Sunday, August 15, 2010

Safe on Sunset Cliffs

Now that I’m in San Diego, I go out early in the morning for my runs. I’m up and cruising down the hill shortly after sunrise. I make a left at the bottom and I’m on Sunset Cliffs, here in San Diego. Jim is behind me, walking.

Theses cliffs and environs are good for both early exercise and sunset viewing and lots in between, such as surfing and pervert antics and hailing the wonders of whales and/or the green flash. The green flash may be myth or maybe not. It’s a purported flare up that happens just as the last of the sun slides below the Pacific horizon.

Though I’ve never seen the green flash, I’m pretty sure I saw the pervert who’s lately been harassing women runners on Sunset Cliffs. He’s an idiot who likes to try and humiliate women.

I sighted him a couple of days ago at 6:30 a.m. Granted I was stiff and tired from all the travel and anxieties I play host to, but I recognized the man and his suspicious behavior.

He has a bit of a baby face, wears a stocking cap and pulls down women’s running shorts and their underwear. While I’m sure that my own underwear are going to stay exactly where I put them, given my age, I retain the vestiges of female wariness. Tell me there’s an underwear-puller-downer in the neighborhood and I am going to keep my eyes open and my iPod volume lowered to a whisper.

My friend sent me a composite drawing of the man that the police issued just before we got here. I studied the picture and saved it to my laptop, should I need to refresh my memory before a run.

I was on the return trip to my friend’s home, still on Sunset Cliffs, when a beautiful, muscular young woman with blond hair passed me going in the same direction. She got out in front of me by a few yards when a man with a stocking cap appeared from one of the parking lots and began walking toward us on the path.

What I deemed suspicious was the way his eyes covered every part of her. If nothing else, he was rude to the point of belligerence. Aggressively scanning. Taking possession. Offensive. Disgusting.

Then he caught sight of me, noting his stocking cap, his baby face, his predator’s stench.

The young woman sailed past him, unaware, lightly breathing the delicious salt air. Her vision was trained on her panoramic view as she experienced that exhilarating sense of powerful self that comes with physical activity well done. Today there would be no blindsiding, no rude shock, no deconstruction of self.

Me, I had rehearsed this moment and did as I had tutored myself should I happen to run into this creep. I lifted my ear-bud speaker to my lips and said, “Hello? Hello?” Not original but effective all the same. Western women are fortunate. We have the support of friends and police and society. If we are abused or feel endangered, we can ask for protection and we get it.

There will always be predators and perverts. But there is a system of fairness and rules in place here in the United State. It hasn’t been easy. I remember a time when an accusation of rape was heard with suspicion and blame. But much has changed since the ’70s when I worked with women in my city to help educate our local police force.

What can we do, here in our gorgeous enclaves, to help other women much less fortunate? A recent Time magazine cover showed the mutilated face of a beautiful young Afghan woman. Her husband has sliced off her nose and ears because she tried to leave him after he’d abused her. His actions were supported and sanctioned by the locals, who helped hold her down. Afterward she was left to bleed to death.

Here some jerk in a cap pulls down a woman’s shorts and police issue an all-points bulletin. As it should be, of course, but consider the inequalities among women still.

So on I ran, past the perverted man and the danger and the need for hyper-vigilance. Intoxicated by the endorphins, I moved to reinforce the moment with a large shot of espresso at the small café. Jim met up with me and we made our way back to Sunset Suite and our dear friends.

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