It’s midnight. My husband and I are walking home from a performance of my off-Broadway show, “Now That She’s Gone,” in New York City. I am half a block in front of Ken because he’s slower than I am due to bad knees. I walk quickly, covering one block for each of his half blocks, back and forth, back and forth, then back to him, to help stay warm and also fit.
On one of my numerous jaunts where I am ahead of Ken, hairs rise on the back of my neck. I sense that someone is following me with their eyes. I listen to Mother Nature, who warns me of possible danger, and turn around. Sure enough, a guy is there: white, in his late teens. He looks away, pretending that he isn’t stalking me. I walk; he walks. I stop; he stops. He couldn’t be more obvious if he had a Post-It note stuck on his forehead saying, “predator.” Finally, I step into a storefront’s alcove and wait for him to catch up. As he comes within four feet, I turn to face him, put my hands up, and firmly say, “Do not f@!k with me.”
He says, “understood” and runs away.
My many years of training with IMPACT Personal Safety gave me the brass ovaries to nonviolently stop the stalker.
Reader, I stay aware when I’m around most males, regardless of skin tone. Saying this feels bad to me when the man or teen happens to be Black or of color. He doesn’t know that I’m cautious around most unknown males; how could he know that?
I long to explain to him that I’m eyeballing him not because of his race or ethnicity but because he’s male. I am especially cautious if he happens to be a male between the ages of 15 and 25. Am I ageist? Am I sexist? Considering the overwhelming statistics compiled over dozens of years by very reliable sources, I’d say I am a realist.
To be completely honest, I am most wary about white male U.S. teens between 15 and 25. If I were to create some kind of Creep-o-Meter, they’d hit the top. I don’t think it’s nature that makes some white U.S. teen boys scary. It’s nurtured by disaffected white men who have been twisted by the likes of Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, who have been pumping hate and entitlement into their ears for decades now. These men are pissed… and armed. And now that I reflect on it, I can’t recall my Creep-o-Meter spiking around U.S. males of color. Hmm. Maybe, but not in my memory bank right now.
I often get asked, “Do you walk around being afraid of men or hating them?”
I reply, “No, absolutely not. I love the men I love and trust the men who deserve my trust. When I feel the hackles go up on the back of my neck, I listen. Truthfully, those feelings have never arisen around females. Not that they couldn’t; they just haven’t.”
My mission in life is education, safety, and thriving for women. I proudly serve on the advisory board of Empowerment Self-Defense Global, and I’m also a board member for IMPACT Personal Safety of Los Angeles, a 501(c)(3) whose mission I share. I seek to teach women and girls globally on how to set healthy verbal, emotional and physical boundaries. My books and film are about that. I wake up every morning with a safe world as my vision.
About a year ago, I saw a yummy dose of schadenfreude go down in my wonderfully diverse Altadena neighborhood. During my daily neighborhood walks, I noticed a sketchy-looking white man parked on the same street. Over a week’s time, he would move his car to different parking spaces. There he was, every day, with his MAGA bumper sticker. Ugh. The hairs on my arms went up when I would walk by. I took a picture of him and his license plate.
I hailed one of my Black neighbors who I didn’t know personally but knew from my walks.
My voice lowered, I stage-whispered, “Sir!? Sir?!” I didn’t want to startle him nor give myself away to Mr. Sketchy Guy. I finally got his attention and walked toward him in his driveway, where he was sweeping.
“Sir, there’s a suspicious white man who’s been sitting in his car for a week now. Keep your eyes on him. I get a bad feeling.”
He looked, and we smiled. He gave me a thumbs up.
I said, “Take care.”
“Yes, I most certainly will. You too,” he said. Mr. Sketchy White man was gone the next day.
Listen to the hairs on the back of your neck, Mother Nature loves all of her children and wants them all safe.
Ellen Snortland has written Consider This… for the Pasadena Weekly for decades. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org