1/20/15

Anti-Euphemism . . .

Upon finishing my first run for the Start2Finish group run (which I finished, as is my tradition, at the same time that the groups were forming to start their runs (I don't like running with people - forgive me)) I approached about 100 runners.

Many of these runners were old pros and even volunteers leading groups but - for a good percentage of the men and women, they were getting ready for their first group run and, in some cases, their first runs period.

What heady, heady moments those are (I remember, well, my first group run) and I was enthralled by the mix of excitement, fear, and glee that floated around the group. 

I approached a group of three women (I thought I recognized one from my first time participating with the program) and introduced myself. We were making small chat and one asked me if I was nervous to run alone and in the dark (I try to be out on the streets by 5:45 AM so I don't screw up the rest of my morning schedule) and I looked her in the eye and responded, coolly, "I'm a 5'11" morbidly obese man that runs with no wallet, no cell phone, and only a seven-year-old $50 iPod shuffle on me. My shoes, now almost 200 miles of wear and tear on their soles are the most valuable thing I have in tow. I run down the middle of the street, more often than not, and keep a constant eye out for cars. I don't feel the least bit unsafe." 

She looked back at me, almost dubious of my ability to dismiss fear so cavalierly (if I am being totally honest I think the world is only as scary or dangerous as you want it to be . . . acknowledging there are horrible people and horrible events all around us) and said "That's great but, for me, I'm not leaving home to run without a partner and a rape whistle (insert raucous laughter here)."

Rape whistle!?! What a very specific and horrible thing to call an otherwise undramatic piece of plastic or metal. I get why this name has followed the alert-sounder. Much like the wife beater or the sh*t kicker it calls, immediately, to our basest urges and the bleakest of uses for basic possessions.

For some reason this really annoyed me (and it does every time I hear someone refer to a whistle as a "rape whistle") because while rape certainly (and tragically) does happen every day (statistically it is more common) in this country there is not, I don't think, any reason to presume that the first and foremost reason to have a whistle on a run would be to prevent or call for help in the event of a sexual assault. I don't know the statistics on that but I feel like they are very, very low. More over I don't know why a woman would say such a thing in a joking way. It is not funny and if she is fearful of it happening it is even less funny. 

I smiled, casually (I'm working on being less "me" in these moments). I thought about just wishing the women well on their first run (which we had established this one would be) and walking on to greet another group (where a woman I DID know was stretching and chatting) but, instead, my grumpier "self" took over and I felt compelled to point out that the woman - her whistle on a rope wrapped around her wrist several times - was wearing two mismatched socks.