Monday, December 5, 2011

"Big Brother"

In earlier, less realistic times, I had made the life goal of one day running a marathon. That is not going to happen. I am, however, training for a half marathon in January. Our executive officer is about as crazy as my sister Sarah and her husband Garrett when it comes to running: running less than 6 miles is a bad day, acceptable is at least 10. She has been my running coach, asking me every day what time we're going to run, how long, etc. I've learned that I have to be decisive and firm about setting limits because I have to quit after about 6 miles, and then she'll just run in place next to me, looking at me like, "ready to start running again?"

No, Dana, that's all I have. You go ahead, knock yourself out with 6 more miles in 40 degree weather. I'm done.

I was taught in cultural awareness training back home that the men here respect womanhood and value respectful distance during interaction with any female, fearful of insulting her honor and reputation. I'm sure my teachers are correct, but Dana and I sometimes have a different experience when we run. All of which is an unnecessarily long introduction into the events of today.

Today was especially bad. There were 6-8 local men sitting on top of a cargo truck sitting quietly. As we jog past, they all stare unabashedly at her and point and holler like they just saw Elvis. It was as if seeing a redhead in shorts was some kind of visual catnip for them and they just went nuts! I couln't help it. This is not how real men act towards a woman. I stopped in my tracks, turned around, removed my sunglasses and looked right back at them. "Is there a problem?" I hollered back, in a tone that I hope conveyed my annoyance clearly (I was feeling pretty brave because I know Afghan civilians are searched for weapons before coming on base, and there was a group of US soldiers across the street, each of them carrying an M-16 or larger weapon). They immediately looked away, and pointed to a pretend object in the opposite direction, as if to convince me that what they were *really* looking at was a dust-covered hill that they somehow just became aware of in all its drab brown majesty. Whatever, guys, I don't speak your language but I'm a man and I know a cat-call when I see it.

Nodding to them as if to say, "Yeah...that's what I thought!" I turned around and kept running. They had disappeared by the next lap.

Probably the least culturally sensitive thing I've done since I've been here, but I'd do it again tomorrow in a heartbeat.


Sarah F said...

Unfortunately, brother, those jerks exist everywhere, from the deserts of Ghazni to Hillbilly, Ohio. It's rare that I go running and don't get honked or yelled at, usually with helpful comments like, "Run, Forest, run." I've always wanted to turn around and say, "You know, I would run faster, but today is an easy day, just 16 miles, and I'm still recovering from my Friday speed work, so I guess I'll just take it slow for now, but I do thank you for your helpful suggestions." Unfortunately, I've learned that these comments are not actually directed at women, but to impress the guys they are with. Good for you for sticking up for your friend, and I also think you should run a marathon with me and Becky in the fall. Now I'm just trying to make this comment as long as possible.

Becky said...

Don't give up on the dream Brother! You and Jen should definitely run a marathon with Sarah and me in the fall. I will accept it if you tell me you don't want to run one, but not that you can't. You're half way there! I am excited to hear about your half in January. Good luck and good for you and chivalry!

Lisa said...

How many time around the base is the half marathon (and do you have a lap counter or something since its all the same territory)?

Mostly, I'm very proud that you stood up to them. I've never understood why men have to be like that...

The Kids