Running with strangers

Dear Complete Stranger Walking In My Neighborhood,

Hey, there, Douchebag. I have news for you: I heard you.

I heard you the first time you yelled at me while I was running with my back toward you — you know that moment, the one that earned you a glance, which immediately frustrated me once I realized what you were doing. Yes, I heard you the subsequent times you shouted at me, too. The second time. The third time. Also the fourth. I do regret the fact that I didn’t turn and look at you that one last time, though, because when you finally screamed, “You’re lookin’ good, hun!” I was ready to scream right back at you… To tell you to shove it and let you know where you should go. I really shouldn’t have been nice by holding back.

You see, I wasn’t even a block from my house and I was heading out for my first three mile run since I gave birth to my son a year ago. It’s been hard for me to go run like that again for a number of reasons you don’t deserve to know. I’ve endured a lot in this body — broken bones, numerous sprains, a dislocation, a few concussions, hours of labor, even major surgery to un-wedge a baby from my uterus. So I was excited to finally get time to pound the pavement on Labor Day weekend even though it’s been very, very difficult both physically and emotionally for me to scrape my way back to where I used to be.

I didn’t think I had to say this: I didn’t want your commentary.

In my younger days, I would have blown it off when you wouldn’t stop shouting. I would have been embarrassed. But not this time. I was fuming.

What really enraged me — and I’m sure you didn’t miss this fact — is that you did it in front of my son. You weren’t just harassing a women. You were harassing the mother of the infant that you so obviously saw sitting in a jogging stroller. You took your disrespect to the next level.

Here’s the deal: I didn’t need your “encouragement” that day because my son — my entire family, really — is the reason I’m out there.

I’m not out there for you. I’m not out there for your generic commentary or gross opinions.

I want my son to know that his mommy is trying to be the best version of herself — the version that has a healthy mind and the heart of a women half her age and the strength and will to move mountains for him if she needs to. With every hit of the pavement, he’s seeing me fight my genetics so I can be there for him in 20 years. Forty if I’m lucky. Maybe I’ll get the genes of my grandmothers and make it another 50. The point is, you’ll never know.

I used every bit of my anger during that three mile run to get my heart really pounding. I used it as an opportunity to tell my baby to never be a man like you. To explain to him that real men respect women, not yell sexist statements to a stranger on the street. To tell him that I don’t need to be validated by a rando who has no desire to know me — and especially not him — or why I’m out running. That I’m not out there for that man’s entertainment.

So, please — keep your opinions to yourself.

Although maybe you should know that I’ve used you as a lesson for a future generation. Sadly, my son is hearing about a lot of creeps these days. I hate to say it, but you were eventually overshadowed that day by the guy who cut us off and flipped me the bird even though pedestrians — especially ones with babies — have the right of way. He had kids in his car, too. (It’s also not the first time this has happened.)

But I have hope. My son won’t remember the day, but it’s one I won’t forget as he continues to grow. I guarantee it.

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