Monday, August 17, 2009

Walking Behind Girls At Night Who Probably Think You're Stalking Them

"I'm not gonna hurt you. Stop running! CALM DOWN!!!"

Take a look at the photo above. Now the first thing you're thinking is probably "wow that's terrifying, I bet that girl is about to be attacked." And rightly so. A guy in a sweatshirt is walking behind a girl who's alone at night. The picture was taken from a stalking-prevention website. But pretend for a moment that it wasn't. Pretend that the girl has never seen the guy and the dude isn't quite as creepy as the guy in that picture. Maybe he's wearing a shady hooded sweatshirt or maybe he's not. But the bottom line is that he's not looking to bother this girl in any way (he doesn't even know her): he just wants to get home and happens to be walking in the same area as her. My point is this: besides having his hood perhaps a little too forward, making him look like a Dark Rider (see here), this guy has done nothing (at least intentionally) to freak this girl out. He just happens to be caught up walking behind a girl in a deserted place at night, going in the same direction as her. This is a problem of awkwardness I deal with on a nightly basis walking home.

I'll be walking back to my dorm at night on a relatively deserted path with one other girl 50 feet ahead of me, walking in the same direction. Being a fast walker, I usually close the distance to about 20 feet quite quickly. Now it's quite awkward/tense. I know she can hear my footsteps. She probably at some point gathered from her peripheral vision that I'm a guy. Now the last thing I want to do is scare this girl or make her think I'm some creeper. However, I also want to get back to my dorm sooner rather than later. Girls are generally slower walkers than guys, especially at night when they have to hobble in heels. So the dilemma is this: I think the safest bet is to somehow get ahead of the girl and continue walking, so she'll know almost for sure that I'm not gonna attack her or anything. But in doing so I must walk slightly faster than her and begin to catch up and close the distance, which is the #1 sign of an attacker (accelerating creeping footsteps at night coming from behind).

I think if I were a girl walking alone at night and I heard footsteps quickening behind me I would be scared out of my mind. I also would be too scared to turn around in fear that it might provoke my attacker in some way (which might explain why these girls have never looked back at me with concern). So back to my perspective as a guy. I really don't know how to send the message that I'm not a creeper. I almost want to let the girl know this before she gets scared by shouting at her from 50 feet, "Don't worry I'm not gonna attack you!" Obviously I'm not gonna say that, as that would terrify her even more. But the point it reveals is valid: striking any form of conversation to break the tense silence will most likely creep her out even more, so talking to her is not a viable option.

A few times I have stopped walking when I get within 50 feet of a girl in this situation, and I just stood there and waited for her to get far enough ahead. That way, we wouldn't have this intensely awkward moment when I would pass her and she would hold her breath, hoping I don't hit her over the head with a lead pipe, or even if I stayed at a constant speed positioned 20 feet behind her, she would feel my presence and think I'm a stalker or very premeditating/hesitating attacker.

Also on a sidenote (or perhaps a post script): whenever girls are walking up stairs in front of me, I'm afraid that they'll think I'm looking at their asses/being creepy even though I'm not. I always look down directly at the floor, as obviously as possible so they'll perhaps somehow see that there's no way I'm creeping on them from behind. However, they hardly notice this, so they probably just assume the worst without knowing anything. I don't know why I think about this stuff so much, I guess I just imagine what it would be like to be a girl more often than most.

I just found this video of this comedian who perfectly describes the dilemma- it's pretty much exactly the situation I described originally so you'll have to take my word for it that I had written this post before I saw the video. Great minds think alike.

John Mulaney - Subway Station Chase