“Can I walk you to your car?” I asked her.
“Oh, don’t worry, I can walk myself,” she responded.
The boy inside me thought, yeah, she can walk herself; she doesn’t need me.
The Man inside me thought, yes, she can walk herself, and I will walk her, anyway.
It was dark outside, a bit after 11pm in this quiet Santa Monica neighborhood. Probably safe. But you never know. I had just spoken at an event in a friend’s home about a personal story of transformation and how to step deeper into the challenges Life is calling forth from each of us.
I met this delightful woman shortly after my presentation and we laughed most of the rest of the night together. At one point during the evening, someone convinced us to swap shirts in the middle of my friend’s living room, a challenge we gladly took on while surrounded by amused others (she had an undershirt on and so remained fully covered during the swap, though I did not … and thus I did not). Her dainty white shirt wrapped itself tight around me like a cotton torso Speedo, my forearms bulging out of its elastic sleeve cuffs like sausage being squeezed out of a plastic wrapper. My silver embroidered Japanese koi T-shirt draped her tiny frame like, well, like a petite woman in a man’s T-shirt. She still looked good. I apparently looked like a pirate … or a young, gay-ish Bradley Cooper. Whatever. I was thoroughly enjoying the presence of this playful feminine woman.
The Man in me asked to see her again soon.
The boy in me whispered I wasn’t Man enough.
“Where is your car?” I asked as everyone was leaving.
“Oh, just … right around the corner … somewhere over … mmmm … there-ish.”
“Ok, I’ll walk you,” the Man in me told her, sensing her uncertainty in the darkened street.
“No, really, you don’t have to. I’ll be ok. I’m from Jersey!” … said the man inside her.
The boy inside me eagerly agreed I didn’t have to. He actually thought I shouldn’t, anyway, since she clearly communicated she didn’t need my presence. I’m probably just gonna make her more uncomfortable by insisting, and the boy inside me has always been mortified to impose upon a woman. Better to let her walk the dark streets alone than risk imposing my presence upon her. I’m sure her car is close, even if neither of us can see it.
The Man inside me said, Nonsense. I’m here.
She’ll be more safe if I walk her to her car than if I don’t. She may not know or fully trust me yet. And while that may be wise of her … I know me. She will be safe with me. I’m just walking her to her car. I’m not asking anything of her other than to let me help ensure she gets safely on her way.
As a Man, in this moment, that alone is my sacred duty. I want only to keep her safe … even from me.
Where is the line?
She told me at least twice I did not need to walk her. She wasn’t upset about my insistence. We had a good rapport going, and I believed she instinctively trusted me, but should I have let her walk alone?
A lady friend I shared this story with today told me that many women in our culture are taught two things: (a) to be independent and not need men, and (b) to not inconvenience a man.
I don’t know what was at play for this woman. I did notice that as she expressed not to need me, lots of internal programming implored me to back off and let her walk herself into an unnecessarily risky situation.
The boy in me urged me to let her go, mostly from fear of her rejection. The Man in me wouldn’t hear of it, knowing the risk she was taking if I didn’t step up despite her assurances.
Had she really been committed to refusing my presence, I would have backed off and let her go to whatever fate awaited her choice. Which in all likelihood was simply to walk to her car alone at night in the dark, with only her thoughts as company. I would have moved on to wherever my masculine self was being called to serve (which at that moment was to my home, to write and to rest).
Again, where is that line? … between her resistant assurances and my steadfast presence as a Man?
I do know she got to her car safely. We stood and talked a few minutes in the street, enjoying the full moon while laughing some more about this and that. Finally, we shared a friendly hug and she got in her car.
As I began walking away, she lowered her window and with a grateful smile sent these delicious words floating towards me on a silver moonbeam: “Thank you for walking me to my car.”
“Thank you for letting me wear your shirt,” I responded.
We both laughed once more, and she drove off into the night.