I convinced myself that the old lady was afraid.
It was early in the morning and we were both at a walking track in our community. I had just finished my workout and was waiting for the guy in charge of the Navy SEALs to parachute in and ask me the secret to my superhuman strength. He didn’t show up so I figured it was time to head home.
That’s when I noticed the older lady.
I was dressed in dark colors and headed straight for her. There was no one else around. Why would there be? It was very cold outside and the sun had just come up. Just me and her. She and I.
I wanted to send her some sort of non-verbal message to let her know that I wasn’t a crazed maniac, hanging out at the park all night and waiting to assault old ladies. But how is that done? Should I skip towards her? I’m pretty sure that violent attackers never skip. That would send the message to her, right? I didn’t skip.
As I got closer, I kept my head down to avoid making creepy, prolonged eye-contact. But finally, our paths crossed and it was time to let this lady know that I was as harmless as Willard Scott.
“Good morning, ma’am!”
I made sure to sound extra happy and, well, Willard Scott-ly when I said that.
Her eyes locked in on me and she laughed as she spoke.
“You gonna freeze yo bud-on-yas off in them short britches.”
Now I was the one that was scared.
Should I thank her for the warning or call the police?
And what exactly are bud-on-yas?
This woman was nearly twice my age. We grew up in completely different worlds. She was raised during a time when women wore clothes in public. A time when it was safe to interact with strangers, even if those strangers were members of the opposite sex. I grew up in a time when women were pushing for the freedom to take off more of their clothes on television. A time when we all started becoming a little more suspicious, even afraid, of one another.
Today, women have very legitimate reasons to be afraid of a young man they have never seen before. Most likely, this man has been raised on a steady diet of films where scantily clad young women get tortured. This sometimes does not bode well for those women wishing to remain fully clad.
And even the most well-intentioned men have reasons to fear that a completely harmless comment might be taken as an innuendo for something not so harmless. Along with that there is the threat of being accused of some sort of sexual advance that was never made.
As a result, most of us have stopped talking to each other and have instead settled for a safer world where we can comment, like and make friends without all of the fear. Our new and ever-increasing sexual freedoms have given us a lot of resources for personal entertainment. But they have also taken a lot away. Things like eye contact, friendly greetings and innocence.
The worst form of slavery is the kind where the slaves are convinced that they are free.
I walked back to my truck, wondering what bud-on-yas were. I noticed that another woman was parked right next to me. She was closer to my age. But this woman didn’t get out and make some comment about it being cold. She stayed in her car, with her head down, waiting for me to drive off in my truck before she got out.
And sadly, that seemed perfectly normal.