Every hero needs a lady in waiting
I listen to pop songs on the radio and here’s what I hear: a litany of pleas from young women begging for a man to save them. And I think, are we still doing this?
Sure, popular dating books like “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” tell us that every man wants to be a hero, and in order for him to play knight in shining armor, someone has to be cast as the damsel in distress (that’s us, ladies).
But what happens when those men drop the ball?
A few years back I took a photography class in New York. When the teacher assigned us night shots, I fretted about heading out alone in the city after dark. I e-mailed another student in the class, a guy I knew socially, and asked if we could work on the assignment together. I’m not one to play the damsel, but damn, I needed a knight.
“I’m pretty busy this week,” the guy wrote back. “Better not to rely on me for the night assignment.”
Better not to rely on him? Where was the hero I needed for the city’s mean streets? Unavailable, evidently.
I decided then that perhaps all this hero worship is misplaced. If men aren’t going to step up and save me, I thought, then I don’t need to be the type of woman who needs saving. So I learned to set my jaw and square my shoulders and stop asking for help.
Until this morning.
On my way to work I heard someone holler from across the street and looked up to see a man with frazzled hair and rumpled clothes waving in my direction.
“Hi,” he yelled.
I looked around. Was he talking to me? I waved my fingers in a little hello.
“Hi,” he said again, louder, waving his whole arm. “Aren’t you going to say hello?”
I picked up a vibe from him, a vibe most women know, that told me to watch out.
Still on the far side of the street, the man yelled again. “I’m just trying to get you to say hello. Say hello to me.”
I held my breath and looked straight ahead. A man stepped out of his car on the sidewalk in front of me and our eyes met. He looked at the guy yelling across the street and turned back to me, and in the space of that second something about my face must have said help, because he waited for me at the corner.
“How you doing?” he said as I neared.
“Doing OK,” I said. “How about you?”
We walked together for half a block, enough time for the creep across the street to stop yelling and wander off.
“Well, have a good day then,” the man said. He turned and headed in his own direction.
It took me a moment to see what had happened for what it was: a chivalrous act. Just when I thought I was done needing to be rescued, a stranger swooped in to prove me wrong.
All it took was a moment of distress — and for me to play the damsel. ¦