This Tuesday afternoon, I walked to “the octagon” (the cheerfully donated plot of land which I’ve turned into a vegetable garden). I walked down a busy boulevard, passing coffee shops, Vietnamese and Persian diners, thrift shops, and the best looking community college I’ve ever encountered. A block from the community college, a white pickup pulled along the sidewalk. The mustachioed driver, someone I had never seen before, rolled down his window and shouted a hey at me. As I turned to look, he reached across his passenger seat and grabbed at his door handle, starting to open it. He yelled, smiling like an alligator, “Do you want a ride?”
Hell no, predator.
I glared at him and moved to the far side of the sidewalk. “No.”
“Okay.” He pulled the door closed and drove ahead. I saw him turn right at the next intersection. Hoping that JCC was home at the house where “the octagon” resides, I picked up the pace.
I used to run more regularly than I do now. I kept a three-mile route that led me through both urban diversity and established homes of old
It was beautiful at first. A shiny silver Mini, hopped up with racing stripes and chrome extras, stopped at the light, left blinker on. Oh, how I wanted a Mini then. I jogged in place, waiting for the light to turn and admiring the car. The near-setting sun caught every metallic fleck in light and turned the windows into golden mirrors. The wheels glowed with Armor All and pride. Blink blink went the turn signal. Beat beat went my heart.
The window opened and bright white teeth flashed me. “Hey baby. Why don’t you shake that ass a little more for me, won’t you?”
I looked away and stopped moving. He yelled at me again: “Oh come on, sugar. Take that top off. I know it’s hot.” He continued, practically singing, “Start bouncin’ again baby. You’re boring me.”
My male friends tell me that men like the Mini-driver set out to make women mad. They tell me that I shouldn’t respond, that guys like this one just get off on it. But, sometimes, I just can’t help it.
“Asshole,” I growled, hoping for that little white man-shaped light to appear. I never wanted to cross a street more in my life.
“Oooooh. I’m pissing her off. I like ‘em mad. Come on baby, yell at me a little more and shake that fine ass.”
The light finally turned, and I had to run right in front of his perfect Mini. He shouted at me the whole time, and I ran away with a hard stride. A few blocks down the road, a thought entered my mind: I shouldn’t have called him an asshole; instead, I should have politely inquired if his vehicular choice was, in some way or another, representative of the expanse of a particular bodily member. Ah, but then I’d just be stooping too low.
I no longer want a Mini.
Spring is usually a gentle breeze of floral kindness in
Unfortunately, I followed his nod’s suggestion and looked down. He had pulled up one edge of his short shorts, and stood there with his dick in his hand.
I may have thrown up a little in my mouth.
Struck into robot-mode with fear, I crossed to the other side of the street and had to make a wide circle around him to get into my dorm. After I entered, I went straight to the security guard and told him what I saw. I still can’t believe I smiled at him.
There are many more: the time my friends and I were followed for blocks and blocks; the period when the uncle of a former employer used to call and leave vaguely menacing messages on my machine; the time in junior high when I got off the bus on my rural road and a man pulled over and got out of his car to “ask me directions” (luckily, my eagle-eyed mother saved me). I could keep going, but you’ve probably all experienced these times too. As you know, there are too many to recount, and I’ve been one of the lucky ones. Others have experienced far worse.
I have thought long and hard about why some people behave they way they do. I know there are quite a few possible reasons: emotional damage, mental illness, lack of self-respect. I’ve read my share of feminist theory, abnormal psychology, and the like, but I have never found a complete answer for this sort of predatory nature, a point of view in which others are simply targets for sexual use. How do folks get to the point where they lose all respect for others?
Although I became a teacher to teach people to write, being a teacher has given me the opportunity to model respect. I respect my students and they respect me. I swear; it is a little respect party going on all the time in my classroom. I’ve been teaching for ten years, and I can’t imagine any student I’ve had thinking it is okay to be such a predator. I’m probably being far too optimistic about the kids I know and love in my classroom, and maybe I’m missing some glaring indicator that would tip me off, or maybe some change in attitude occurs later. Where does the breakdown happen?
I don’t know why this breakdown happens, but I do know how it affects me. Many emotions flood me when I encounter predators. First, I feel fear, lots of it. Then I get angry. When I first started thinking about writing this entry, I pictured myself including some kind of recipe that required chopping phallic vegetables with very sharp knives. I can’t do that though, because in truth, I don’t believe in that kind of response. Fear and anger don’t lead to positive change. Fear and anger lead to more fear and anger. I am not de-valuing these very important emotions, but I don’t believe that they can move us towards healing.
On the other hand, as John Lennon and millions of other music-makers, poets, theologians, and thinkers have told us over and over, love is pretty powerful stuff. So, predators, I’m offering you something, a recipe that you will love, one that is so perfect and easy, cheap yet still remarkably elegant, you’ll wish you’d always known it. And, I offer this to you with love, with the hope you will heal and stop hurting others. It’s remarkably Pollyanna of me, I know.
At least I’m a Pollyanna that eats well.
Love Bundles (Parmesan Stuffed Dates Wrapped in Bacon)
I don’t recall for the life of me where I read or heard this, but a couple years ago I came across the mention that Suzanne Goins serves these at AOC. This is how I ended up making them, and they’ve been such a hit, I’ve served them as amuse bouches for nearly every party since I first discovered them. This is a simple recipe, so its excellence depends entirely on the quality of the ingredients—shop wisely.
You will need:
Dates (I use the Empress variety from my farmers’ market)
Parmesan, cut into approximately 1 inch by ¼ inch batons, as many batons as you have dates
Bacon, strips cut in thirds lengthwise, as many thirds as you have dates.
To make the “love bundles” (I know it is a cheesy name, but can you really think of anything better for this particular recipe?):
With a sharp knife, pit the dates, discarding the pits. Insert a piece of parmesan into the cavity of the date, and press the fruit back together. Wrap a third-length of bacon around the date and secure (as best as you can, it won’t be perfect) with a toothpick. If you need to, use more than one toothpick as I often do.
Place the bacon wrapped dates on a broiler pan, or other utensil you may prefer for broiling, and broil under high for a couple minutes. You’ll need to watch carefully, as the dates will brown quickly. When the bacon on the top as browned, use kitchen mitts to remove the pan from the oven, and use tongs to turn the dates over to brown on the other side. Return the pan to the oven to broil until browned all over.
Wear oven mitts to remove the pan from the oven, and using tongs, place the dates on a dish lined with paper towels to drain a bit of their fat and cool enough to eat. Don’t wait too long though, as they’re best when they’re still quite warm.(Sorry, no pictures. Does anyone know how to make photographs of dates look like anything other than pictures of small turds? Believe me, I tried.)