Outside is Safe(r)
Earlier today, I walked my dog, Emmie, along my usual path around the lake near my house. It is a well-maintained, paved pathway, and usually, many people are out in the afternoon.
But not today. I blame the wind for the lack of people. And fewer people are my preference because trying to maintain the appropriate social distancing on parts of the pathway can be challenging in areas where it narrows or has a bridge.
Emmie and I were approaching one of the narrower areas of the trail. Coming towards us was an older couple. As we approach, the woman leaves the path and moves up to the right side of us. She is now standing in someone’s yard.
That is where I usually go on this part of the trail. Even before all of this started, I would tend to move Emmie out of the way of people. She is a big dog, and not everyone enjoys large dogs. Now this woman is standing there, and I am unsure what to do, so I pause.
Her companion stands further down the pathway facing me, “Where are you going?”
“I am going straight that way,” I say, pointing with my left hand straight down the path.
“No, you can’t.”
I stared at him as I processed what he had said. So many thoughts came running through my brain. Is the trail closed? Is there something up ahead that I need to divert around? Is this a bad situation?
Then, I get it. The man is talking about how to maintain social distance. Okay, now I am tracking this conversation. “I am going around you to my left,” I say with a nervous chuckle. “Okay,” he replies, “That you can do.” And he moves to the right, and we continue our walk.
It was weird. It made me go from a leisurely walk around the lake to thinking about that interaction. And as someone with social anxiety, I am obsessed with that interaction.
When a man tells me that I can’t do something and is blocking my path, my first reaction is to fight. Oh, I can go there very quickly. But I didn’t like that situation. So, it’s good that I paused to consider his words.
If you start gaslighting me, telling me I was overreacting, stop. (Which is me saying that to myself)
Look at it from any woman’s perspective. For example, walking on a trail, someone is suddenly blocking the path and telling you that you can’t go in the direction you intend. It was more than a bit off-putting.
Social Distancing, Not Socially Awkward
Luckily, this instance was just this guy who didn’t know how to verbalize “social distancing” better than ordering me around.
It was awkward, not dangerous.
We aren’t around other people much anymore. And perhaps that has made some of us rougher around the edges. So as we emerge from our caves to venture into the world, let’s try to be less awkward.