in the series about the difficulties of raising daughters. As I have said before, I myself have my very first daughter who is close to two, and after two boys and a lot of research into women and society, I have found that I have my work cut out for me with my little princess. For more posts in this series, click here and here and here.
 
So here is my story: The other day I took my car to the dealership because it was having some issues. I ended up hanging out in the waiting room while they did the diagnostic. (Why did I do that? That was stupid. It will only be one hour, they said. Only two more hours, they said. UGH) Anyway, since I was spending an eternity in there, people came and went. A man and his young daughter came in and sat down next to me. The little girl immediately opened a magazine and started showing me all of the pictures. She stood right next to me and we read a bunch of magazines together, talked about our favorite colors, her next birthday (she is four, going on five next month!) and how her mom is having another baby soon. Her dad played on his phone and looked up periodically. One particularly fabulous moment was when we were looking at beautiful homes in a magazine, and she said: “I like this house. I would like for my dad to buy this house for me. You know, my dad is a bad dad, do you know why? Because he says bad words A LOT.” And of course I started cracking up. The poor guy’s face just blanched and he chuckled uncomfortably and went back to his phone without saying anything. I love kids. 
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After probably an hour or so of talking to her, they finally told me that they would need to keep my car overnight for the repairs that needed to be done. I sighed and called Steve to see who could pick me up. He was stuck in traffic quite a ways away, but he called his parents and one of them stayed with the kiddos and one left to come grab me. The traffic was horrid in both directions so I knew it was going to be awhile until I got home.
  
Shortly after, the guy sitting next to me was told his vehicle was done. He stood up to walk to the counter, and when he took out his keys, I noticed that he had a membership card on his key chain to the same gym that I belong to. That’s interesting because it’s the only one in the area, so I figured he probably lived in the same town as me. I showed him my matching key chain and asked him if he lives in Maple Valley. He immediately answered “Yeah, I do! I heard you on the phone. Do you need a ride home? We are headed there right now, I can drop you off.”
  
It only took a few seconds for me to answer. “No, I’ve actually got someone coming, thanks so much though!” And he said “Okay, no problem. Have a good trip to the Maple!” Whatever the hell that was, I don’t even know. I’ve never heard of the town being referred to like that, but he was being rushed out the door by his daughter and maybe the cat had his tongue.
  
As I sat back down to wait for my ride, I started wondering if maybe I should have just said yes and taken the ride. It would have saved a lot of time on my part, and a lot of time and effort on the people watching my kids and giving me rides. It would have saved gas and I may have even made a new friend for my kids, since they live in our school district, after all. What was stopping me? When a strange man asks to give me a ride somewhere, my knee-jerk reaction will always be to say no. Only fools get in cars with strangers. You are taught that when you’re a child, especially if you’re a little girl. Little girls fall victim far too often, so we learn to protect ourselves early on. Never get into a car with a stranger, no matter how nice he (or she) seems, or what they say to you. Don’t even converse or acknowledge them. Just find an adult and/or get out of there. 
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But now I AM the adult. And you would think that some of the things that I used to protect myself as a child aren’t needed anymore. I’ve grown older, bigger and a lot stronger. I know more about the world. I am a better judge of character. And yet, that still sticks with me. When I am in a situation like that, my brain takes only about four seconds to assess the situation and go through all of the possible scenarios of what could happen in mind. That’s not a joke. That’s all the amount of time it takes to determine that this is a not a situation I want to put myself in, and some of the reasons why.
 
What if he tries to hit on me? What if I say something he doesn’t like and he gets angry? What if he decides he doesn’t want to take me all the way home and just leaves me somewhere random? What if he steals my purse and phone and abandons me? What if I get kidnapped? Molested? Beaten? Raped? Murdered? What are the different ways he could carry out each of those things? Do I have a way out? If I did take the ride, how do I find out as much as possible about him without looking suspicious and be able to communicate that to Steve in case something happens? Would he rape me with his child looking on? What if his child is a decoy to get unsuspecting women to ride in his car so he can rape them? Okay I know that last one was stupid. Shut up.
  
Now, I realize the likelihood of any of those things happening is very small. There is a reason that rapes and murders make national headlines, and it’s because they aren’t the norm. In fact, women are more likely to be raped or hurt by someone they know rather than a complete stranger. And yet, the knowledge and the warnings have stayed the same, and I will always say no to a ride from a strange man.
  
I can guess what a lot of you are thinking. That I am crazy, and that I am letting sensational headlines and television shows cloud my judgment. Maybe that my feminism makes me a man-hater. That I am using that bias to judge all men. None of that would surprise me.
  
Steve definitely laughed and rolled his eyes when I told him my thought process. He thinks I am paranoid, and maybe I am. I probably am. But I have to say, sex crimes and violence against women are still pretty common national headlines pretty much daily. So maybe my fears aren’t really that unfounded.
  
So what does this mean for my own daughter? I guess I am wondering what it’s going to be like in a decade when I go through all of this with her. How much of my knowledge will I be passing on to her, and how much she will actually have to utilize? And how much more will she need by then? How will things for women evolve over the next ten years? We blame women for their own rapes based on the clothes they’re wearing, the looks they give, the words they say, even when they explicitly say no! How much am I going to have to explain to her so that she can protect herself? Excuse me for being a little sarcastic here, but there is so much involved in teaching a little girl not to get raped and murdered. 
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Not to mention, I then have to teach her somehow not to mistrust all men she comes across. She has to know how to determine which men can be trusted and which can’t. And she can’t take all of that mistrust and let it make her bitter against men, either. She somehow has to have just enough caution to keep herself safe and just enough trust to still let people in. Piece of cake. If I can’t even make that distinction myself, how am I going to teach that to my daughter?
  
I don’t have a conclusion for this post. Honestly, I am counting on Steve to step in and help with this sort of situation, because a lot of the things that she needs to know in order to trust men will come from him. I expect him to show her that she deserves respect and kindness, that she should feel comfortable saying no, but also to know that there are some really amazing men out there for her, whether it be for a friend or a romantic partner. I know she will be taught this, because her dad is one of those really amazing men. Compassion, gentleness and affection are just a few of the characteristics that make her dad special. I know that she is one of those lucky girls who isn’t going to grow up with any “daddy issues” that are going to keep her from experiencing intimacy or trusting men. Because of the way her dad will raise her, she won’t have to look at every man and visualize how they could hurt her. As an adult, she will look back on her childhood and see a doting father that both adored her and respected her as a human being. She will know her worth and she will accept nothing less than what she is worth. Because of the amazing man her father is, she will have all of the tools she needs at her disposal when she has to make a decision like the one I waffled over at the dealership.
  
So I guess there is a conclusion to this, and it’s that my daughter is very lucky, because she’s got the best dad in the world. And I guess that makes me pretty lucky, too.
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