Last night Margaret, her friend, and I went to pick up a pizza we ordered. I opened the door and held it while a customer walked out, and then walked in. The girls held the door for another customer. I looked back to hear a man standing next to them say to them, “Are you Charlie’s Angels?” I immediately sized the guy up, ready to intervene if needed. He looked at me and said, “Oh, are you their mom? I thought there were three of them.” What he meant was, “You look a lot younger from behind lady!” but I decided to ignore his blunder since I (thankfully) don’t look 12 and replied “Nope, just two of them.” He rambled a bunch of random sentences that I took to mean he was sorry – though for what exactly, I wasn’t sure. Was he sorry that he took me for a youth? Or was he sorry that I was actually a mother and I foiled his evil plan to talk to my daughter and her friend? What was clear to me is that this guy had some serious psychological issues. So I bid him goodbye in a civil manner and told the girls to come into the pizza joint.
Walking with the pizzas to the car, I brought up the topic but Margaret asked if we could wait to speak about it in the car. Seeing that she was uncomfortable, I agreed.
Once in the car, Margaret and her buddy had all kinds of questions. “Was that guy drunk!” “What is Charlie’s Angels?” “Did he think we were 18?” So a high-level description followed (mainly because I have a really bad memory and I haven’t watched that show since I was a kid). I assumed they’d let their dear Uncle Google fill in the gaps when we got back home (which he faithfully did).
I’m sure Margaret and her friend would have loved to stay on the Charlie’s Angels topic but I took the opportunity to be a parent, to their chagrin I suspect. We discussed creepy men and I shared with them that it’s perfectly fine to tell someone who is encroaching on your personal space, whether with words or actions, that you do not feel comfortable. We discussed other options too, such as ignoring the person and walking away. And of course, we discussed the need to continually evaluate the situation for potential physical threats to their person.
This incident made me think beyond what transpired. As Margaret is more and more becoming independent and going places on her own, I find myself for the first time feeling the urge to over-parent. When she was a baby, I could easily whisk her away from danger. I was her eyes and ears. At 12 and beyond, she has to be her own advocate. She has to be able to determine whether or not someone is a harmless guy or a real danger.
Margaret knows from her Krav Maga training that always being aware of her surroundings is critical and can save her life. In theory she knows this. But I have noticed that when she is engaged in conversation by a stranger, she tends to be very polite. Even the most seemingly harmless of people may have bad intentions. So while I am pleased that she is respectful of others, I need to somehow teach her that she can never let her guard down. While I haven’t always heeded it, I learned that lesson a long time ago. As a women, I have endured passerbys ogling/whistling/catcalling, drive-by flashers, and more degrading Trump-esq behavior. The reality is that as Margaret grows up, she will find herself in these situations where men treat her disrespectfully and intrude on her space. From creepy men and normal men. On purpose and not intentionally.
A few weeks ago I blogged about my efforts to teach her about the importance of not breaching trust because it’s so hard to build back. Not trusting strangers is just as important. Strangers don’t automatically deserve her trust – even if they are just harmless looking men. Just ask the families of Ted Bundy’s victims.
Read Margaret’s version of events here.