I woke up early on Friday morning. Maybe a dream had triggered the memory, and what triggered the dream was a film I saw on Facebook. It was a social experiment film of a transgender woman, being verbally abused in the street. She acts feminine in a Penelope Pitstop style shouting ‘Heeelp Heeelp’ then turns completely masculine and very cockney, grabs the guy and gives him what for in some very colourful language.
It’s hilarious and empowering to watch, even though it was set up. What it triggered was a memory of a situation in which I was attacked in Australia, in a dark suburban street by an aboriginal man. At first he was on the other side of the road and called out to me whilst playing with himself. I took him as a flasher and yelled back ‘My baby brother’s bigger’. He crossed the street and walked behind me.
I stopped, turned and in a posh British accent I said ‘This is a little cliché don’t you think? Dark street, girl alone. What exactly are you planning to do, I mean really? You’re not scaring me, and I warn you: you have picked the wrong girl.’
He said nothing, but kept wanking! So I turned my back on him. That’s when he grabbed me from behind.
I don’t think there is any woman who hasn’t played this scenario out in their mind. I know I had, and I would punch, kick and aim for the balls. But of course reality is very different. I went banshee! Using my nails and teeth, fingers in eye sockets and feet kicking, but mostly gouging and all the time yelling in a cockney accent ‘I’m gonna f**king kill you!’ ‘Think you can mess with me!’ It was so colourful that when the police asked for a word for word account, they were shocked and said, ‘we will just write: shouted obscenities’.
At one point I was on top of him with my hands on his throat, he wriggled out from under me and ran off with me in hot pursuit. Until I realised what I was doing, stopped and returned to the backpackers’ hostel where I was staying.
It’s almost twenty years since that event. Lying in bed I curled my body inwards and thought about how brave I was. Feeling a little sorry for myself I thought about all the times in my life I have had to be brave. I pulled myself in a little tighter and I hugged myself.
Then I fully woke up to myself and remembered:
THESE ARE MY BEST EVER STORIES!
These are the same stories I tell all the time. The hero me stories. I have even told them during stand up shows.
There is only one way to define the difference between brave and stupid and that’s hindsight! If you succeed then it was a brave decision, if you fail it was stupid!
I have travelled the world a lot on my own. I have experienced more kindness and good people than I can tell you about. But it’s only through the villains do we get to be heroes. This isn’t an invitation to be a villain, but it’s also not an invitation to be a victim.
I was falling into that ‘poor me’ as I lay in bed and I started to wonder why, having never felt like this about these events. You might be angry with me for what I am about to say, but I do feel in society we have to be careful not to victimise women. For example, we seem to focus more on the recovery and saving women from abuse than we focus on the abusers and what we can do to help them. I think of Nigella Lawson the UK TV chef whose husband was snapped being physically abusive to her. The focus was all on her and if she would leave him, rather than the focus being on him and his actions.
Afterwards, when I had talked to the police, I found out my attacker was known to them. He was mentally ill and from an institute on that very street. There was a bigger story at play than my incident with him. There often is. But the real thing is not to favour the weakness, but to favour your strengths.
It’s great to have compassion for yourself and your experiences, but allow every experience to make you a hero in the end. Even if you felt it was stupid at the time!