We were blabbing away, happily on an early morning run. Early runs with my running besties set the tone for the day, I truly believe.
A car crept up to the left of us.
It was dark, save for the streetlights along the roadway. And it was loud -- we were venturing on to an overpass over Interstate 90, which connects downtown Chicago to O'Hare, suburbs and eventually, Wisconsin and on to Seattle.
Even at 5 a.m., the expressway roars.
We could make out the shape of a guy at the wheel. His car slowed to a crawl, and he was looking at us and trying to say something. The din of the freeway noise drowned him out. We picked up our step, instinctively.
No woman wants to talk to a strange guy crawling by her in his car. It's happened before. He's not there to say good morning.
He had to stop a bit in front of us for a stoplight. Shit, we thought, slow down until the light turns green and he has no choice but to keep going.
The light turned, and he waited. We had caught up with him again, unfortunately. And he sat there with his passenger window still down, leaning toward us and trying to say something. My heart was pounding. Keep going, we said to each other. Fortunately, the car behind him honked and forced him to move -- presumably, go home for the night, we thought.
We quickly detoured to side streets. We still run side streets now.
About a year ago, walking to my train station, a distraught woman called out to me and asked me if she could walk with me.
Confused, I said "sure". She quickly explained that the dude on the bike on the street had been following her and trying to talk to her. Seeing both of us glaring at him, he went away.
These instances are by far exceptions in life. I am blessed to be surrounded by good, loving men -- my loyal, do-the-right-thing husband. My 24- and 7-year-old sons. My wonderful bosses, so many amazing guy friends and colleagues who are bright, funny, and so supportive of women.
But this shit does happen to women. And worse. Like just about every woman I know, I've been grabbed in places I shouldn't be, called horrible names and had men push themselves on to me. I was once told I was hired because my boss liked my legs, and once almost didn't get a job because I wore a pantsuit instead of a dress. (And the editor who almost didn't hire me because of that was a woman!)
This crap happens less now that I'm older, but occasionally I still find myself in uncomfortable or scary positions, and it pisses me off.
The great thing about being older is that I'm less afraid to be a bitch if I need to -- even when they scream obscenities at you for standing up for yourself. (Go ahead, dude, you think I haven't been called that before?) Though yeah, I'm still scared, I'll admit.
With the guy in the car, I wondered what went through his head -- if it occurred to him that he might be freaking the shit out of women running in the dark by pulling up to us like that.
I'll never know, though I can pretend he went home, put on his jammies and went to bed, and later woke up and had a feminist epiphany and decided he should help women and not scare the crap out of them. Or maybe he just woke up with a headache.
After the election events of this week, I've been thinking about a lot of this stuff. There is so much hate and rage and bullying and shit out there I want to pull the cover over my head and hide. It's so bad for our kids and for people less able or unable to defend themselves. Someone opened up the box of human depravity and left it open. I feel sick, over and over.
And it's not like I'm remotely perfect. I am a deeply flawed person. Just ask some of my relatives. I don't do enough for the world, or my friends, or my family. I try, but I know I fail a little every day.
Hillary failed, too. I first got to see her in action covering a health care event she did in 1993 in Des Moines. I was impressed. I've watched her for 20-plus years, as she got older, I grew up. In my 20s, I could not figure out why people were so freaked out by her. I remained impressed with her through the years. I've watched her get skewered over the years, and watched her fail, too, and spectacularly so this week.
When this photo of Hillary went viral this week, it made me smile.
She dusted herself off and was still smiling, if tiredly. God bless you. If you can do it, we can do it.
Sure, sometimes we're scared. But we can keep going.
Working on my part in that now -- how can I better support women around me, and women I haven't yet met. I have friends going through divorces, betrayal, job losses, miserable bosses and not being paid what they're worth, infertility, cancer, loneliness -- and want to help and support beyond what I normally do. Kids, too -- the little ones who go to school and get called the n-word or beat up because they're Muslim. It's a knife in my chest. For the love of god, we have to protect our kids!!
Figuring out what and where I can be most helpful. I know I will fall short, but I have to do more.
Soy una mujer. Soy una mama. Soy una estudiante en espanol. Soy una hermana, una hija y una amiga, una esposa, we learned this week in the conversational Spanish class I'm taking. Those aren't just descriptions -- they mean something.
And are reminders that we should fight for those who need us to fight for them -- even if my heart is racing and someone is telling me I'm a bitch or a whiny city liberal.
I saw this quote attributed to Lucille Ball this morning -- "I'd rather regret the things I've done than regret the things I haven't."
Yep. Let's go, ladies. It's a new day.
And thanks, Hillary. <3