I was visiting a city in the south, and a pretty well-known poet, at the behest of his uncle whom I knew, set up a poetry reading for me. Tom (not his real name) had set up this reading in a downtown pub. I can’t remember the name of the pub, so let’s call it O’Flynn’s, starting at 9 p.m. that night. I didn’t have a car in Ireland, so I was hoofing it or taking taxis everywhere.
Early in the day, I texted Tom to ask for O’Flynn’s address. Much texting back and forth ensued, and I’ll never know the story on O’Flynn’s, but Tom never did give me an address. He told me it was “right around the corner” from my hotel, inside another business, and I could easily walk there. I went downstairs to the hotel’s front desk and asked the clerk to help me locate this place. She couldn’t find it. She guessed it was one of two possible locations, but she couldn’t be sure. I texted Tom again and asked for a street address so I could GPS. He didn’t give me one and said, instead, just to “head down XX Street, and you can’t miss it.”
So (1) I was a WOMAN traveling alone not just in an unfamiliar city, but an unfamiliar country; (2) It was after dark; (3) I was supposed to meet a man I’d never met and didn’t know; (4) I was in the city centre; (5) I was walking; and (6) I had no idea where I was going – I could set out in ANY direction, so vague were the directions, and never find the place.
Finally, I texted Tom and told him thank you, but I was staying in. I didn't know if this was to have been a “featured” reading, part of an open mic, or what kind of event it was. I’ll never know because Tom no longer speaks to me, declaring me “rude” and “inconsiderate” for canceling. It still bothers me, not because Tom decided I was rude—I’m a big girl and can take not everyone liking me—but because Tom, like SO MANY MEN, couldn’t or wouldn’t try to understand WHY I canceled. He didn't GET IT.
It’s so much easier for men to move about (especially white men) that many, I think, can’t imagine feeling vulnerable or being house-bound by fear. Like almost every woman I know, I’ve been accosted, confronted, and abused (only emotionally, for me, praise the goddesses) by men throughout my life. I’m not sure Tom could see the forest for his white male privileged trees.
In spite of still being angry that Tom, a well-educated man and gifted poet who, in the age of Me Too should have known better (or should have offered to pick me up), DOESN’T know better or wasn’t sensitive enough to empathize, I hope we can meet again someday and mend that fence. I love his poetry, and I think he’s an important voice in contemporary Irish poetry.
I also think that until MEN care about and work for the safety of women, we’d better keep the Wolverine claws (pepper spray, personal alarms, lifeguard whistles, etc.) handy.