Fair warning: I’m a guy who is about to go full (or maybe 3/4) Jezebel up in this post. Last night, I had an experience on my way out the door from the gym, that has me seriously disappointed in the male gender.
I’m that guy at my gym who’s often the last one there before they close for the night, at 10 pm. Usually I try to get out of there by 9:45 but sometimes if I get too late of a start on my workout, I leave right at 10, and every once in a long while I don’t get out until a few minutes past 10, but I feel really guilty about keeping people there past 10.
Last night as I was leaving at 10:04, the girl who works at the desk thanked me for being there late so often, because she feels safer if she’s not all alone in a big empty gym. I told her, “here I was thinking, ah shit it’s 10 already and I still need to change.” But she said it’s totally fine because she’s usually cleaning around that time anyway, and while she can close up a little early if nobody’s around, she worries if someone might wander in, so she really likes having me around.
Now, I’ve done absolutely nothing special here. I’m not saying this like, “I’m so awesome, my mere presence in a building makes women feel safer.” Because that would be stupid. But her saying this stuck with me.
Picture in your mind for a moment, a news headline that says LOCAL MAN SAVES GYM EMPLOYEE FROM WOULD-BE RAPIST. Then think of who this guy might be. Maybe he’s built like Clay Matthews, and upon hearing the scream of the gym counter girl, he calmly puts down the 350 lb barbell he was squatting, sprints across the gym, makes a perfect NFL form tackle on the rapist, chokes him out, then sits on his chest while the gym girl calls 911 and waits for the cops to arrive.
I am not that guy. Nope, not in the slightest. I’m a goofy nerd who goes to the gym a lot. Here I am taking a selfie in a JCPenney dressing room, because I wanted to make fun of other people who take selfies in JCPenney dressing rooms.
So yeah, I bought that shirt, because my slightly above-average sized arm muscles look kinda good in it. But I don’t for a second believe that when most women think about being alone and scared and wishing for someone else to be around in case some creepazoid shows up, that they picture my goofy mug walking in and saving the day.
I can promise you that even though I wear contacts to the gym, exchanging my glasses for my bluetooth headphones does not make me look any more intimidating. When it comes to being a protector of people, I’m nobody special.
I’m disappointed in the world that a 20-something girl working the night shift at a gym in a sleepy suburb of Madison, WI doesn’t feel safe there if it’s dark out and she’s alone.
It’s not like my gym is in a high crime area.
Madison is the kind of city where crime is so low, the police department’s public information officer is a minor internet celebrity for writing goofy descriptions of odd crimes. This is a city where people feel so safe that they leave their cars parked on their residential streets unlocked, and garage doors open, and the cops have to periodically send out news bulletins reminding people, oh hey maybe you want to lock your cars and close your garages up just in case someone decides to steal something.
But I got home from the gym, shared this conversation I had with my gf, and her response was, “well yeah, I think about that kind of stuff all the time.”
If there’s anywhere that women should be able to go about their daily routine and feel safe in the belief that they will not be harassed, followed, or assaulted, it’s Madison. But this girl doesn’t, and my gf doesn’t, and this bothers the shit out of me.
This makes me disappointed in the male gender. Obviously there’s enough creepy dudes out there that women feel threatened on a regular basis. I mean, the gym girl feels safer just because my nerdy ass is in the building, and she doesn’t even really know me! I’m just some guy who works out late at night and says hi and bye to her, occasionally makes smalltalk for a minute, sanitizes equipment he uses and re-racks weights like a respectable gym customer, and is generally is not an asshole.
So, I don’t have any good solution here. I have no grand declaration to make. I’m just disappointed and frankly, beyond my continuing attempts to be a decent human being, I’m not sure there’s much else I can do. And that’s pretty unfortunate.