A Woman in the World, Solo. Adventurous? Yes. And, Sometimes, Just Plain Stupid.
This morning I read the very sad story by @D.E. Monnier https://medium.com/@demonnier/women-wanderings-whackos-cdc025f332d3. As someone who has spent a goodly bit of the last three decades wandering the world solo, this brought up so much for me. We single women have far more to fear from predatory men than we do a hungry grizzly in the wild.
I’ll take a pack of hyenas checking out my tent in Africa over a truck full of drunk Billy Bobs any day.
That said, by the time I’d headed overseas in my early thirties I’d already been on my own for fourteen years. Also by then, I’d had plenty of local car repair men reach across their front seat and play with my nipples and claim, of course, “You like that, don’t you?”
No, you cross-eyed dimwit redneck ASSHOLE, I don’t.
I’d had plenty of nights living in a small trailer at the ripe old age of 18, watching my front doorknob turn, knowing that some POS outside wanted in when I wanted him out, and thank god for bolt locks. I had a butcher knife at the ready, too. What’s even funnier, I was working at the happiest place in the world, Walt Disney World, right down the road. Right.
Go away, you cross-eyed dimwit redneck ASSHOLE.
One night in Colorado, back in the early seventies when I was hitching from spot to spot, on a winter night some cross-eyed dimwit redneck asshole picked me up on my way to Denver. Then he suddenly turned off onto a clay road, stopped, and did his best to have his way with me. I bit his tongue into two pieces.
NO MEANS NO, you cross-eyed dimwit redneck ASSHOLE.
I stopped hitching after that. Good move. Like Monnier, it took a very close call to get my full attention. We’re both damned lucky.
Like most attractive young women I could write a novel the size of War and Peace telling the tales of mindless fuckwit predators.
Perhaps that’s why, other than I came from a household of alcoholics, I never drank or did drugs.
When we put ourselves out into the world as single women, decide to travel to parts unknown, then drink ourselves into a puking stupor (as did Ms. Monnier, which she bravely admits to in her article, above) we are handing ourselves and our safety over to whomever happens to be handy.
She describes waking up with a guy she barely knew with no idea how she got there. I am extremely grateful that she made it, didn’t get AIDs or get hurt, and now writes articles that I genuinely enjoy. I am grateful that she does travel solo, and that she lived to tell this cautionary tale, because we need to hear it from her. She’s lucky. Grace, the young solo traveler she writes about, wasn’t. Ms. Monnier made a mistake, just like I did, and is still alive to warn us not to do the same.
I am all for getting out into the world. I am ALL FOR the experience of solo travel. I am the first person to cheer anyone on to head to Borneo or Buenos Aires alone. But she’s right- you cannot trust Tinder, or Match, or any other social media because that is just as much a hunting ground for PYTs as a local dive bar at home. For those of us with long experience with online dating, we can tell you that going overseas is the same as here, but vastly more dangerous. Nobody has your back.
As she writes, with social media, you can share your GPS, but from several thousand miles away nobody can hear you scream. I don’t trust social media at all for that reason. I trust my gut. She does too and she’s smart for it.
The potential for disaster exists in every corner of the world where a pretty young woman- any pretty woman- traveling solo can get waylaid. It’s almost happened to me repeatedly. The key word here is “almost.” The reason I’m a ripe old woman of 66 still out there traveling to parts unknown is that I never, ever drank, never ever did drugs, never ever went into bars and never, ever went out at night alone past 7 pm.
Jesus H. Christ, you may say, that’s no fun. Look, I like living. I like being safe from predatory men. That means that I understand what can happen where folks drink, men get horny and stupid (which is kinda given for too many), and we put ourselves in harm’s way. If we add being mindlessly drunk to the mix, you and I can end up like Grace.
Monnier describes how the family had to fly to New Zealand, a place where I have spent the early 1980s hitching solo, to get their daughter’s body. The pain had to be unbelievable. What troubles me is that I see young women head out with all the wisdom of a stuffed cuckoo bird, pile into the local bars, trust that the guys there won’t drug their drinks (puh-leeze, ladies) and then wonder how they ended up raped and their wallets emptied, their passports stolen. At least they’re still alive.
Monnier is right when she says that the barely 22-year-old women didn’t deserve to die because she traveled alone or used a dating app. However, there are certain rules of the road that override the desire to go party. When we are alone, we’re targets. It is the way of the world. The only way we reduce the size of the dot on our backs is to not show up in target-rich environments.
Or, you gather a group to go out, assign someone to stay both sober and VERY alert, and ensure that you all return together. Look, while that may on occasion get in the way of a location lay, let’s be clear. Something spontaneous can be a lot of fun- here at home where you carry proper protection and you have peeps around. Overseas you simply can’t make the same assumptions.
Locals know where you and I party. They know the favorite hotspots of hostel goers. It’s a racket. To not know that, to not understand that dating apps are also access points for stalkers is foolish. While Monnier has met decent guys- and yes, they exist- it makes sense to handle that the same way you would at home. Daylight, in public, and with someone you met at the hotel as a chaperone. If the guy is legit, he won’t mind at all. If he isn’t, you will know right away if he does his best to ditch the friend and push you for a boozy night out.
Some years ago when I was living in Spokane, Washington, a local man who was a potential client asked me to lunch to discuss working together. I accepted, pleased about the business opportunity. That is, until he explained that said lunch would be at his house way out in the suburbs. Under no circumstances. I don’t give a flying fuck if he does have his office in his home. That was completely inappropriate and he knew it. How is this any different? Because we don’t always know the rules in other cultures, and if we’re drunk, we hardly know what’s happening anyway.
Here’s a perfect cultural example: on the island of Fiji, where I visited in 1984, my friend Melania explained to me that if I were to walk outside at night, that was explicit permission to, as she put it, “be pulled into the bushes.”
Who knew? Precisely.
Above all we do NOT trust drinks from strangers, nor do we imbibe so much that we collapse. That’s tantamount to saying to any and all comers, Have at it boys. Do you really want your body to be a playground for a gang rape?
We American women in particular don’t understand how we’re viewed by the rest of the world. We forget how the media, movies and the massive porn industry portrays us as loose, available and wanton. This has taught men all over the world that we are willing even when we aren’t.
One of my favorite stories from 2018 is of a fellow Coloradan, a strength trainer no less, who got fondled on a street in Dublin by an Irishman who made that very assumption. She rewarded him by smashing him in the nose, sending him reeling. https://www.newsweek.com/american-tourist-ireland-punched-man-face-sexually-harassing-her-next-time-896732
God I love her for that.
A powerful, well-trained, strong woman, perfectly sober, in broad daylight no less. That SOB will indeed think twice. But this is what we’re up against, ladies. There are places where we get groped just being crammed on a bus. Because they can.
And please don’t assume it only happens to young women. On my sixtieth birthday- yes PLEASE come ON man- a horse guide and I rode for four hours along and through the hills of Costa Rica. The man repeatedly stopped for beers, pushing them at me with force. I refused. He got sloshed. By near day’s end, he was riding up next to me and putting his hand on my thigh.
Out of patience, I grabbed his wrist with force and twisted it, informing him that if he dared touch me one more time I would rip off his family jewels. I bloody well meant it. The look I gave that soused sonofabitch would have melted lead.
He backed off, and I later excoriated him on Trip Advisor.
I’ve been bodybuilding for 45 years. I’m very, very strong. In a fight, I will likely go down, but one or two motherf*ckers are going down with me. That’s a guarantee. Are you strong? Do you know self defense? Can you protect yourself?
Not if you’re drunk or drugged you can’t.
One of my dearest Army friends was a newly-minted officer, a Military Policewoman, no less. One night on foot patrol she was surrounded by three enlisted men who menaced her, intending on pulling her into a nearby alley. She pulled her weapon, took the stance and pointed the barrel with steel-cold steadiness at one man’s guts. She stated flatly that at least two of them were going down. She didn’t budge an inch. She knew she didn’t stand a chance against all three. But Carol banked on knowing that nobody wanted to push his luck. She was right. They disappeared into the night. I reckon Carol probably went somewhere and puked her guts out, but by god nobody ever messed with her. She was barely 23 at the time.
This is a movie version of exactly the same thing from Tombstone:
Wyatt Earp knows that he doesn’t stand a chance if they all rush him. This is a movie,folks. My friend Carol lived it.
God I love her for that.
You cannot, cannot, cannot travel and get drunk. You cannot do drugs. You cannot. I don’t care who you think you are, if you are a solo woman and you take these chances, then you are very likely to end up coming home in a box, or permanently damaged.
It isn’t worth it. Nothing is worth that.
Monnier has found ways to protect herself. From apps to local friendships to back up plans to, as she describes, “eyes in the back of our heads.” She paid a high price for that wisdom and I heartily applaud her for it. The good news is that she’s on Medium and writing about it rather than like Grace, a missing person who ultimately broke the hearts of her loved ones.
I am a rape survivor. That happened to me in the Army, where I was supposed to feel safe. That lesson forever changed how I see men, and how I comport myself in the world. I do not trust men I don’t know. I do not trust bars. I do not trust dark places at night in strange countries. If you do, you’re a goddamned fool. I will feel horrible for your family but not for you. Because in today’s world, we know better. Naivete in the wide world can cost us horribly.
You may think I’m harsh. No. I’m a survivor. I know how to walk with that Lieutenant Ellen Ripley don’t-f*ck-with-me stride down a city street that makes any predator think very carefully about following me. I know how to look someone who grabs me by the arm right in the eye and use my best command voice WHAT THE HELL DO YOU WANT, BUDDY, while backing them up at speed. Nobody expects that. It works. Mind you, I am never out at night- so this happens in broad daylight, and it’s very easy to enlist help if someone decides to push his luck.
I have stared down death a great many times in my life. And I am completely unafraid of squaring off if some damned fool thinks I’m an easy mark. He’ll be marked for life if he tries. My kickboxing lessons may or may not help. I may not make it but by god he will think twice the next time especially if he’s been relieved of a few pieces of himself. What isn’t acceptable is for any of us, old, young or in-between, to go skipping off to Lagos or Laos or Latvia thinking it’s party time.
I agree with Monnier. It’s a damned shame we single women can’t travel like our solo male peeps. However they are also at risk. Their goods and clothing and passports are highly desired and their lives can be forfeit if they too aren’t careful. Mindless, arrogant assumptions about what you think you can get away with in another country can get you jailed for life, or knifed, or left in a ditch, naked and penniless. Happens all the time. Doesn’t need to.
At the very least, know which countries are dangerous and why. Then check out any warnings published by the US Department of State. I also check out what the UK has to say about those same countries. The internet doesn’t just give us dating apps. It gives us tons of solid data about how to stay safe.
Don’t want to study self defense? Don’t want to get strong? Don’t want to bother learning how to take care of yourself physically? That’s fine. Then do the work to ensure that you are not in danger because of thoughtlessness or carelessness. We do not want to write your sad story on Medium.com as yet another cautionary tale.
My thanks to D.E Monnier for the reminder that while it’s a great big wonderful world out there, go prepared. Go smart.
By all means, GO, but please come back safely.