When my independent younger daughter left our cozy neighborhood this fall to go to college on a big city campus, I wanted her to take self-defense classes and to agree to a list of promises about keeping herself safe.
The more I heard myself talk, the more I realized I was becoming that crazy paranoid mom. It was not a good look on me.
As I talked to wise mom friends who seem to wear this problem better than me, I realized the advice my daughter needs on campus is no different than what I gave her when she started dating and driving in high school. And it’s no different than what I wanted to tell my 75-year-old mother last month when she headed off across four states for a solo road trip in her Prius.
Staying safe is timeless, ageless, and goes with everything.
1. Honor your fear; it may be trying to tell you something.
Call it what you will, intuition or gut feeling is actually your brain reading a million tiny signals. Fear can be a gift, protecting us from people who mean us harm or situations that don’t add up. Trust your instincts.
2. Carry protection, or at least a security blanket.
Whether it’s an alarm gizmo or a can of mace, having something to hold onto when you are out alone is always good idea. Just be sure you know how to use it. This almost guarantees you will never have to.
3. Don’t promise a kidney to someone you met in a bar after 2 a.m.
Our mothers said “Nothing good happens after midnight.” Well…that may be pushing it. But incredibly stupid stuff happens when people are tired, intoxicated and have forgotten the value of their body parts. That fear gift we are learning to trust can go off-duty when we are under the spell of dazzling new acquaintances. Don’t sign contracts, make promises or give up your car keys to people you don’t know, especially at a time when you are…shall we say…not at your best.
4. Have an escape and rescue plan.
Even smart, strong women get victimized. Have a plan. If you’re on a date or out on the town and things get scary, use an escape strategy you have worked through in advance with a friend. The fake phone call or coded text SOS is actually pretty effective. But crawling out the bathroom window of the restaurant only works in the movies.
5. No matter how much you love and trust a partner, stay in charge of your money, your body, and your state of mind.
The biggest risks most women face are to our personal control and strength of spirit. This never changes, no matter how old we get.
6. Don’t be paranoid.
If you are lucky enough to live in America, and smart enough to happen onto this article, your list of things to fear is as long as you want it to be. Living scared and acting afraid of your shadow is unnecessary, and it’s unattractive. You’re fine. Just don’t be stupid.
Becky Blades is the mother of two college-aged daughters. Portions of this article are excepted from her book Do Your Laundry or You’ll Die Alone: Advice Your Mom Would Give if She Thought You Were Listening. Read more at LaundryOrDie.com.