The Best Self-Defense Advice I Ever Heard

So!! Yesterday I realized I needed (“needed”) to go to Ricky’s to get some things (“things”) for a wedding (“wedding”) this weekend. You know, very crucial purchases like hair clips (for clipping your hair) and shapewear (for wearing your shape? Idk). But it was so hot and I am such a ~delicate flower~ that I decided to wait and go after sunset; still sweaty, but less of a risk of sunstroke, that was my logic.

The walk there was just a little dim but on the walk back it was getting quite dark, so I did all those paranoid things I do when I’m walking in a well-lit, well-populated, but still unfamiliar neighborhood, after dark: I took off my headphones, for one thing, and just tried to keep my EYES OPEN because you NEVER KNOW. And as I approached one corner I could see and hear this old guy trying to get my attention, like “hi hello” or whatever, and I just pretended I didn’t see or hear him, but as we crossed each other at the intersection he REACHED OUT AND TOUCHED MY WRIST, like he was going to wrap his fingers around it or something, and I instinctively raised my huge Ricky’s bag to do…I don’t know what!! Maybe hit him in the face. He laughed and put his hands up and was like, “ok ok yeesh!” As though I was somehow crazy or crazed. Which I was, and am, but that’s hardly the point. I just left and floated on my rage vibes all the way home.

Recently, as well, I was at a bar and a man came up beside me and…I don’t even want to type this!! But I’m going to!! He put his hand on my neck. Like, to get my attention. And I screamed, if only because of the shock that comes when a strange hand touches your fucking neck. He was very apologetic and got the hell out of there, because no one likes a screaming blonde, but it was…gross.

I mean, women know this; women talk about this all the time. And I have complicated feelings about the whole thing. Sometimes it’s nice to have a person compliment your appearance, or strike up a conversation with you, and sometimes people genuinely don’t realize that they’re crossing a line with regards to your personal boundaries or whatever. But you know what? Everyone should still keep their hands to their goddamned self.

When I was in elementary school we had a never-ending parade of self-defense instructors who would come in and teach us to be really paranoid and suspicious of literally everyone, which I guess is a good thing, because kids are so dumb sometimes and will trust basically anyone. And I have this very clear memory of one instructor, in what I think was a room of only the girls in the class, tell us that “girls are more afraid of being rude than they are of their own instincts.” And I never, ever, forgot that, because it’s true. And hearing it stated so plainly didn’t change anything for me, and not much has changed; I still put up with a lot of shit from people who scare me, if only because I don’t even know if my instincts are correct or if I’m just being a bitch, which is a really destructive mentality! Like, yeah, it would suck if a guy at a bar thought I was a bitch, but not as much as…the alternative. Whatever that might be.

The other advice I got, many years later, was when some cities started restricting the sale of pepper spray to consumers, because it was too dangerous. At a high school gym class, a speaker told us instead to carry a travel-sized bottle of hairspray, because even if we panicked and sprayed ourselves it wouldn’t do much damage, and if we sprayed someone who was scaring us they’d be so stunned and assume it was pepper spray, and that minute of confusion would buy us some time to run away. Beauty products!! What can’t they do?

These are really, really bleak tips, but…hopefully they help! At the very least, having them handy feels like taking back a bit of control.