I was still in kind of in a funk from a public conversation I’d attended a few days earlier. It was a talk held in the basement of the YWCA with twenty-or-so feminists, all in agreement that The Patriarchy is the reason why the percentage of edits made by women to Wikipedia (the encyclopedia which anybody with access to the internet can edit) is so low, and that there should be ways to censor or punish people who share unsavoury opinions online. I was sick of people, and didn’t really want to do anything for anybody, which doesn’t explain why I rescued some chick from her abusive boyfriend and walked her to the metro.
He’d refused to let her walk away from an argument they’d had, and I happened to see the situation from across the street. I approached them, joined by two other boys who’d seen the same things. He did the usual crap. He tried to intimidate me, then he tried to explain that he had the right to harass her. She told us she was fine, and that it was just an argument. The other guys started to leave, but I didn’t. I didn’t believe her, and when he got in my face, the other guys came back. I told him it was time to call it a night, and he eventually left with us. I didn’t feel like walking with the guy, so I decided to take Esplanade and continue to my favourite Indian place on Saint Laurent.
I saw her walking ahead, checking her back and clearing her corners. Being the only other person on the dark street, my instincts told me that I might have been creeping her out. Then I realized that she wasn’t looking out for me, she was looking out for him. I caught up with her at Duluth. I told her I could walk her wherever she needed to go. Still looking anxiously, she said yeah, and asked me to escort her. I asked where she was going, and she told me “Anywhere, any metro.” On our walk down side streets to Place des Arts Metro, she told me that there aren’t a lot of “good samaritans” left. She asked me where I was from, if I was in the army, and whether my friends did anything to him. When we arrived at the metro’s entrance, she thanked me, shook my hand and said “You’re a good man”. I said “Thanks.” I should have had her sign a certificate, or something I could put on my wall.
I didn’t ask her why she chose a dark, empty street to have her abusive boyfriend follow her down, away from busy mount royal. I didn’t ask her what they were even doing there together if he was an asshole, or why she put us in a precarious position by telling us everything was fine when she really needed help. I didn’t ask her why she said I was a “good man” for breaking up a confrontation and escorting somebody who feels unsafe, instead of saying I was a “good person”.
I didn’t tell her that I wasn’t thrilled about the idea of getting into a fight with a complete stranger on the street when “everything was fine.” I didn’t tell her that neither I, nor any other man, is obliged to throw their own safety out the window for a woman or anybody else, despite what popular culture shoves down our throats.
I figured her night had been stressful enough.
I get that she felt good about me, and wanted me to feel good about what I’d done, but I really didn’t like any of it. I think about what my mom would say in these situations: “Is your safety less important? Are you worth less than anybody else?”
I felt like she had a sense of entitlement; like it wasn’t just good fortune that somebody came to her aid. Somebody at the conversation said that it was men’s responsibility to protect women in situations like this, and I was resentful of that idea. It’s bad enough when I’m compelled to risk my own safety for a stranger, and it’s even worse when that stranger says I don’t have a reason for doing so. If I were a cop, I would have had to walk away when she told me everything was okay, with certainty the abuse would continue.
This means that I’ll be dead someday, and to me, someday could be today or tomorrow. This is a persistent feeling I’ve had since I was about 17, and it’s influenced a lot of my decisions.
Why am I telling you this? I plan to start writing more about my experiences, and this is something that must be understood about me if my decision-making is going to make any sense. I know I’m going to die, and I don’t know when. It doesn’t make me sad, only restless.
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