When Women Choose

| by Linda George |

Sometimes, men who plan to harm us females and put us ‘in our place,’ have their efforts thwarted. When girls and women choose not to remain docile and obedient to a man’s wishes,  their ensuing wrath can often reach dangerous levels. Thankfully, I was spared such a sinister attack, one that would have negatively affected my life forever. As it turned out, almost forty years later, I still haven’t forgotten the sequence of events that ‘coulda, woulda’ changed my life. The weight of that impact has never left me for long and reminds me what can happen to girls that get too ‘uppity’ for their own good. My arrogance was knocked down a notch that night and my humility increased. While it didn’t dampen my independence, it did reinforce the necessity as a member of the weaker sex to make smart, proactive decisions when picking my battles.

My SYS took place in 1979 in Tent City, an area on the outskirts of London, well-known for its huge, old canvas circus tents that  could easily hold 40-50 people sleeping on bunk beds for a mere five dollars per night. Think sorority or fraternity rack rooms, without any lighting. Bathroom facilities and the office were  in another part of the camp. Compared to Munich, which had one huge circus tent building and easily slept 500 backpackers, this was an upgrade. (And the only notworthy thing that happened in Munich was I fell in love with an Australian named Peter, but couldn’t see myself moving to Australia.)

aunt-linda

By the time I reached Tent City, I was down to my last $20.  I arrived late in the day on a Saturday and remember the nice clerk asking me to pick which tent I wanted; all female or co-ed. Having left Peter with a broken heart in Germany, I picked the female one and as luck would have it, also found a job opening at a nearby clothing warehouse.  During the next week, I quickly settled into my new routine. I played tourist on the weekend and a laborer during the week. Even though I was the only one working, it seemed like there were always several of us women in our tent sleeping. One night around midnight, I remember being awakened by the sound of five rowdy, drunken guys yelling at the top of their lungs. As I slowly came to and my eyes adjusted to the dark, I realized they weren’t speaking English, but instead a dialect from an Eastern European country. If I hadn’t been so pissed off for being woken up, I might have remembered that men from that country were known to travel with knives in their boots and I might have acted differently. Instead, I sat up and screamed back at them to get the hell out of our tent so we could all go back to sleep. After my yelling tirade, two things happened that I will never forget. First, the men left as fast as they appeared and two, not one of the other women had raised her head or spoken a word.  Lying in the dark, feeling brave and triumphant, I suddenly realized I’d just made a very foolish move. Since I had dared to stand up to the men, there had to be repercussions. There was no doubt in my mind that they would be back, knew where I slept and that I would have no help from my ‘sisters.’ I also realized that it was only due to their inebriated state that they hadn’t taken care of my ‘act’ of insubordination right at the time. Quickly, I picked up all my belongings and moved to the opposite end of the tent, seconds before the gang returned. Yelling angrily now, they immediately ran to where I had been sleeping and were befuddled to find me gone. Thank goodness they left and I hadn’t put the rest of the women in danger. The next day, wiser and less innocent, I moved to the co-ed tent. In the words of Kenny Rogers, “You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, Know when to fold ‘em, Know when to walk away, And know when to run.”

As the Donald has shown in this election, there will always be people who are bullies.  Our best defense is to remain calm, using our voices, common sense and intelligence to fight the cruelty.

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