Tuesday, June 17, 2008

What the Hell, Part II

Last night, I got to experience yet another episode of "where's your battle buddy at?" As usual, I didn't think of the proper comebacks and responses until already a block past the man who stopped me, but I was angry enough where I almost turned back to yell at him.

I was on my way to the coffee shop to meet someone for coffee, and was walking by the gym when this man stopped me and asked what my name was. I'm not sure if it was the same guy as last time - both were in PTs, both were stocky, and both were at least in their mid to late thirties. Surprised by the question, I simply answered truthfully but put as much emphasis on the word lieutenant as possible (I know, there's really not much rank to pull here, but I wanted to make sure he knew he wasn't talking to a random private or junior sergeant). And once again, I got the question about the absence of my battle buddy and a warning to watch out for myself.

Never at any point did this guy offer to tell me his name, and I don't know why he needed mine to tell me I needed a battle buddy. Next time this happens, I'm going to just mouth off, I don't care what the guy's rank is, and if he has an issue, I'll just direct him to the commander or 1SG.

Honestly, it's the Army, and the battle buddy system has always been emphasized. However, I seriously doubt this guy would have stopped me if I'd been a man. I've been on this post for almost a year, and yes, occasionally, I walk alone in the dark. I never walk on routes I don't know and I always pick the main streets that are mostly populated. For example, the way I walked yesterday, I was always by buildings that are open 24-7, so if I ever felt uncomfortable, I could have always stopped in the gym etc. I always take the long route when it's dark, even if I generally cut through several motor pools in the day. Additionally, I have a radio, so if I ever felt threatened, I could call out over the radio and someone in the company would be guaranteed to hear it.

In fact, the only time I have ever felt harassed on this post is when strange men stop me in the middle of the street to ask where my battle buddy is. Why are you asking: are you going to follow me and mug me?

After dark, I rarely go anywhere alone. Occasionally, I might go to the motor pool, and many times, depending on my responsibilities, I actually end up catching a ride with the commander, or the commo guy rather than walking (the thing is I kind of actually prefer walking sometimes). I'll also go to Battalion some nights. Other than that, I really don't go anywhere after dark (the gym is so close it doesn't even count). I would love to go to Green Bean at 10 at night sometimes, or even later, but when it comes to entertainment rather than business, I try to abide by the whole buddy system. It's just sometimes it's hard to find a buddy. For example, last night, someone asked me to meet them somewhere - am I really going to find someone to walk me there just so I can have a battle buddy? No. But I'm not going to let the lack of battle buddy stop me, either.

A few other people have said things once or twice as well, but it doesn't bug me as much when it comes from people in the company. Of course, none of them have offered to escort me everywhere I go, either, so I'm really not going to pay too much attention. Last year, when I was still dating one of the other platoon leaders, he said he was uncomfortable with me going to the pool alone (he didn't like going because "it smelled," though) - I don't know why. Yes, there are always a ton more men there than women, but it's not like anyone has ever tried hitting on me or engaging in conversation. The most annoying thing that has happened is that on two different occasions, guys decided to dive in while I was swimming laps, and they dove in right before I swam by their location rather than waiting for me to pass. If that's some kind of weird flirtation device I'm unfamiliar with, all they succeeded in was annoying me.

Since there are so many more men than women on the FOB, I guess I can kind of see why people are slightly more concerned with the whole woman alone thing, but it seems more like paranoia than anything else. After all, as all the stats show, in most rape cases, the rapist is someone the victim knows, not a random stalker lurking in the shadows. I don't know how much this type of environment skews those numbers, but I doubt it makes that much of a difference. It's just we're all much more likely to hear about the guy that broke into a woman's room and is currently being searched for than the other scenarios. And to be honest, I haven't heard of either scenario happening here. Months ago, there was a poster in Anaconda about the MPs or CID searching for a guy, but other than that, I haven't heard rumors about a single rape on this FOB, by an acquaintance or a stranger. Does that mean there are no rapes occurring, whatsoever? No, but I'm damn sure that if women had actually been attacked, we'd be hearing about it via either fliers, or it would be mentioned at meetings so we could warn our Soldiers about it.

And yet, certain people feel the need to stop me and ask about my battle buddy. If that's really just a way of talking to me, as some have suggested, then all I can say is I have no interest in talking to them, and trust me, being overly patronizing is not the way to get to know me. Just because I'm a woman walking doesn't mean I'm a target for someone to hit on, or whatever the hell they think they are doing. If I'm alone, it's because I choose to be, and no, I wouldn't welcome their company. And damn it, I almost hope I run into this guy again soon, because I'm annoyed and I actually have responses prepared now. Of course, I'll probably forget them all as soon as I am back in the situation.

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