As a Woman I Behave Like a Prey Animal, Albeit a Badass One

We interrupt today’s Grace and Frankie binge-watching session to bring you the following public service musings, sponsored by WB Industries…

I was recently asked if I ever worried about my safety when out on my solo trail walks and I tossed off a quick “Nope, never think about that when heading out the door.”

Later, (on the trail, where I do my best thinking) I thought about that statement and have come to realize it is undeniably true and untrue AT THE SAME TIME. It’s true that I don’t think about personal safety when I head out the door. (Unless weather conditions are poor, but I think we all know that when women talk about personal safety outdoors it is about just one thing 99.99% of the time. We are talking about being assaulted by others men.)

The reason that I don’t think about this is only because my protection mechanisms are so automatic by now that I don’t even realize I am performing them anymore. Like any good little prey animal, they have become instinctive. They no longer register as conscious thought. So you see I am a bit of a liar, liar pants-on-fire.

This week I paid close attention to these “instincts” when I was performing my training walks for my upcoming half-marathon event. What was I doing subconsciously or barely consciously to prepare for and to execute my walks? The answers were enlightening to me.

First, I never wear headphones. I see a lot of people wear them outdoors when exercising but I will never be one of them. I want to be aware of my surroundings at all times. I want to hear traffic when on the streets and other hikers or bikers or walkers when on the trails. Headphones (or earbuds) have their place. On the treadmill. Where you will (almost) never find me because although a prey animal, I am not a hamster.

Second, I don’t take any valuables with me, except my phone.

Thirdly, I walk stride with purpose. I have always been a fast walker. I (think I, hope I) radiate “don’t fuck with me”-ness while out and about. And I make direct eye contact with every other person on the trail and greet them. So they know I see them.

I got my eyes on you, potential bad person!

This week I even found myself scanning the ground for a weapon (a rock, a pointy stick, whatevs…) when I saw a couple of males standing around on the trail up ahead. Turns out they were preparing to fish from the riverbank but when I first noticed them I didn’t see the fishing gear lying on the ground, just the unusual sight of 2 men just standing a bit off to the side.

Holy crap, I thought, I was actually looking for a weapon to defend myself with! My mind “went there” as soon as I saw those men. Upon reflection, this is not the first time I have automatically done this. I do it ALL. THE. TIME. when faced with anything “unusual” on the trail (or the street for that matter).

Nope, I am not paranoid or a scaredy-cat. I am just a woman living and trying to enjoy life in a rape culture.

When I was on the trail this week thinking and noticing all of these things I remembered the first time I really got scared when out walking by myself. I was a young teenager (13-14?) walking from my house on outskirts of town to my girlfriend’s (in closest subdivision) on a quiet weekend afternoon. I had to walk through an open agricultural/industrial area for close to a kilometer. It being a Sunday in the early 1970s, there were not many cars on this stretch of the road nor many (if any) people working in the factories. And certainly no other people out walking.

And then a white van slowed down beside me. The back doors were open and there were 4 men inside. Two in the front seats and two sitting in the open back. They began to catcall me and coax me to respond and get in the van with them. I ignored them and kept up my steady pace but inside I was frightened to death and trying to figure out how to best escape them if they decided to get out and chase me. Then another car drove by and the van sped up and drove out of sight. I felt immense relief until…the van pulled up beside me again and the harassment continued.

When it happened to me this time, my fear turned to rage instead. I had an umbrella in my right hand (forecast called for rain and I was prepared), so without changing pace or looking at those fools I raised the umbrella and slowly and deliberately tapped it into my open left hand.

Tap. Tap. Tap.

Three times.

You wanna mess with me? Well, I won’t go down without one hell of a fight. Consider yourselves warned.

Then I brought the umbrella back down to my side, all the time keeping up my steady pace and looking straight ahead, chin raised defiantly. Message delivered.

Now, I don’t know if this worked (doubtful) or if it was because I was now quickly approaching “civilization” (the subdivision was just ahead), but the van pulled away again and this time didn’t come back.

I didn’t get a license plate number and I didn’t report it. I already knew, even at my tender age, that somehow this incident would be seen as my fault.  (And selfishly I didn’t want my emerging freedoms to be cut off by parents worrying about their daughter being accosted whenever she left the house. )

I had provoked them somehow. How was I dressed? Were my jeans or T-shirt too tight? It was the 70s – everyone wore tight jeans and t-shirts. Maybe there was too much wiggle in my walk. What did I think would happen when out walking by myself? Etc. Etc.

I knew this because these were the thoughts going through my head. Like a good little woman-child of the 1970s, I was trying to figure out what I had done to bring this “attention” on myself.

Thus began my transformation from human being to hyper-aware prey animal (and, let it be said: future badass).

I wonder if men can even begin to comprehend feeling this way when out walking solo, on the trail or anywhere.

Apparently not, because just a couple of days ago I came across a post on Facebook by Backpacker Magazine linking to an article entitled How to Avoid Seeming Creepy to Solo Women Hikers. I made the mistake (I know, I know) of reading the comments section. There were some good comments from men but also a lot of stuff like this gem by a guy named Spear Chucker in response to a woman: If you are getting eaten by a bear, I will keep walking. I won’t even tell anyone.

Yeah, so mature. You hurt my man-baby (thank you Lindy West, for this) feelings so now I am picking up my toys and leaving the sandbox, with a vengeance. WAAAAAH!!!! Take that you woman, you!

Dude, if you are that offended by the article and comments made by a woman, clearly you ARE the target audience.

There were other negative comments and arguments. I’m paraphrasing tremendously of course, but this was the gist:

Women feel scared on the trail when approached by men? Can’t be our fault. What is wrong with these women?

One little rape and they become suspicious, man-hating femi-nazis. LIGHTEN UP, WOMEN.

Get some therapy. The good kind.

And this sparkler: how am I expected to find a date on the trail if I can’t hit on the women I come across there?

The lack of empathy and consideration that someone else’s world-view or experience could not be like yours (and yet strangely enough, VALID) is mind-boggling. Don’t these men have women in their lives? Women that they could ask if this is indeed how they truly feel when alone and outdoors?

I have yet to meet a woman who has not felt anxious or threatened, even for just a few seconds, when outside and alone. The woman who has never rethought a plan to go somewhere because it might not be safe. The woman who has never been catcalled or harassed by men on the street.

If you are that woman, please contact me because I want to know where you have been cloistered all your life. It would make a great retreat, I am thinking.

In the meantime…

Rock your bad selves on,

The WB

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2017 A-Z Blogging Challenge Theme Reveal

This year I am doing things a little differently here on Ye Olde Blogge for the month of April.

As in the previous Aprils, I am participating in this yearly challenge (26 posts in 30 days) again.

However this time I have a theme in mind!

For my first attempt at carrying out a theme for my A-Z, I will be doing the… A-Z of Preparing for a Badass Retirement!

Instead of thinking of this time as the onset of the “sunset years”, how about calling approaching retirement the “sunrise of a new life”? Ooooh, I like that!

It’s something I have been obsessing over thinking about ever since I realized last May that I will be 65 in 2024 (duh!!), meaning I have only about 7.5 years of work left, if I “go the distance” to a traditional retirement age.

I consider blogging therapeutic – let’s hear it from fellow bloggers; I’m not alone in this, right? – so it only makes sense to get this urge to examine and plan for retirement unpacked right here in my digital psychiatrist’s couch living room.

I’ll be writing from the perspective of a single (now and going forward), healthy (so far), able-bodied (so far) woman who has lived a mostly simple and modest life. Because of this, and being paid to work for almost the entirety of my adult life to date, I have been able to set aside money to supplement the Canada Pension Plan assistance for my “golden years”. Which affords me the luxury of choice – the choice to even retire at all, retire early, move, travel, volunteer, take up new hobbies….the list goes on and on.

It’s needing wanting to process and work through this blessing of choices that is inspiring my theme for this post.

If what I explore in this series can help other people wondering about or struggling with or even fearing the onset the retirement, then opening up about my own musings for this challenge will be so worthwhile doing!

I hope you will join me in April as I process my way through both the alphabet and my eventual retirement from full-time working life.

Rock on,

The WB

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The Invisalign Diet

Five weeks in, I am here to report on what is happening with regards to my goal of dying with a head full of perfectly straight teeth (and no more overbite). OK, so that’s not exactly my goal…my real goal is to enjoy the perfectly straight teeth for many years to come yet…but ya never know, right?

Soon after coming back from Barbados in February I went to the orthodontist’s lovely office to pick up my first couple of sets of Invisalign liners. There I sat amongst all the other much smaller, much younger patients, admiring the kid-friendly decor and waiting for my turn to sit at one of the 8 or so chairs in the big open concept treatment area. I realized I will likely always be the oldest patient (nay, person) in this room. And that’s OK. Really.

It’s gonna have to be because I am on a mission! The straight-uncrowded-teeth-with-no-more-overbite mission. But I digress…

The routine is pretty simple. Wear the liners 22 hours a day. Take them out only to eat or drink anything more than water. Brush and floss teeth and brush liners before putting them back in your mouth. Chew on the little tubular piece of plastic (appropriately named “the chewie”) for 10-20 minutes twice a day to seat the liners properly and help the teeth move.

Simple, right?

The impact of this routine on one’s eating habits is not to be taken lightly. There will be no more mindless munching, naughty nibbling, social snacking or even tasting food while cooking! For. The. Next. Two. Years.

I eat LIKE I MEAN IT (because I really do mean it) at mealtimes ONLY.

I lost 4 pounds in the first month of wearing these liners without meaning to. Nice side effect!

But wait, there are more changes in store! After a month (and two sets of liners), I went back to the orthodontist’s office – now sporting a tropical/pirate theme with paper jellyfish, crustaceans, palm trees and pirate skeletons tacked up everywhere. I received more liners as well as a series of attachments glued to my teeth to grip the liners and help them move my teeth around. Apparently most people get only a couple of mounts and usually only on the back teeth. Lucky me, I got ’em almost everywhere! Behold:

Invisalign trays with attachments.
Invisalign liners in with attachments. Poor quality shot but you get the idea. My crooked, crowded teeth now have lumps on them. It’s getting worse before it gets better.

What I didn’t realize (but should have anticipated) is that now things are really starting to happen in my mouth. The month prior was just “baby steps” in my journey. And now I have the tooth discomfort to prove it. I also have the scars to prove it as the mount on my lower front tooth was like having extra-coarse sandpaper scrape the inside of my lip while I ate. Thankfully it was the only one that did this and the nice techs at the orthodontist office were able to file the sharp bits down for me the next day when I called in desperation. Ahhhh, relief!!!

But back to the tooth discomfort: later that day as I removed the liners to eat lunch I just about screamed aloud as I touched a  newly sensitive tooth with my fingernail in order to grip the liner and pull it out. Then, as I was eating my meal a couple more newly sensitive teeth made their presence…er…forcefully known. As the tech later explained to me, this sensitivity is due to the liners “asking” the teeth to move position. And each set of liners will focus on different teeth as I go through the process.  Luckily this discomfort simmers down somewhat after the first couple of days with a new set.

What does all this mean for my lifestyle and eating habits?

I look at food and the process of eating in a whole new way now. Remember the TV show Seinfeld – the episode in which Elaine has to decide if her date is worthy of her favourite method of birth control (sponge-worthy)? Yup, that’s how I look at food now.

Is that food really Invisalign-worthy, I find I am asking myself.

Is eating this going to be worth the time, the trouble, the potential for pain??!?!?!

The answer is turning out to be a resounding NO usually. So I stick to eating only when hunger demands it, and only enough to satisfy that hunger.* Because let’s face it, the first couple of days of chewing after a new set of liners can be quite painful and slow. Woohoo – Let’s hear it for the negative reinforcement! Someone call the diet industry!

Eating food is going to be for refuelling purposes mainly, and for pleasure or enjoyment only maybe for the next couple of years.

Also, there will be smoothies. Lots of protein-packed, no-chewing-involved, green smoothies.

Welcome to the Invisalign Diet.

Rock on,

The WB

*Which, I do realize, is how I should be eating all the time anyways. Duh-oh!

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2017 Blogging A-Z Challenge and Book Club Update

2017 Participant Badge

This will be my 3rd year performing this blogging challenge. The premise is much like NaBloPoMo, but with a twist. The challenge is to work through the 26 letters of the alphabet while keeping up with the (almost) daily posting in April. Here’s the calendar of letter dates for April:

Alphabet Daze Days for 2017

During A2Z, bloggers get all Sundays off, except for this year. The 30th falls on a Sunday so there’s no getting out of that Zed (Zee for my US blogger friends) post on that Sunday.

I’m going to try something a little different this year. Instead of my usual winging it and creating a post out of whatever is burbling up in my brain for that particular letter and date combo, I am going to organize my posts around a theme. It’s something that many participants in this challenge do very well so I am excited to try my hand at this too.

I’ll be revealing my theme on ye olde blogge on March 20th, like all of the other challenge participants going this route.

Book Club Update

I’m so excited I’ve had a couple of people interested in my online book club idea!!!! Now shit becomes real, as they say. I’ve been thinking about the best way to go about this and Goodreads seems to offer the cheapest (FREE!) and easiest platform to host this. So let’s start there. I will create a group sometime over the next few days and away we will go.

If you are interested, please do let me know in the comments some ideas for a name for our group and also for at least a first book for us to read, if not multiple suggestions!

If I don’t get any suggestions soon, I hope people are OK if I just make up a name as it’s the first part of the group creation process. I’m not sure if it can be changed later.

There’s also a Description and Rules section to be filled out. I hope this can be changed as the group develops and we become clearer on what kind of group we want to be.

I’d like to make the group private, meaning only the moderator(s) can invite others to join.

Once the group is created, multiple discussion threads can be started and things will hopefully sort themselves out better based on input from members.

I’m WidowBadass (natch) on Goodreads, by the way, in case you are looking for me!

Rock on,

The WB



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Reading for (Guilty) Pleasure and Book Club Dreams

While I was on vacation what already seems like years ago, but was actually only 4 weeks ago, I happily devoured 4 fiction books. I got started on a detective series (the Hieronymous Bosch series, by Michael Connelly) and this became my beach (and nighttime) reading for the week. Oh yeah, and I finally got around to reading Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, which I thought was kinda meh – seemed to me to be “yer typical bodice-ripper”, albeit with a time travel twist – a genre I have not dipped into since my early 20s.

I had almost completely given up reading for pleasure when I was pursuing my MBA studies (and everything else that was happening at the same time) and now a year later it still feels weird/guilt-inducing to be doing it. I try not to let this stop me but it’s something I struggle with yet. (The mandatory reading I do every night to shut down my brain and get into sleep mode is exempted from these feelings of guilt.)

Part of this is being cognizant that my pleasure reading could veer from being a harmless indulgence to an addictive escape from my reality.

I feel my reality is pretty great right now so this is not so much a worry as a niggle in the back of my brain. Like if drinking alcohol moved from being a social/relaxing thing to a required, nightly solo ritual (something else the back of my mind monitors for me). I wouldn’t be the first widow to become a secret or not-so secret lush. So I ask myself what my motivation is when I reach into the cupboard for a wine glass. So far, so good…not to worry, dear Blog!

Anywho, I do hear my inner nag voice nagging at me for reading for pleasure.

Especially when the book(s) are not…um…”heavy”, in my opinion. A heavy or weighty book to me is not meant literally, especially now that most of the books I read are digital editions. No, by that I mean it’s a book that stays with you. One that you are still thinking about days later. One with characters so fully fleshed that you feel you know them as friends. One that describes the human condition. One that resonates with you. One that changes you and how you see the world somehow, however subtly. One that finds you talking to yourself in the author’s “voice” afterwards (or is that just me?).

I don’t feel (as) guilty having consumed one of these books. Examples of those books for me would be: The Diviners, by Margaret Laurence and Winter’s Tale, (don’t discount it because of the terrible movie) by Mark Helprin. Books that I must reread every so many years.

During last year’s vacation in Barbados, I burned through 6 books in 7 days. Still reeling from my mother’s death only a few weeks before, I was definitely escaping from reality into fiction! But I gave myself a pass on that, due to the circumstances. I quickly read all of the books I had brought with me plus my daughter’s books. Then I was forced to peruse the hotel’s bookcase for my next read. Among the novels written in German (!?) and the thin drug-store paperbacks, I found I am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes. Not a genre I would have sought out normally (suspense/spy novel), but it was HUGE and I thought it looked interesting.

OMG, I loved it! I consumed it in a little over a day. This book reintroduced me to reading just for the sheer pleasure of the story – something I had forgotten about. Something I want to get back to and without guilt, if I could only shut down my inner nag voice…

In direct juxtaposition of these feelings, for a couple of years now I have had this vision rolling around in my head of starting a book club. WTF. I know, right? I guess I want to “legitimize” my reading in this way. Makes it seem important and mind-expanding vs. a “waste of time” (my inner voice nag’s words, not mine!).

In my fantasy book club dream, I see a diverse group of women….ok, and maybe a gay man or two…gathering once a month or every 6 weeks for fabulous, sparkling conversation and nibblies. We only disagree respectfully, politely and constructively; we always all show up; we have all read the book; we have the most concise, witty and illuminating comments about that month’s pick. Everyone goes home feeling great about themselves and what they learned from each other and we can’t wait until we meet again!

Yeah. About that…OK, OK!  I get that it’s a total fantasy.

But what if I (we) started a virtual book club? Who’s with me on this one? Give it some thought. And let me know what books resonated with you please. I am always looking for a great next read, inner voice nag be damned!

Rock (and read) on,

The WB

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