One Size Does Not Fit All

One Size Does Not Fit All

Newsflash…Men and Women Think Differently!

You’re shocked, I’m sure.

It’s so cliché, but women view their social interactions differently than men. Especially when it comes to situational awareness and self-defense. The passion for my work comes from wanting to bring the conversation about self-defense from a women’s perspective mainstream. There’s not a better way to do that than to talk about my own personal experiences.

Let Me Set the Stage

I’m a car geek. My love for the sound of an engine roaring, the smell of a mechanic’s garage, and the look of a sleek body style came from my Dad. It started at an early age and has stayed with me over the years. My husband came across a ’72 Mach I Mustang for sale a few years ago and within 48 hours, we were in the process of purchasing it. There are some things that still need work, but it’s drivable and we enjoy taking it out on date nights.

We live in Minnesota and the days are getting shorter and colder (hello winter). When we heard a local establishment was having their final car show of the summer, we took the Mustang out for her potentially last cruise. When we arrived, the parking lot was packed with cars. Fortunately, we were able to get one of the last “show” spots and proceeded to walk around and chat with other car fanatics. As we were walking around, I spotted someone I thought I recognized in the crowd. I wasn’t sure though, so I didn’t wave and say hello.

Meet Fred

For the sake of ease, I’m going to call this guy Fred.

We continued to walk around, and I spotted Fred again. This time, he noticed my husband and I, so he started making his way over to us. As he got closer, I noticed his appearance had changed since the last time I’d seen him. The way his eyes looked and some of his mannerisms told me he was in an altered state.

I’m not talking like Fred had had a couple drinks, I’m talking something a little stronger than that. That was my first caution flag and my alertness went up a notch.

Fred walked up to my husband first and shook his hand to say hello. Then he turned to me and shook my hand and pulled me in for a one-armed hug. After we pulled apart, he said, “oh come here-what’s with the bro hug?” and proceeded to go in for another hug.

Pause

(Let’s hit pause to break down the moving parts. Our intuition processes information faster than we can consciously analyze so it’s important to slow it down after the fact to understand key signals.)

-Fred is someone my husband and I know on an acquaintance level. He’s local to our area and we’ve crossed paths with him over the last 10 years in a work environment. He’s loud and brash and seems to lack the basic social etiquette most people have.

-I had 1/10th of a second to decide whether I wanted to reluctantly accept another hug from Fred or put up my arm to physically stop him and risk his loudmouth causing a scene. I had to take in to account his altered state and how that would impact his reaction to whatever I did.

-Because everyone has access to a video camera and social media, public confrontations are quickly recorded and shared online. People who weren’t there and have no idea what happened suddenly become armchair experts and everything can get blown out of proportion.

-In that split second, I decided I would take the awkward second hug. Rest assured, I placed one of my feet between his two feet to give my knee a clear path to his groin. I always keep my offensive moves ready to go as discreetly as possible.

Resume

The second hug ended in an acceptable amount of time, but not without a comment from Fred.

“Now that’s a real hug. None of that one-arm bullshit.” To which I replied, “You were the one to reach out for a handshake.”

The reason I mention this detail is because it was my way of vocally calling out his actions and being clear that I was fully present and aware of his movements.

I had zero interest in continuing a conversation with Fred and I could tell my husband felt the same way. As a segue, I mentioned out loud that something smelled good which cued my husband to say, “let’s get inside and find something to eat”.

Pause

-Removing yourself from a conversation with someone who makes you feel uncomfortable doesn’t have to be rude. In fact, I recommend keeping it as nonchalant as possible. There’s no reason to escalate a situation to make your point.

-Ladies, an easy go-to is saying you need to use the restroom. The creep will not be able to follow you there without A LOT of people noticing and asking questions. *Disclaimer* Before you use this line, make sure the situation is favorable to you. You don’t want to be going to a bathroom that is secluded and away from the public eye.

-Because Fred was standing right there, I couldn’t out right say, “he’s making me uncomfortable, let’s get out of here.”

Resume

My husband and I turned and walked into the establishment. As I mentioned earlier, it was the last car show for the year, so the place was packed. Once we got through the entrance, we were met with a wall of people.

Much to my dismay, when my husband and I stopped and turned to stand shoulder-to-shoulder facing the crowd, Fred walked up right beside us. In my head, I groaned. Great, he followed us inside.

Pause

-My husband was on my left, there was a wall of people in front of me and Fred was on my right.

-I was positioned so I could keep an eye on Fred. If someone is making you uncomfortable, DO NOT let them get behind you and out of your sight.

-I gently put my hand on the inside of my husband’s elbow which caused him to look towards me and he noticed Fred standing there.

Resume

All of a sudden, Fred pulled his keys out of his pocket and held up his keychain. He looked at me and said, “want to pet my lucky rabbit’s foot?”

I’m not joking. You can’t make this shit up.

Pause

-Because of the crowd, I could not physical remove myself from the area. I needed to be firm and direct with my answer to Fred.

-My husband was watching, so I knew he was aware of what was taking place.

-Pet your rabbit’s foot keychain? Uhm, that would be a hard no.

Resume

I looked at Fred and said, “No”.

Fred looked at me and said, “Why not? It doesn’t stink!”, and then proceeded to lift the keychain to his nose and inhaled deeply.

My husband grabbed my hand and said, “let’s go, I see a spot for the two of us” and while he said this, he pulled me in front of him, positioning himself between me and Fred.

I had no idea which direction we were going but I knew to keep walking to get lost in the sea of people and away from Fred. We stopped at a table of friends and both of us did a quick scan to see if Fred was following (he wasn’t).

After chatting for a few minutes with our friends, we realized it was way too crowded to try and find a place to sit and order food, so we decided to leave.  We left the establishment without crossing paths with Fred and the topic wasn’t brought up the rest of the night.

Let’s Discuss

The next night at home, I asked my husband for his opinion on the interactions with Fred. We had a great discussion on our observations of Fred’s mental state, the point at which my husband knew I was uncomfortable, and if we would have done anything differently. I was able to share all the different thoughts that went through my head and why sometimes telling a guy “no” is not so simple. Context matters.

I wanted to share all of this because I think it’s important to have real conversations about how and why women look at situations differently than men.

There is no “one size fits all” answer when it comes to self-defense for women. Every situation will have many nuances and each woman will orientate herself differently in the situation.

So Remember…

Ladies-if you’re looking for the perfect way to handle every situation, there isn’t one. You need to decide the best option for you in that moment and take action.

Gentleman-if you are telling the women in your life exactly what they need to do in different situations, you are doing them a disservice. They will see things differently than you and the actions they feel comfortable taking will probably be different too.

Let’s Be Real

I’m not going to stop doing things I love because I worry about being in uncomfortable situations. I’m going to continue learning techniques to spot potentially threatening situations before they happen and mentally practice how I would respond in different scenarios.

And I’m going to continuing sharing everything I learn with you.

You’ll see me at the car shows next summer. 😉

“Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.”

-President Theodore Roosevelt

“How the heck is a flashlight going to help you?”

“How the heck is a flashlight going to help you?”

The question came from an older woman in the crowd. She was also laughing and shaking her head when she heckled me from the audience. I had just held up my palm sized, pink, J5 Tactical Flashlight and told the entire room it was my favorite personal safety tool.

Since I absolutely love my tactical flashlight and always carry it with me, I wasn’t fazed. In fact, I welcomed the opportunity to go more in depth on WHY a small, compact flashlight is a great self-defense tool for women.

It Fits in the Palm of My Hand

I can comfortably hold and conceal the flashlight in my hand when I’m walking down the street. I can hold on to it and put my hands in my coat pockets without being obvious that I’m holding it (which draws attention to you and makes you look like YOU have something to hide). Its compact size also fits in my clutch purse on date nights and when I go out with friends. Let’s face it, there’s not a lot of room in those small handbags and I don’t want to go anywhere without a tool for protection.

It’s Heavy Duty

This is not a plastic flashlight. It’s made of aircraft-grade aluminum and is impact and water resistant. I keep it in my handbag and as the mom of two small boys, I have a lot of random stuff being thrown in there.

(Basically-I’m ready for anything. Did you spill lunch on your shirt? I have a Tide pen. Need a band-aide? I have a mini first aid kit. Hungry or thirsty? I have snacks and drinks. Need small, metal cars to keep your kids occupied?                                  Would you like a car or a truck?)

Also-J5 Tactical offers a lifetime guarantee on their flashlights, no questions asked.

It Can Go Everywhere

On a work trip to Washington D.C. last year, a friend and I planned a morning run to the Washington Memorial before the conference started. I brought my Mace Sport Model (it has a strap to secure the spray to your hand) to bring on the run. On the way home, I got stopped by TSA because I forgot to transfer the Mace from my handbag to my checked luggage. The male TSA agent said, “I’m really sorry to have to take this because I think all women should carry Mace, but I can’t let you get on the airplane with it.” You know what he didn’t have to take? The tactical flashlight that was also in my handbag.

I’ve gone to outdoor music festivals on the beach, caught professional baseball games in stadiums, attended rock concerts in large and small venues, and flown to other countries-all with the tactical flashlight in my handbag.

It Uses AA Batteries

At home, I have a bazillion AA batteries because just about every one of my kid’s toys that need batteries, takes that size. Having a self-defense tool I carry every day, use a battery I have on hand, is practical. I don’t need to search endcap displays for an obscure “ABC3241” size battery. If I’m being completely honest, if it required a special battery when it went dead, it would stay dead.

I Don’t Worry About My Kids Getting Ahold of It

If you have young kids, I’m sure they listen and obey all your rules 100% of the time…right?

(It’s a rhetorical question, don’t worry-you don’t have to answer that 😉)

Even though they’ve been told to ask before digging through my handbag, my boys love to find the snacks I mentioned earlier any time they think I’m not paying attention.

I swear we feed them!

I love not worrying about them finding my tactical flashlight and hurting themselves. Yes, they may temporarily blind each other or even themselves, but it’s not anything that won’t go away in the time it takes me to ask “what’d ya learn?”

Which leads me to the next feature I love…

It’s Really Bright

The J5 Tactical flashlight I carry is 300 lumens. It also allows you to choose from a focused or wide beam of light. To get an idea of how bright that is, a mini Maglite is typically 15 lumens at max.  Another great feature of this flashlight is it has three modes- high, low, and strobe. You can temporarily blind someone with the high or low light mode and cause disorientation with the strobe setting. This allows you to further convince a potential attacker “not me, not today”.

Who Else Has a Flashlight at Night?

In my presentations, I talk about the things potential attackers look for when selecting their victims. They watch the way you carry yourself when you walk and if you’re distracted. At night, you probably won’t see them watching you until they step out of the shadows to approach you. If you have your flashlight turned on as you walk down the street or through the parking lot, they’re going to see the beam of light before they see you. Who else has a flashlight at night? Law enforcement and security guards. An attacker is NOT going to stick around to find out if you’re a cop, they’re going to get away from the light. They don’t want to be seen!

Remember-having situational awareness is about AVOIDING a physical confrontation.

The Beveled Edge Would Leave a Mark

I like to think my cute little pink tactical flashlight is representative of me. It’s not intimidating at first glance but when you notice the beveled edge, you know it could do some damage if a situation called for it.

I hold the flashlight so my thumb rests on the button to turn it on. If I’m walking down the street during the day, the end that the light shines from is actually facing behind me. I don’t need to light my path because of the daylight so it’s in the ready position to throw a hammer punch to an arm, face, collar bone or whatever bony part of an attacker’s body is most readily available (if they’re tall, the bridge of their nose may be out of reach). My goal is to cause the most amount of pain as quickly as possible. Think about hitting your shin on something, it hurts like hell! That’s the effect I’m going for on an attacker.

At night, I hold the flashlight the other way because it’s more natural to walk down the street swinging my arms. If an attacker steps out of the shadows, it’s easy to bring my hand up and flip the flashlight so my thumb is on the button. That way, I’m ready to switch to the strobe setting if necessary and also ready to use the beveled edge as a weapon.

Oh…and it Helps Me See in the Dark

Let’s not forget that it’s also a functioning flashlight. I like things that have multiple uses because I already carry enough stuff in my handbag (see my list above).

Anyone Can Carry A Flashlight

Whether you’re just starting to think about carrying something for your personal safety or you’ve been carrying tools for years (Mace, Taser, Personal Alarm, Knife, Firearm, etc.), a tactical flashlight is something anyone and everyone should have. Do you have a sister, mom, daughter, niece, cousin, friend you care about? A tactical flashlight makes a great practical gift that they will have and use for years.

In fact, if you want to get one for yourself and one for someone you care about, send me an email and I’ll give you a deal on buying two tactical flashlights. 😊

“Never bend your head. Always hold it high. Look the world straight in the eye.”

-Helen Keller

Forget Perfect, I am Resilient

Forget Perfect, I am Resilient

You Can Do A lot of Things Right…But Not Perfect

A follower on IG messaged me last week about an incident that happened to her a few years ago.

“I love your messages on here about how to stay safe. Just a quick note that even when you do everything ‘right’, you can still be a victim. Several years ago, I was mugged in uptown in Minneapolis. It was light outside, I was walking with my head up, gave the 4 guys eye contact and smiled and as they passed me, I got jumped. I’m fine, all 4 were caught that night and were convicted. I guess the moral of the story was there are people that will find a way to be evil. And there are heros too…so just be aware. A guy across the street immediately came running (towards me) and I luckily had my cell phone in my pocket, not my purse (they took that) and I was able to call 9-1-1 and could say what each of them was wearing and what direction they were running in. Again, awareness is key, but also sometimes crap happens and it’s how you respond that can be just as important. You don’t want a false sense of security, nor to live in fear.”

When I asked her what the one thing she would want all women to learn from her experience, she said this:

“Trust your instincts but believe in good in the world. Bad things can happen when you least expect it, but people can also surprise you and be heros too. There isn’t a perfect solution to safety, but you can take steps to be safer…but don’t let fear stop you…make it drive you forward. Truthfully-what (is) learned is you truly don’t have control…but you can control how you handle life situations.”

BOOM. Read that again, “but you can control how you handle life situations.”

Resiliency: noun

  1. The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.

It’s Not Easy

Resiliency is such an important character trait. Life is hard. We all make mistakes. We’ve all had bad things happen to us (bad being relative). The most important thing to do is to get back up and keep moving forward.

Let’s Be Real

As my husband likes to say,

“Bad things almost always happen to bad people. Unfortunately, sometimes bad things happen to good people.”

We can get caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Maybe it’s the late-night trip to the store to pick up the class snack your kid just told you they need tomorrow. Maybe it’s having to stop at that creepy gas station at night because you completely forgot to fill up your tank earlier in the day. Maybe it’s making the smart decision to get a taxi after two glasses of wine with friends, only to have the driver start making inappropriate comments.

Cue the Armchair Warriors

All the armchair warriors of the world can dissect your choices AFTER the fact and from the comfort of their own home. The truth is, we all make better decisions with hindsight.  Sure, your kid could’ve told you earlier that they were in charge of bringing snack the next day. Of course, you could have given yourself enough time to fill up your gas tank earlier in the day. Did you need to drink to hang out with friends? (no, but I’m not one to turn down a good glass of vino-let’s be honest!)

I don’t believe there is such a thing as perfect situational awareness. For one, I’m human. Letting go of the perfectionist mentality is crucial in building my awareness skills.

What Does Perfectionism Have to do with Awareness?

Let me explain.

I am resilient. With my resilience comes the confidence that no matter what happens, I won’t give up and I’ll come back even stronger. I’ve failed at many things, but each time I’ve learned something new, and continued moving forward. I still make mistakes, and I can pretty much guarantee I’ll continue to make mistakes when it comes to my awareness. Not only do I have two small boys who are always saying “watch me mom!”, I’m also a wife who thinks about her husband, a friend who tries to be good at remembering important milestones in other’s lives, and a business owner who’s always thinking about the next thing on my to-do list. To say I’m 100% aware of my surroundings all the time, would be a lie.

You Don’t Have To Be Perfect, You Need To Be Resilient

In her article, “The Art of Resilience”, Hara Estroff Marano, states:

“Resilient people do not let adversity define them. They find resilience by moving towards a goal beyond themselves, transcending pain and grief by perceiving bad times as a temporary state of affairs.”

“It’s possible to strengthen your inner self and your belief in yourself, to define yourself as capable and competent. It’s possible to fortify your psyche. It’s possible to develop a sense of mastery.”

What I learned from all those failures is they weren’t my last chapter, just a change in my story. Contrary to what my own teenage mentality told me when I was younger, it was never the end of the world. I simply needed to pick myself back up, dust myself off, and decide what I was going to do next.

Being physically attacked is different and yet if we can use those same resiliency skills to say, “I’m not perfect and this event does not define me”, our ability to recover and help law enforcement find our attacker(s) will increase exponentially. Going back to the story shared by our follower, she was aware of her surroundings and even looked right at the attackers- and they still mugged her. Because she was resilient and quickly took control of her situation, she was able to give physical descriptions and the direction they ran to police, who were then able to apprehend and charge all 4 attackers. Kudos to her!

Going Forward

I hope you’re never in a life or death situation.

I hope you never find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I hope you practice being present and aware of your surroundings every day.

I hope you build your resilience with the knowledge that you are a fighter. That if someone is trying to bring you down, mentally or physically, you won’t go down easy and you won’t go do without a fight. You are smart, you are brave, and you won’t give up.

“Life doesn’t get easier or more forgiving, we get stronger and more resilient.”

Steve Maraboli