Friday, July 11, 2008

being a girl

Sometimes I don’t like being a girl.

There, I’ve said it. But before you start worrying that I’m planning a sex change so I can one day hit the headlines as the second “man” to give birth (did you see the news that the pregnant “man” had his baby?), you should know that my dislike of girlness is really only true when I’m traveling and when I need to go to the bathroom where no toilet is available. Otherwise, I’m quite satisfied with it. Well, except maybe when I can’t get a jar of something to open. Any other time, though, it’s a good way to be.

I suppose the bathroom part is pretty obvious. Guys just lucked out on God’s design on that one. And the jar part probably is too. So let’s just jump into the travel part. I’ve traveled quite a lot over the years, though mostly domestically until this past year. I’ve also lived in cities, well, mostly just DC, I guess. But, still, two years of living in a place with one of the higher murder rates in the country teaches you things about being savvy as a single girl who can’t always get home before dark. My mom used to be quite concerned if she found out I was going to the grocery store by myself at night. I tried to help her understand that it’s not possible to avoid going places by yourself when you live in the city. And besides, as much as I love people I also need my alone time. Perhaps it was living in DC where I first really learned how much I like walking along streets and taking in a place, being alone but not really alone, free to talk with strangers or just to ponder observations.

Most of my traveling has been by myself, the part from my home to the home of the person I’m on my way to visit. That’s just how life’s worked out. As I’ve grown into a savvier traveler, solo travel hasn’t held too much cause for nervousness, and sometimes I welcome it for that same walking-along-streets opportunity to be alone but not alone, to interact or instead to just observe and ponder.

At the end of my DC life, I had occasion to travel to Illinois for a friend’s wedding. My first stop was Chicago where I was catching up with some other friends. From the airport I had to catch a train into the city where I think I had to catch a cab the rest of the way to my friend’s office. And on that train ride, I had my first, and so far only, real experience with the reality of the vulnerability I have because I’m a girl.

The shortish version of the story is that the man who sat down beside me, a me who was loaded down with luggage and couldn’t move away quickly or easily, was surreptitiously touching the side of my body. And he continued to do it even after I twice looked him straight in the face and asked him to stop. I even tried to be respectful and give him an out, telling him that I didn’t know if he was doing it on purpose but his hand was touching my body and it was making me uncomfortable. And with his violation of me, minor though it was, he took away some of my naivety. He taught me that it’s not always true that if you’re respectful toward a person, they’ll be respectful back. He taught me that people will do things to women that they won’t do to men. But I also saw God take good care of me and allow a big lesson to come at a comparatively very small cost. As I sat there praying about what to do, the husband of a couple who’d also gotten on the train at the airport stood up and asked if I’d like to trade seats. His wife told me she’d seen what was going on and had told her husband to do something. And fortunately the bad man got off the train before any of us, so there was no danger of his following me.

And so from all of that I’ve learned that wisdom requires acknowledging that women are more vulnerable than men, as physical danger goes. It’s not a truth I like, but not liking it doesn’t change it. And, so, here in Port-au-Prince/Petionville I find myself chaffing at that truth.

Michael and Karen, my hosts here, aren’t super-paranoid types, so I feel like I’ve got to respect their judgment about what’s okay and what’s not. But I really hate it that I can’t go explore Petionville and head off to jaunt around downtown Port-au-Prince, walking along streets and absorbing sights, sounds, and observations. The fact that I can’t speak more than about five words in Creole and can remember only a small bit of French vocabulary would, admittedly, make the talking with strangers part of walking city streets difficult.

But, all of this is why I don’t like being a girl when I’m traveling.

Added to all of these things is my own journey with fear. In recent years God has done very good work in releasing me from a pretty hearty battle with various versions of fear. And there is great, great freedom in that release. And so, by God’s generosity, in all of these travels of the past year, I haven’t felt afraid. And, honestly, I don’t actually feel afraid of venturing outside the walls of the seminary campus the Broyles live on. While I’m not a throw-your-cares-to-the-wind daredevil type who thinks nothing bad will ever happen, I find it a bit challenging in such situations as my current one to weigh other people’s unnecessary fears against their real wisdom and against that reality that I’m vulnerable as a female out wandering unknown streets.

Yet, also added in is the reality that God sometimes calls us to do things that aren’t safe, that are risky and that fly in the face of wisdom. On the flip side, it’s no good to play with risk unnecessarily, just for the rush. God doesn’t promise us safety, but He also has the power to fully protect us in dangerous situations.

After saying all of these things, you should know that I’m not planning to disregard Karen and Michael’s admonitions, but I’m obeying quite grudgingly.


Anonymous said...

Believe me, I am thankful you are heeding Michael's and Karen's advice. It is called being a wise woman -one who learns from the mistakes of others. -Mom-

Kami Rice said...

Hi, Mom! I'm not surprised this post elicited a comment from you. ;-) Thanks for caring.

Anonymous said...


Great to hear from you. Glad things are going well. You look quite tall in comparison with the others in one of those pictures. Are you standing on a stool, or are you closer to the camera, or are you really that tall?

If you are that tall, that should give you some physical confidence.

Just kidding.

Thank for writing about fear. You are brave enough, going to Haiti, flying in planes and all.

I find that fear affects me mainly in business and financial matters, and that it can be reflected in a lack of risk taking.

Take care of yourself and keep doing good work.

Marshall Albritton

Beau Bristow said...

yeah. I'm not gonna lie, I am really thankful to be a guy. And there aren't many ladies willing to step out there like you are. Way to go.

However, you should probably learn to do that move on Kill Bill where you can make someone's heart explode. That would keep you safe.

Melanie said...

HA! The Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique. That was a cool move.