I was out walking my dog, Emmie, earlier today. Along my usual path around the lake near my house. It is a well-maintained, paved pathway and usually there are a lot of people out in the afternoon. Today was a very windy day, and there aren’t many people out. Fewer people is my preference because trying to maintain the appropriate social distance on parts of the pathway can be challenging. It does get narrow at times due to trees and bushes on either side or the occasional bridge.

Emmie and I were approaching one of the narrower areas of the trail. Coming towards us was an older couple. The woman leaves the path and moves up on the right side of us. She is now standing in someone’s yard. That usually is where I would go on this part of the trail. Even before all of this started, I would tend to move Emmie out of the way of people. She is a big dog, and not everyone is a fan of large dogs. Now this woman is standing there, and I am unsure of what to do, so I pause.

The man is still standing a bit down the pathway facing me, facing me, “Where are you going?” “I am going straight that way,” I say, pointing with my left hand straight down the path. “No, you can’t.” I stared at him as I processed what he had said. Many thoughts came running through my brain. Is the trail closed? Is there something up ahead that I need to divert around? Is this a bad situation? Then, I get it. He is talking about how to maintain social distance. Okay, I am not tracking this conversation. “I am going around you to my left,” I say with a nervous chuckle. “Okay,” he replies, “That you can do.” And he moves to the right, and we continue on our walk.

It was weird. It made me go from a leisurely walk around the lake to thinking that I may need to do something that is very much the opposite of leisurely. When a man tells me that I can’t do something and is blocking my path, my first reaction is to ignore him. Come hell or high water. I would not let some guy block my way. I didn’t like that situation. It is a good thing that I paused to ponder what he was saying. If you are going to start gaslighting me and telling me that I was overreacting, just stop. Look at it from any woman’s perspective. Walking on a trail and suddenly someone is blocking the path and telling you that you can’t go the direction that you intend. It was more than a bit off-putting.  

Luckily, this instance was just this guy who didn’t know how to verbalize better what he wanted to say. It was awkward, not dangerous. We aren’t around other people much anymore. And perhaps that has made some of us a bit rougher around the edges. As we emerge from our caves to venture into the world, let’s try to be less awkward.

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