24 April 2007...9:04 pm

Swooning Idiocies

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I’m still a college student, which means that (despite two years of a life that was acutely real), my principle concerns rotate on a semesterial schedule. Currently, they revolve around rape, war, trauma and sub-atomic physics. The final one is simply the unhappy result of a core curriculum, but the first three are the title of one of my seminars. We’ve studied Rwanda, and Bosnia, and Bangladesh and Japan, among others, and probably haven’t covered half of the war-time rape systems that have been documented. This afternoon, though, we talked about the Columbia student who was tortured and repeatedly raped & violated at her apartment last week.

(Brief glimpse into real life and realer life colliding: I was dancing–bopping, shuffling, and also looking sideways–after a comedy show last Wednesday and wishing that the allegedly tasteful and inarguably confident man holding the iPod would put on something other than Outkast when someone cute asked me how I spent my time. I told him where I went to school, and he grinned at me. I grinned back, as he was pretty cute indeed. He said “I hear you’ve got yourselves a rapist up there!” And then one of us kept smiling).

Part of the conversation in class had to do with the fact that the man charged in last week’s rape was black. His conduct was so atrociously inhumane that I’d assumed everyone would see him simply as a psychopath, but someone else in class said that she’d been concerned that his photograph plastered on warning posters all over campus would only exacerbate existing prejudices. Despite the fact that I see racism just about everywhere, I didn’t really buy her argument–we had to know what he looked like. He was a completely dangerous maniac. Her fears were relevant, though, in that almost everyone in the class acknowledged that we feel differently about walking through Harlem at night than we do through Morningside Heights or the Upper West Side. Everyone looked at me weirdly when I yelped “I walk through Harlem at night! I have to get to the train!”

In my family and maybe among my friends, I’m kind of an infamously a reckless risk-taker, like how I went alone to Champerico after all these Guatemalans I knew had been robbed there at machete point and how I liked to walk home to Fort Greene after parties in Bushwick in the summer. Not like I’m tough, or exceptional, but I don’t like to feel inhibited, especially by fear that I think is socialized, subjective, and frequently gendered and racist. (See? I even found racism in my own blog. Someone, please, pay me to be an antiracist! Please).

I’m reckless because I like proving points. I like proving points even to the extent that I may put myself in danger. But my class this afternoon and a dinnertime conversation that I had with my favorite mom of one of Young Max’s friends last night made me want to wise up.

As dinner was ending, right before she paid for my delectable ceviche, Maya asked me about my neighborhood. I told her and she apologized for not asking before, because she’s usually very careful about where women live? I hadn’t really heard that before. She told me that when she was my age–the era of the Central Park jogger and, I imagine, a palatable St. Marks and an unembarassing Bedford Avenue–women would never go home alone. One time she’d been jogging–in Central Park, yes–and dusk had settled. She’d just run up to a male jogger and asked if she could run next to him.

“He said of course I could.” I must have looked incredulous. “He knew!”

I wasn’t surprised that he’d known, I was surprised that she’d asked. I find yuppie joggers just as intimidating and loathsome as, I don’t know, any other strange man except one who’s wearing thick glasses and Chuck Taylors and corduroy, but that’s just my personal swooning idiocy.

Who do we trust? Everyone or no one at all? I’m not even sure where I fall on that question. But I did go running tonight. Around Prospect Park. And I have a pedometer. I ran 2.8 miles, and about 2.5 of it was in the dark. I don’t know. I wasn’t scared. I wasn’t brazenly Champerico defiant, but I wasn’t scared.

And then I got home in the middle of the seventh, no score, and Shawn Green has been really serving us well tonight and Gary Cohen just taught me that Willie Randolph puts six pieces of gum in his mouth before each game. I’m drinking a Brooklyn Lager, and I’ll probably make some cheesy toast later. Things are okay. I’m just still not scared.

1 Comment

  • I hope Shawn Green is afraid of Lastings Milledge. But not because he’s Jewish, or because Milledge is Black.

    Just because we perform better when there’s a bit of fear in us.


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