#MeToo is long overdue, but I still want more.
One afternoon in my early twenties, I went to a local lake. Alone. I was approached by two young men as I lay reading a book on a dock. They didn’t harass me, but our exchange was uncomfortable.
One morning about a year later, I walked through a quiet city park. Alone. I was followed and approached by a man in a car. Nearly stopping as his car cruised by me, he made deliberate eye contact, and drove on. Click here to read about that experience.
One late afternoon several months after that, I went for a run through my neighborhood. Alone. I was flashed by a man on foot. He passed by me, and I ran in the opposite direction. About a month later, I had changed to running about an hour before dusk. One Sunday, he flashed me again from an adjacent alley as I ran by. Alone.
All of these occurrences happened many years ago, when I was in my mid-twenties. Even though they’re in my past, there’s one thing I still experience frequently: fear.
There are a handful of activities that I fear doing alone. Taking a hike is an example. Seriously, I just want to hike alone.
A few miles from our house, there’s a wilderness refuge and sometimes I just want to take off, drive the fifteen minutes north, exit off the highway, descend the tree-covered lane to the parking lot, get out of my car, and hike. Of course, my husband or one of my kids would go with me, but occasionally, I just want to go it alone.
Not safe. Not smart. You never know what could happen. You never know who you might meet – a young couple, a pair of women, a man, three men – on that trail that crosses a babbling creek, then narrows to a winding path before snaking up a steep hill to a pioneer homesite surrounded by a few gravestones.
But I don’t go. I stay home. There are some things I simply won’t do alone. If you’re a woman, you understand this. Maybe you feel it instinctively or maybe, like me, you’ve been approached, followed, watched when you were alone. If you’re a man, you may not even be aware of this freedom that you have to venture out alone.
So when I read these days about #MeToo and how women are unifying and being heard, I remember that, despite the charges, firings, and destroyed careers that signal a monumental shift is occurring for women, I still must be careful when I’m out alone.
I must always be aware of my surroundings. I must vary my routine or make arrangements to go with a friend or just cancel. I must bend myself around the bad behavior of men, most of whom are more powerful and stronger than me.
Yes, #MeToo is good, justified, and long overdue; however, I want more. I want the freedom that men enjoy. I want to go anywhere I want. Alone.