Friday, October 19, 2012

Going in Drag Again

Midway through my Friday evening at home, it struck me that I need to get my car to my mechanic for the annual state inspection so I can renew my license plate. Fortunately, my mechanic is only two blocks away. Since I have no need for my car tomorrow morning, it occurred to me I could take the car to the garage tonight, place my keys in the drop box, and let them do the inspection tomorrow morning while I putter around the house. A good plan.

There was just one problem. I’d need to walk home after leaving the car at the mechanic’s. It’s dark by this time of night. The mechanic is only two blocks away, but I’m in a transitional neighborhood. I have many good neighbors. It’s a designated historic district. There’s a big church across the street. But the cops are also making a lot of busts within a block of my home. Some houses often have fights in their front yards, and some people keep their pit bulls staked out in those front yards. The police are nearby very often. And my mechanic’s shop is next to a gas/convenience store that is a magnet for thugs.

Since it was 9 p.m. by the time I had my bright idea of taking the car to the mechanic and walking home, I found myself strangely cautious. I took off my jewelry. I emptied my pockets of everything but my driver’s license, ancient cell phone, and house key. And I put on my burly parka since the temperature here is now into the 40s and it would give me cover.

It all went fine. I’m home safely. When I left the car at the garage, I adopted my “don’t mess with me walk,” putting some attitude along with my 5’10” height and slender build under the parka.
But in the midst of all this, I suddenly remembered an old memory and another time when I felt unsafe.

The Old Memory
I was just a young teenager, in the small Southern town of my birth, walking down Main Street. An adult I didn’t know stopped me, engaged me in conversation, and asked me if I was [using my father’s name] his daughter. I said I was. He said he guessed I was because of my walk.  Apparently, I walk like my dad. I don’t know why. But I never did learn the “girly walk.”  I have no idea how women make their hips get into the action when they walk. It’s a mystery to me.

The Scary Memory
During college in Dallas during the 1970s, I was very close to a family who had a ranch 100 miles west. They weren’t there often, but I could go there as often as I wished and have the place to myself. They also let me use their old Jeep for the travels. I drove out there often to escape the city. I went there one weekend and found a “snippy” note they had left. As I learned later, it wasn’t meant for me, but I took it personally.  I left the Jeep there and determined to get back to college on my own. What did that mean?  Of course, it meant hitchhiking 100 miles back to my Dallas campus.

Even then, hitchhiking wasn’t exactly safe. I remember donning my jeans, flannel shirt, Levi jacket, cowboy boots, and hat, and walking the two miles out to the highway.  I didn’t have to walk along that highway too long before a car pulled over, offering me a ride. Three guys were in it – “good ol’ boys” about my age.  They asked my name. I pretended to be a boy, said my name was “Len,” and got in the back seat, thinking I’d be safe if I could just be one of them.

It was interesting to ride with them. They were drinking and toking, and I was the one not drinking or toking. I remember how they responded to “babes” they passed on the road. I’ll just say their responses were genital and leave it at that.  I felt like an undercover agent.  But I kept quiet, trying to keep my cover.

Eventually, they needed to make a “pit stop.”  Obviously, I didn’t use the facilities. I remember the guy who stayed at the car with me. He came on to me, thinking I was a guy, saying something about how those other guys didn’t appreciate a “guy” like me, offering me some time out back alone. It was clear to me that this “good ol’ boy” was propositioning what he thought was a young man. I managed to “play dumb” just long enough for one of his buddies to get back to the car, thank goodness.

The ride resumed. Stoked with more beer, those guys got even more gross in the rest of the drive. I mean, REALLY??  Does a guy need to jack off just because an attractive woman passes by? But they got to the place that I claimed was my destination, and I got out safely and walked the rest of the way to my college.  I tell it calmly now, but I remember being terrified then. I had been “cool” on the ride, but was terrified once they finally departed and I was back on my way “home.”

All of that came back to me tonight as I faced the dinky little two-block walk back from my mechanic’s.  I know the feeling: If you’re a woman on the street, walking alone, you’re fair game. I’m lucky to have a body-type and walk that can look “male.”  Unfortunately, as I discovered, even if you can pull off a “drag” act, you still might be “fair game.”   What is it about males that makes us vulnerable in either case?

I hate it that I went into “protection” mode for my little two-block walk home. But my history told me it was necessary.

What stories do you have to tell?

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Blogger Catherine+ said...

This was a great post, Lisa. We always need to be vigilant in certain situations, gay or straight. Evil and greed don't discriminate. I am glad your gut kicked in and you went undercover. I'd have done the same thing under the's called common sense.

10/19/2012 11:26 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Catherine, this wasn't about being gay or straight. It's about a certain set of men who are indiscrimate predators.

10/20/2012 12:05 AM  
OpenID eighthsacrament said...

Just a couple weeks ago I was going to the courthouse (for a restraining order, no less) in broad daylight. There had been a wreck on the interstate and it had taken me about twice the allotted time to get there, so I was walking faster so I would not be late for my time. Nearing a lamppost in the middle of the sidewalk and another lady walking the same way, I took the same route as the lady, which made sense at the time. She must have heard my quick steps go the same way as her because she turned around with a slight startle to check who approached. Of course, she saw me, a short redhead dressed for work. I could sense her relief when she saw it was just a young lady without trace of threat - not a random male with potential to harm.

How sad is it that even in a place set aside for justice women have a reasonable fear of being harmed by men?

10/20/2012 11:24 AM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Thanks for sharing that story. I think many of us live with a low level of anxiety, about which we seldom talk. -- Heck, I don't even think about it except on evenings like this. It's insidious, isn't it?

10/20/2012 11:52 PM  
Blogger JCF said...

"I’ll just say their responses were genital and leave it at that."

I thought maybe you had misspelled "genial", Lisa, but when you got down to "Does a guy need to jack off...?" I realized you spelled what you meant to say! }-X

My philosophy is "nothing that could distract one from driving": either DOING said activity, or having someone do it next to you in a moving car, would suffice!

Most of the times I've been in drag, have been intentional, and enjoyable (but not really possible for me now). I'm sorry that you have pressured to do so for safety reasons.

The first time I entered a men's restroom, I had a certain amount of anxiety, to be sure. But I figured it would be weirder for someone to focus on me (and could call them on it), than for me to fear such focus. And the worry abated (unfortunately, at that time, when I WASN'T using the men's restroom---i.e., using the women's---is when I unintentionally drew more attention. Such is having really short hair, and non-feminine clothing, together. :-/)

10/21/2012 11:35 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

I also have short hair. And a lean build. It distresses me sometimes when I'm in the women's restroom, and women look at me with fear. AND I'M NOT IN DRAG! I'm just a woman who doesn't fit the stereotype. Makes me ashamed. And sad that I feel ashamed.

But I do wonder why sex seems to dominate so many men's thoughts.

And, BTW, why do they feel the need to spit? Watched the NLCS, and one guy even spit while diving for a line drive. What's up with that? Maybe men and women really are from different planets. LOL

10/23/2012 10:20 PM  
Blogger IT said...

TEstosterone. It does a lot of things, and obsessing about sex is apparently one of them.

You're 5-10? Wow, lucky!

I 'm 5.4. I have long curly hair, and an exagerratedly female body (thanks to two portly Germanic grandmothers). I've never liked the attention I've gotten, which led to a lifelong slouch and baggy clothes to try to hide my breasts and hips as much as possible. I could never pass as a man, and certainly envied those who have a way to escape the worst of it. Fortunately my overactive analytical brain also put them off.

of course, now I'm 50, and old, and it is a great relief to no longer be of interest to the men who see tits as an excuse to jack off.

10/25/2012 11:25 PM  
Blogger Turnip Ghost said...

"Transitional"? You mean "half non-White and that's where 80%+ of the problems come from" transitional? "Sell now before you don't want to walk out of your house after dark" transitional? "Think 1945 Detroit" transitional?

10/31/2012 2:16 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

TurnipGhost, I recognize you love to troll some of my favorite sites. So I know you don't really want an honest answer. But I'll give you one.

My neighborhood is well mixed racially. We also have a mix of middle-class people, senior citizens, and people who often have police visiting them for drug violence -- some white meth-heads and some black drug dealers. This isn't about race. It's about good neighbors and very bad neighbors. And especially about neighbors who are introducing gun violence in my neighborhood.

10/31/2012 10:23 PM  

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