In her former life, Emily “Gynomite” Gordon was a couples and family therapist licensed in 2 1/2 states. In this life, she’s a freelance fighter of your emotional woes. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org- all emails stay confidential. You can also check her out on her weekly column over at Lemondrop. Today, Gynomite takes on safety in the big city.
This is not really a crazy person or relationship question, but I just moved to New York about a month ago, and this place terrifies me. I live in an ok neighborhood, but do you have any tips on how a girl can keep herself safe in a big city?
I went through the same feelings when I moved here too, and it’s more of a mental health question than you might think!
First off, you must acknowledge that this city is terrifying when you move here. It’s overwhelming, it’s gorgeous, it’s huge, and people’s dreams are made and broken here every single day. Even if muggers didn’t exist, it would still be scary to be here. So sit with yourself first and see if you can parcel out how much of your fear is coming from an immediate concern that someone might attack you and how much of it is coming from the fact that therearemillionsofpeoplehereandsomeofthemarefamousandwillyougetfamousandholyshittherentisexpensiveandhowwillieverlearnthesubway andwhydoallthewomenlooklikemodelsandaretherepartiesgoingonrightnowthati’mnotinvitedtoandwhydon’tmybangslookright?
Once you’ve gotten comfortable with the level of fear you have about the city itself, let’s talk about personal safety.
Here are some basic rules I follow:
- Walk with purposeful strides and your head held up. Pretend you’re Angelina Jolie in the face- that means look fearless and slightly amused at all times.
- Don’t have your IPod/IPhone/Blackberry/DS/regular phone out while you’re walking around alone at night. It distracts you and gives you a tiny shiny target.
- Strap your bag to your body as much as you can.
- Do not stumble around trashed and alone. Find someone to walk with you.
- If you feel like someone behind you is following you, turn your head and make firm eye contact with them. Don’t be aggressive, but let them know that you are fully aware that they are there. Often, doing that will demystify a situation and take it from creepy to silly.
- Look for people. New York seems safe to me because there are always people everywhere. Avoid situations where you see no one on the block, or see just a group of a few men together.
- If a car drives by you on an empty street and there are men in the car that slow down and stare at you, it’s best to find yourself a nice 24 hour deli to browse in for a few minutes.
- In general, 24 hour delis are a woman’s best friend. Know where they are near you and don’t be embarrassed to duck into one if you feel uncomfortable. Those guys keep watch over their neighborhoods.
I am not an expert on personal safety, other than my own, but New York has really taught me the importance of trusting your instincts. If something feels even a little bit skeevy or uncomfortable, TRUST THAT FEELING (it’s an evolutionary adaptation). Don’t be afraid to double back, duck into a store, change directions, start running, whatever you need to do. Too many women are robbed or hurt because they don’t trust their skeeved out feelings enough. Listen to yourself, and if a block/store/street feels creepy, don’t take it. Basically you just need to walk around the city believing you’re a badass, but with open eyes and an open mind. Good luck and welcome to NYC!