While riding one of Chicago’s L trains late one night, a 350-pound drunk man cornered me and began growling in my face and making gross, sexual gestures with his mouth. I repeatedly and loudly yelled at him to leave me alone. There were dozens of other people on the train. No one said a word. Eventually, I managed to squeeze through a space under one of his arms and walk to the other end of the train, promptly getting off at the next stop. It was not the first time something like this had happened to me. But this one felt particularly upsetting and disturbing; I hated the fact that even in a sea of people, I still felt totally alone and vulnerable.
When I recently told this story to a bunch of friends, the females all nodded with a depressing sense of empathy, no questions needed. They had lived this story before too. But the men listened with honest bewilderment. It was just another reminder to me of how men and women view the world through such different lenses. The majority of men in my life, and yours, are probably good, loving, honorable people. But no matter how sympathetic or empathetic they are, there are some things you just can’t understand unless you’ve experienced them as a female. So, even for the most decent of men out there, here are 22 things women constantly worry about, that will remind you never to take things for granted – whether it’s your safety, your biological clock, or general societal expectations.
1. When walking somewhere alone at night, spending the entire walk thinking about every possible scenario of what could happen to you and planning all possible escape routes… even if you’re just walking through a parking lot to your car.
2. And always clutching pepper spray – or any other self-defense mechanism you have on your key chain – tightly in your hand when it’s late at night. And feeling only slightly more reassured because of it.
3. Always staying on high alert on public transportation, even in the middle of the day. Because you’ve already had too many encounters of people bothering you, saying weird things, flashing you, or giving you uncomfortable looks.
4. Spending money that you do not have on Ubers and taxis if you need to get somewhere late at night, because you’d rather spend $15 to get home safely than experience the alternative.
5. Period math: the minute you schedule a vacation or a wedding or weekend trip with friends into your calendar, you’re instantly doing the calculations on whether or not your uterus will be running the show that week.
6. Feeling a strange, unnecessary expectation to deflect compliments, because that’s just what women do.
7. …To the point where you actually feel a ridiculous sense of awkwardness if someone compliments you on your outfit or hair and all you say is, “Thanks.”
8. Stressing out about what to wear to work, to job interviews, and to anything else where other people are involved. Because you want to be yourself, but what if your skirt is an inch too short, but you don’t want to dress too conservatively because that’s not true to your style, but what if wearing a dress to this event is inappropriate, but if you’re supposed to wear a dress are you also supposed to wear tights, and what if you’re too dressed up and you look uptight, and what if you’re underdressed and you look like a slob?
9. Knowing that your childbearing years only last for a specific amount of time, and hating the fact that it can make you feel so limited and stressed out when it comes to planning your life goals.
10. Finding a pair of jeans that doesn’t show half your ass to the world when you sit down.
11. Feeling oddly guilty when you legitimately just want to be friends with a guy, but you have to constantly worry about whether or not you’re leading him on and if he’s gonna be pissed about being ‘friend-zoned’ and whether or not he’ll still be interested in spending time with you if all you want is friendship.
12. Instinctively feeling like you should apologize if you go out in public without wearing makeup or showering.
13. Because if you do go out without makeup, someone always says, “You look exhausted today. What’s up?” And you just want to yell, “I’m not tired! I just didn’t feel like putting on mascara today. PLEASE JUST DEAL WITH MY FACE.”
14. Trying to find the right balance in the work place. As in, wanting to be ambitious and a contributor and a hard-worker, while constantly second-guessing yourself and whether or not you’re coming off as bossy or overaggressive or emasculating.
15. This quote from Gavin de Becker’s The Gift of Fear: “Most men fear getting laughed at or humiliated by a romantic prospect, while most women fear rape and death.”
16. Donald Trump and his general existence.
17. Training yourself to refrain from the instinct to say “sorry” all the time for stuff you shouldn’t be apologizing for.
18. Feeling frustration when your reproductive health is being controlled by men in the government who don’t know what they’re talking about. Obviously this does not apply to all men. But there are too many politicians out there, like Todd Akin, who actually say things like this: “If it’s legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.”
19. Having to worry about being labeled as crazy or needy for simply wanting to know where your relationship stands with a romantic prospect.
20. Being prude if you don’t want to sleep with someone right away, and being a slut if you do want to sleep with them right away.
21. If you’re not in a committed relationship by the age of 25, having to constantly provide an answer as to how you could possibly still be single.
22. Jokes like this that are hilarious because they are so unfortunately true:
[Tina Fey in her 2015 Golden Globes monologue] “Steve Carell’s Foxcatcher look took two hours to put on, including his hair styling and makeup. Just for comparison, it took me three hours today to prepare for my role as human woman.”