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.
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.
(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.
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”.
-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.”
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.
-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.
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.
-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.
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.
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.
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