We can’t talk to the girl in Target who told us she loved our shoes.
We can’t help the older woman in the parking lot who’s fallen.
We can’t wear anything that might make us appealing to a stranger.
We can’t go jogging.
We can’t walk to our cars at night.
We can’t appear vulnerable.
We can’t be alone.
We can’t smile at strangers.
Because we might disappear.
You can’t smile at someone in the grocery store and apologize for almost running into them.
You shouldn’t tell that girl in Target where your shoes came from.
You’re not supposed to pull over if you’re alone on a highway at night and see flashing lights.
We live in a world where people use people to hurt people.
We live in a world where we’re taught self-defense before cartwheels; “help” and “rape” before “please” and “thank you.”
Because we have to.
We have to be too careful, because there’s no such thing. We have to be helicopter parents, sisters, and friends. We have to be paranoid, superstitious, alert. We have to be in fight-or-flight mode at all times and pray that our minds choose the right one when it’s time.
We have to be scared.
So, if you pass me in the mall and give me a smile that I don’t return, please know I’m not a bitch.
I’m just scared.