Whenever my family goes on road trips, before we leave the house and we are all sitting in the car, my mom will turn around in her seat and look at my sister and I smiling her huge smile and say, "Ok! Time to put the pink bubble of protection around the car!"
Ever since I was a little itty bitty kiddie, I remember her having us do this to the car. We imagine The Pink Bubble around the car protecting us from everything from falling trees to lightening to flat tires and brake failures. Sometimes this bubble has sparkles, sometimes it is an electric shade of pink, but it is always surrounding the car and so far it has never failed me.
The Pink Bubble saves lives.
And I'm about to get real serious with this metaphor.
When you travel alone as a woman you need a Pink Bubble, but you need the upgraded version. You need The Fuck Off Bubble.
I've traveled as a young woman alone and in places where any kind of attention is an invitation to your time and space. Eye contact is an invitation, simply existing is an invitation. In order to move easily and safely through out my world I have developed a method of using The Fuck Off Bubble to my advantage and I would like to share it with you today.
The Pink Bubble and The Fuck Off Bubble are essentially the same thing, however, when you are in a car you already have a Fuck Off Bubble because a 2 ton metal box moving at 70 miles an hour down the highway is pretty darn impenetrable. Not very many people will take on a speedy metal projectile, but a young woman alone is always a different story.
So lets address the issue. Traveling alone as a woman is scary! There is so much out there that tells us it is a terrible idea. Not just from conventional wisdom passed down from well meaning friends and family members, but from the media and from the cat calls and whistles you get walking down the street in any city.
I think the heart of this feeling is that men are the owners of public space, and women are guests there. Making eye contact is seen as an invitation because it is an acknowledgment of someone in your space. Existing alone in a public space as a woman is also loaded with historical context.
Women historically have been (and in some places still are) seen only in public with a chaperone, or a husband. Men can be in public alone and it is fine, this comes with that assumption that men are owners of public space, women are guests there.
When a woman was seen alone outside it meant that she was looking for a man. These women were and are ‘asking for it’ because they don’t already have a male escort.
The reason I bring this up is it’s important to look at this dynamic and understand it so you can work around it. And work around it you shall, with The Fuck Off Bubble.
The Fuck Off Bubble.
Ok think about it like your house and home. The Fuck Off Bubble has layers. Each woman will have to decide where hers begins and ends and where the rest of the world begins. I’ll just share my own personal Fuck Off Bubble zone with you to get a feeling for how this works.
The world surrounds me. Can’t change that. So anything that I do, wear or say is going to be a part of the general public. I acknowledge that I am a part of the world around me and that my actions have weight, that they matter. In order to fully use your Fuck Off Bubble to your advantage, you must do away with all passivity. This is a really hard step for a lot of women, we are generally socialized to be passive and especially in the company of men. We are socialized to cater to the needs of everyone but ourselves. To successfully utilize your Fuck Off Bubble you will need to cut that shit out.
For me, the world begins about 4 feet in every direction around me. That is where my Fuck Off Bubble really begins. Anything within that space is under my influence and I demand that anyone in that space give me the respect I deserve. It sounds confrontational, but if you just start to think it in your head over and over again, it becomes true. This is your space, you control what happens in it.
So how do you act in your Fuck Off Bubble? You are comfortable, you own this space, it is yours. You relax, you sit with your head held high because you deserve this space, you stretch your legs and work out the kinks in your neck. You sit like you own the place, you walk with confidence.
That is the first layer of The Fuck Off Bubble.
I find that most people will not breach The Fuck Off Bubble’s first layer if you successfully work it. People who want to prey on others are inherently cowards and want to pick on easy targets. The Fuck Off Bubble makes you a difficult target. You don’t look scared, you look like you own the place, and most people will go along with that.
Think about it, if you were going to mug someone, would you choose the person with eyes darting quickly back and forth hugging their purse, or the person walking purposefully who looks at you briefly before continuing on with their lives. Chances are you wouldn’t even think of that person, you would barely register them as a target.
Thats The Fuck Off Bubble at work.
The second layer of my Fuck Off Bubble starts about 1 foot away from me in all directions.
Anyone within this space better have been invited there or be in a social acceptable space or they will be leaving very soon. You can not always control people being this close to you, busses, trains, and even airplanes put you in contact with people in this proximity.
When people get into this space, you are in control of what happens. Even if you don’t believe this, act like it and think it until it is true. You are your own guardian angel, and your mighty shield is The Fuck Off Bubble. Nothing happens within this Bubble without your consent. However, the rest of the world isn’t always on the same page as you about this.
When the inevitable happens, someone is trying to aggressively sell you something, get you to walk into this shop, alley way, or won’t leave you alone on the bus, you have to let them know they are violating The Fuck Off Bubble. And the easiest way to do that? Tell them to fuck off.
This is difficult step number two. And you can’t do this step without first believing that the first layer of The Fuck Off Bubble is real.
So believe it.
Practice in your head, practice at home, and believe it.
This layer of The Fuck Off Bubble requires you to be very familiar with the word, “No.
We have this crazy notion in life that we just need to say yes more! Say yes to the world! Let the world in and ride that highway all night long! What we don’t tell people is that in order to enjoy that highway of life, we need to be able to chose which highways we get off and on.
The easiest way to get someone to leave you alone is to look them dead in the eyes and just say, “No.”
In India I literally had to yell as loud as I could in someones face, “No! Leave me alone! I do not want to see you again!” Before they left me alone. So get comfortable and practice telling people to fuck off.
The third layer of The Fuck Off Bubble is my skin. This is my house and home. This is my goddamned palace. And only those who are expressly invited may visit and/or enter.
This layer is not often tested, so rest assured, most of the other layers of the bubble will have deterred anyone looking to mess with you. But when this layer of The Fuck Off Bubble is crossed, there is hell to pay. Now, I've never had to use the wrathful powers of The Fuck Off Bubble when crossed at layer three in defense of myself. However, I have used this is defense of a friend. Because when you have successfully employed The Fuck Off Bubble, your friends are protected by it as well.
I was swimming in the Ganga with a friend of mine. We were both leaving the country in a few weeks and we wanted to take a dip kind of far away from the crowds. They say the waters cleanse your bad Karma so, why not?
We were farther away from the crowds, but still, being a white lady tourist (soaking in water no less) draws the attention of many curious eyes. A crowd of young men (12-19 yrs old) started swimming naked near us in the water, we decided it was time to get out. As we were walking out of the water, there were various things shouted, "Hey come swimming with us! No you can't leave yet. Please don't go!"
I can feel my wet clothes sticking to my body, in a few minutes they would be dry because of the intense heat, but for now I am uncomfortably aware of how the thin linen clothing clung to my body. I walk confidently and firmly towards the stairs out of the water, my friend follows behind. Layer one of The Fuck Off Bubble was not going to let me slink out of the water.
The boys are still shouting at us to stay. All of them are naked and my friend and I are trying to modestly look away from their lower halves and navigate out of the rickety Ganga stairs. The whole time I'm shouting, "No," kindly but firmly and waving my arms out in front of me and to the sides, making an invisible bubble of protection around both of us. Layer two of The Fuck Off Bubble is working so far.
One of the oldest boys takes a step towards my friend and puts his hand around her wrist, trying to keep her from leaving. Thats it. I can feel the anger that was building up inside of me for this walk release and I direct it all at this one boy. I'm not explosive, I'm not uncontrollable. I am clear. I am strong.
"No." I look him right in the eyes and I say it loud and clear. "Get your hands off her. We are leaving. Right now." The boy looked like he had put his hand in hot water. He pulled his hand back quickly and took a step back. He shook his head and said, "Sorry, yes. Go. Sorry." The rest of the boys stepped back and let us pass. The hot day made the cool water more appealing than us anyway. The younger boys had already jumped off the dock and back under the murky waves.
The Fuck Off Bubble is silly. It's a metaphor for confidence in yourself and the power of speaking up. However, I find that people believe in things that are made up more than things that are real.
Having confidence in yourself is hard. Crafting a Fuck Off Bubble is easy.
So when you are traveling alone, take a few minutes before you step out the front door, take a deep breath, and weave yourself a Fuck Off Bubble. Give it colors, give it layers, give it a texture and even a sound if you like. Keep yourself safe, keep your head held high, walk with confidence, and practice saying "Fuck Off."
And just so you know, mine is always big and pink.