Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Unwanted advances and the female traveler

An article on MSN today advises women traveling alone to wear a wedding ring to stave off unwanted advances.  The article, quoting a Canadian Foreign Affairs publication, says single women should do this. Apparently, all married women will obviously be wearing a ring.  I have rarely worn a wedding ring throughout my marriage and I frequently travel alone and this has never been a problem.  For me.  Except once in California. At least I think so, you be the judge.

I am notorious for going back to the hotel at night and not leaving the room again.  My friend and I discussed this and I promised I was going to get out next time so I walked to get my dinner rather than driving.  When I return, the plan is to get in the hotel pool but I am losing my resolve.  I don’t like being in a swimsuit in front of other people.  I need to walk about 5 steps from the elevator in the lobby to reach the door leading to the pool and happy hour at the bar is going on.  I call my friend and she tells me to quit being a baby. I get dressed and go down. 

At the pool I am alone, or so I think.  I get in and swim several laps before a man comes out of the bathroom in the pool area and sits in one of the lounge chairs facing me.  He doesn’t have a book or anything else to do so he watches me swim.  I can see him out of the corner of my eye and it makes me uncomfortable but I refuse to allow him to run me off.  There is a hot tub here but I will have to get out of the pool and walk about 10 feet to get there.  Finally I can’t take his staring so I go.  I intentionally sit with my back to him.

There are speakers piping music to the exterior of the hotel and they play “Layla” by Eric Clapton.  When the song is over the man says, “Man I LOVE Eric Clapton!”  I pretend he isn’t talking to me.  He gets up and walks over to the hot tub and sticks a toe in.  He is wearing a white t-shirt and black pajama style pants, long ones.  As he walks around I am unsure whether he is handicapped or drunk, he is limping or staggering or something.  He walks back to his chair, removes his shirt, returns to the hot tub and gets in directly across from me.  Facing me.  In his long pants.  Definitely drunk.

Strange Man:  I hope you know, I am just trying to be nice to you.

Me:  Excuse me?   

SM:  I am just trying to be nice to you.

Me:  I don’t need you to be nice to me.  (I say this as rude as possible but he isn’t easily dissuaded.)

SM:  What are you in town for?

Me:  I am teaching software to a customer of mine.

SM:  Oh, so you are one of those people.

Me:  One of what people?

SM:  A smart person.

Me in my head:  (If I were a smart person, I would get out of this hot tub right now I think.)

SM:  So your customer is around here?

Me:  At a bank down the street.

SM:  A banker!  Those F&^$%@ers!  They are the ones that got us into this mess!

Time to go.  I get my things and leave him there.  The next morning I see him outside smoking.  I hope he doesn’t remember me, but when he glances up I give him a withering look just to be on the safe side.

Generally, men that aren’t required to talk to me don’t.  A man I once worked with said it is because I am intimidating.  Even the way I walk is scary he says. 

So I decided that, since I don’t usually have these problems when I travel, I must be qualified to publish my own list of What To Do If You Are A Woman Traveling Alone.  One of the other suggestions in the MSN article was to carry a picture of your husband or, for the single ladies, your “fake” husband.  Unless I am going to have that tattooed on my forehead, I am not sure how that will help.  Should I scare off the housekeeping staff by placing it on the bedside table? 

Here are my time-tested suggestions:
  1. Be Tall.  Being taller than a lot of men is naturally intimidating and also, for most, a turn off.

  1. Be Big.  Most men aren’t attracted to overweight women.  Big feet help too.  If I am wearing the same shoes as the man on the elevator he probably thinks I swing the other way and will leave me alone.
Both my dad and my husband have shoes like these.  I am not ashamed.
  1. Be Big and Tall:  This double-whammy is almost guaranteed to work.  A customer of mine once told me not to leave the hotel after dark.  I told her I doubt that the man lurking behind the dumpster will look at me and think, “Her, the big one.  She’s the one I will try to drag behind this dumpster.  I was looking for a workout opportunity today anyway.”

  1. Be Bold:  Look people in the eye.  Let them know you see them.  If I am walking to my hotel room and a man is following me, I stop, look him squarely in the eye and do the Xena yell.  After he soils himself he will proceed away from you as quickly as possible.

  1. Be Old:  Now that I am over 40, I am more invisible than ever before.
About being married and not wearing a ring.  (Incidentally, The MSN article quotes a man who admits a ring does’t present a problem for him.)  It doesn’t matter if I am traveling or if I am at home, if I can’t tell someone I am married and behave as such, my husband has much bigger problems than where my ring is at any given moment.      

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