stranger danger

I was told to beware with strangers.

That was it.

Oh and I was told to always carry a little “mad money.”  I asked what that was for and was told it was in case you got mad with your date or a situation and needed to make a phone call of get a cab or something.

That cleared up a lot of misconceptions, I thought it was vote for the condition of my sanity and their expectation I was going to lose it at some point while in a movie theatre eating popcorn.

Parents liked to drop heavy statements into your life.  Like they were gifting you.  You were not supposed to ask questions when these things happen, just nod, act like you understood, take the money and hope for the best.  It might be years before you figure out what they were talking about.  They may not even have known themselves.  I know I have repeated stupid things to my children without having a clue what they mean, hoping that there is some kind of special prize for parents who try hard and remember the most stupid sayings … you know like,” sorry your kid is in jail, but because you were voted most likely to say something that rhymes, you get a free toaster.”

Parent’s sayings were always vague warnings that led to lots of speculation as to what they might mean and usually instilled plenty of fear.  I suppose they were meant to make us scared enough that we trusted no-one and always expected men to have some other kind of sinister motive … Because “stranger” was always a man.  Danger was always something a man did.  It covered everything from not being a compatible star sign, to rape and murder.  I think back then women were so busy baking cookies, cleaning their ovens and putting their hair up in pin curls they didn’t have time to get into trouble.  Note that stalking only really started happening about the time that Sara Lee appeared in the grocers, self cleaning ovens showed up and the just out of bed look became big in hair.

My brother was never warned about men.  He was never given stern lectures about the proper way to treat a woman either, so that you did not upset her so she needed to use her mad money … Responsibility was always the girls job.  Her safety was her job.  Parents just prayed she would get that the scientists were right about osmosis and she would be able to figure out the how.   I think once you can bake bread, people assume things about you.  We do tend to think most bakers are responsible.  No-one ever accused Betty Crocker of being irresponsible.  So ya, I can see where that whole thing came in.  Women are the responsible ones.

The only message my brother got was you should never ever hit a girl (sister’s excluded).  One might consider that implied rape, however, was ok.

They thought not talking about things protected us.  It only protected them from being embarrassed.  They were still undressing in the dark.

Left to our own devices, with little information, we could only sort out the men we should fear by the way they looked.  Sadly many a single, lonely, unfashionable man is probably a victim of our clueless profiling.

That was yesterday when I was growing up.

My 18 year old grand daughter flew by herself half way around the world to come and live with us.  She shared with me that a man was very friendly with her and went out of his way to talk to her a couple of times as she changed planes and waited in airports.  At one point she asked about wifi and he told her to come with him up to the business class lounge.  She told me how at first she was grateful and then, as she followed him, she had a stern conversation with herself.

What was she doing?  She was following a complete stranger, in an unknown city, to an unknown part of the airport.  As she walked she considered this could be very foolish and came up with a plan.  “I told myself, ok, I know what to do, I can handle this.  First I go for the throat, and then his nuts . . . then I run like hell. ”  She continued, “But then we got there and 2 ladies greeted us and took us to the lounge and it was fine.  I was relieved I didn’t have to kill him.”

See … she knew what stranger danger means.  She knew specifics and she had a specific plan.

And the man lived.

It is a happy happy story of parental education having evolved and the messages having more substance and focus.

It is empowering.

I like that.

I just have to get her to teach me the moves.