Traveling While Female…Actually…Life While Female is More Appropriate.

A speedboat drove my best friend and I over to a small fraction of an island for dinner. We were staying at a resort in Marigot Bay, St. Lucia and it was the off season so we were two of four tourists staying at our hotel. It was rather exclusive and so it, and the rest of the world for us were only accessible by boat. The sky and the water around us were pitch black and we remained quiet as the whirring of the motor jetted us over. As many of you know, I suffer from anxiety. I remember having a feeling in my stomach of uncertainty and while I wouldn’t call it fear, something felt wrong. We were alone on a boat with a man we didn’t know, and even though it was his actual career to be peddling tourists around, I felt unsafe. I tried to shrug it off as unnecessary and concocted worry.

The small island had enough land for its sole proprietor, the restaurant, and that was it. I recall immediately feeling uneasy that once our boat left, there was no way off of the island unless a server called us another boat. While its being “limited” look most definitely offered a posh and sought after experience in the high season, it was a real life image of a Stephen King novel in the nighttime during low season. We walked toward the entrance and for ten minutes, did not see a single staff member. A fear began to set in that they might be closed for the season and we were trapped here. However, let’s be honest, I was more afraid of not eating my seventh meal of the day than being alone on the island, at least at this point. A friendly, “dad like” Caribbean man walked out leisurely with a large smile and welcoming eyes. “I’m so sorry about that, we’re slow tonight so I was helping my chefs prepare some food. I do apologize. Please, sit wherever you like.” I, and I’m sure my best friend, exhaled a long and pleasurable sigh of relief. We took a seat by the water and excitedly combed over our menus and wasted no time requesting cold beer. CD (Caribbean dad) went in the back to give us time and space, and we chatted and laughed the same as every dinner together. A beautiful set of firefly lights on string hung over us, and I could thankfully begin to relax and admire the Ian Fleming-esque mansions faintly lit up on the jagged and staggered hills. We ooed and awed talking over the view of the Pitons we had seen at lunch, the hilarious nature of our tour guide that afternoon who had cut coconuts off a large tree for us, and how ridiculous we looked, but how relaxed we had felt at the sulfur baths.

I heard a familiar whirring sound of a raft, but brushed my ear because I believed, or wanted desperately to believe that it were a fly. Actually, only an hour before a flying cockroach had flown into my face and landed on my shirt and I assumed he was back for more. My heart sank, when after brushing my ear maniacally and repeatedly, I pulled it together and realized it was in fact a small motorized raft, and that we were alone on this island without any means of escape or communication. My heart pounded damn near out of my chest and I felt faint knowing, just knowing that our evening was about to take a turn for the worst. Something in the air, in the water, in my heart told me that these were not the other two tourists staying at our resort.

Three rowdy local men jumped off the boat and began smacking the railing with their palms, shouting in French, and walking with heavy feet toward the restaurant and toward us. SO forceful were their bodies, actions, and words that I looked around me once more, with pleading eyes, for a way to escape and there was none. I ripped a butter knife off of the table and dropped it into my purse before hearing a cliche, “Who do we have here?” The three men sat themselves at our table with no invitation to do so, and that is where everything should have been different. “Do you mind if we join you?” One man asked, none of them introduced themselves, none of them smiled, they all reeked of vodka. Hindsight is 20/20 and whenever I consider this encounter I am mad, I am so fucking mad that I didn’t have the strength to say, “Actually, you can’t. Fuck off and go away.” But, you see, every woman, or most women feel the need to be polite in these situations many times. It’s the reason that pervs who follow behind women seldom get their penises wacked with closed umbrellas. It’s the reason sexual assaults go unreported. It’s the reason women, who are blatantly being sexually harassed, smile and do a fake laugh instead of flipping out and calling for help..because the question is pervasive. What if I’m over reacting? What if this is how people get along on this island and I’m just not accustomed? These encounters start out usually, at least for me, in the gray area. Someone follows you down two aisles at Stop N’ Shop, could be a coincidence, should I flip out and look crazy? Should I ignore it? Eventually, that sense of “I can’t overreact and I need to be polite” turn into viable fear of being afraid to speak up or face the consequences. The consequences of society not believing that this happened and that the response you emitted did not match the “supposed” action, or in my case, being overpowered completely. Again, had I really went off, or for that matter even just said, no and his manhood felt threatened from embarrassment or being shut down, would I just be making the situation more dangerous? At a nightclub with 70 other people around, I maybe wouldn’t have thought twice about saying no. Here, alone on the worst version of Gilligan’s Island, I felt I could not.

CD happened to come out to take our orders, and I could cry with happiness. This man, this lovely man would see how obnoxious these guys are and he would tell them them to get lost. CD began screaming at the men in French and waving his hands furiously, while the men mostly hung their heads in what was perhaps embarrassment, but who can know.  One finally said, “This man, the owner, is saying we should leave because we might cost him negative TripAdvisor reviews, he is upset you will write this up on TripAdvisor. Should we leave you?” Classic scenario #2. These men, who seconds before stormed the island like Seal Team Fucking Six now looked like embarrassed school boys whose tough guy act had been sussed out. I began to question my gut. These guys had no way of knowing we already had boyfriends. They’re probably like young men anywhere, a little drunk, out with the boys and trying to pick up girls. Amanda and I, always wanting to interact with the locals, looked at each other and agreed with our eyes that once again, we needed to be polite and say reluctantly, “Yeah, I guess you can sit for a little while.” Let’s revisit CD. Is he wrong? His only concerned seemed to be about his own business and not genuinely how uncomfortable we must feel. But, I’ll leave that to readers to decide.

As we ordered our food, we began to feel embarrassed as the men made remarks each time we added another item to our list. “Mussels!? That’s the most expensive on the menu, you must be rich girls. French fries? You ordered half the restaurant, you must like to eat.” My feelings shifted to anger and annoyance because I don’t care how big and bad you might be, anyone who fucks with my food-eating-experience better have a death wish because you might get it. Have you ever been so annoyed that you get teary eyed? I was frustrated that this experience that I had spent so much money and excited anticipation on was being ruined even for one night. I was annoyed that I just wanted to be alone with my best friend having a girls night and it was ruined and whats-more i felt rude for saying that aloud. Yeah, that was me. I refused to drink my beer because I knew I needed to remain coherent and so I put in an order for water as well. The men all ordered themselves beers.

The man sitting closest to me introduced himself as CD began walking away. “My name is Sniper, you want to know why?” Radical shift of emotions. Again. His voice was deep and unforgiving, his eyes were serious and stern, and glazed from drinking. “People are always trying to shoot at me and kill me, so I protect myself right back. Wherever I go, people try to kill me. I have problems with people in that house right there, they killed my best friend last week, and I’m sure they’re after me now.” He pointed to a far off house. My back was to the water and aside from the restaurant, I couldn’t see too much immediately around me. Sniper’s boat hadn’t even been truly visible until he jumped onto the dock. I couldn’t get up a leave because if he didn’t want me to leave, there was no way I’d be leaving with my life. I thought I had maybe had near death experiences before, but even in that moment, I realized that alone on this island with “Sniper” I might die. This man will kill me or hurt me and I cannot escape. I’m going to be killed.

I sit here looking at my laptop screen trying to capture that exact feeling. I had never felt completely helpless. I’d never been somewhere without an escape. I had never felt more sure of anything in my short life. I felt as though I were counting down the minutes until either he or someone else drove up behind us and shot us all dead. I think numb shock is the only thing that kept me from screaming or crying or fainting. His friend looked at him sideways and began a nonchalant conversation with us after introducing himself. He told us about his job and where he had traveled and which place was his favorite. A half hour later, Sniper had repeated his opening story three more times. “I should probably just be honest and blow his cover in saying that he is absolutely wasted. I’m sorry if he upsets you.” I no longer felt like I was going to be shot to death, but I did not feel safe nor out of the woods yet. The meal was awkward, uncomfortable, and clumsy. In some ways, the sane and sober man was nice to talk to and friendly and helpful. But his friend was SO invasive and horrible, that I wasn’t sure what to feel. The men kept ordering beer and you’ll not be surprised to know that when the check came they all “forgot their wallets” and asked us to pay for their beers with puppy dog eyes. We had had a somewhat OK conversation with at least two of the men as we ate, and again, AGAIN, felt obligated into being polite. Sure, put it on the card. It’s only $10 worth of beer extra. CD telephoned a raft for us, and the men let themselves on saying that they had friends who worked at our resort and wanted to visit them. We had to ride across murky, dark, waters with a host of sketchy men whose intentions were still unclear. Again panic.

Our night turned into an awkward mix of them, yes, them actually being friends with the staff and hanging with them, but also, trying to sit and have drinks and make conversation with us. Several times “Sniper” tried to buy me a drink, or dance with me, or whisper in my ear, or find my Facebook information over the course of three hours. My night was a mix of repeatedly sitting in the bathroom hoping he would leave to him walking away only to sit next to me again. I was so utterly exhausted and sick of being polite that I grabbed Amanda by the hand and cut our night short, a night of fun and dancing that we had paid for, to go lock ourselves in our room because there was no means of escape from them otherwise.

As much as middle aged women will read this and say, “see this is why girls shouldn’t be traveling” this experience was not unique to St Lucia or India or Amsterdam or Spain. It happens everywhere I go in the United States, even in my home town. Recently, I was followed by a man for three blocks in Brooklyn who kept repeatedly telling me I’m pretty. Again, I said nothing of insult to him because of that pervasive question, What if I’m over-reacting? Is it better to flip out or ignore it? Ignoring it feels like I’m saying I’m OK with it, while flipping out…there’s no way I can physically take this guy and I’m all alone. Am I putting myself in danger by escalating the altercation? When I finally did tell him to leave me alone and that I have a husband, he whispered that this would be “our little secret” and ran off. I’ve never been able to walk down that block, or any block alone near my apartment since then. I’ve stopped jogging around my neighborhood and walking to places alone. I time my drives home based on if our secure parking space is available or if my husband is home to meet me at my car. Once on my visit home to Long Island, I went for a run. A man jumped out in front of me, stopping me short, scaring the piss out of me, and began talking to me about the weather. This is my life and life for most women no matter where we go.

Am I saying women cannot be perverse or crazy or creepy? No, of course not. But we seldom hear about the woman who follows a man from the subway to his home licking her lips and touching herself. We seldom hear about the woman who follows a man into his apartment building and assaults him sexually in the elevator. We seldom here about the woman who loads up a super soaker with her genital juice and squirts it at men’s buttocks in Wal-Mart (this actually happened, a man loaded a super-soaker with his semen and did this!) Most recently, I vom in my mouth repeating to you that in the news recently, on a Taiwanese flight, a man coerced a flight attendant into wiping his ass after defecating because he was “handicapped“ later the attendants found out he only did this because it got him sexually aroused. I’m sorry, women just don’t do these things. And for those of you saying shame on the flight attendant for giving in, I get it. But let’s be clear, women of every race and culture and background constantly feel the need to subject themselves to degradation in order to maintain an act of politeness or purely out of fear. Women know that society and the law does not always have their back.

A woman recently shared her outrage towards other women who don’t defend themselves. She stated something to the effect that she’s tired of women acting defenseless when pervs follow them around stores. She urges women to grab anything heavy near them and start getting physical. The sad truth is, unless a man got physical first, a large part of society would condemn her. They would say she acted too impulsively and can’t prove that he was following her. This is why women first almost always have to think Am I over-reacting before thinking of defending themselves. I for one, am fucking sick of it.

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