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Don't Let Them Make You React

From now on you only make choices.

By R. ByerPublished about a month ago 4 min read
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Don't Let Them Make You React
Photo by Wilhelm Gunkel on Unsplash

Sobbing and growing increasingly alarmed as I became increasingly aware of my actual situation, I was thankful to escape inside the small bathroom stall. Having waited several minutes in a line that seemed to never shrink, I knew I wouldn't be able to hide for as long as it would take to figure out what I was going to do next.

In a world before cell phones were common, and uber was still a www away, a bad date meant a long walk or a collect phone call to a friend you prayed would be home and accept the charges, even though it would mean explaining it to their parents when the phone bill came, or getting lucky enough that they could understand your top speed detail of your location and need for an immediate ride.

I could call my parents and admit I wasn't at a sports fundraiser, but instead was dressed in a distinctly different manner than I had left the house, with a significant amount of cosmetic embellishment. They would be less than impressed but they would come get me. And they wouldn't kill me, not that my date seemed particularly homicidal, but he was drunk. I had also recently come to the conclusion that at 17, a 25 year old man was probably gross for trying to date me. I had know this for at least 20 minutes, since he ordered another "bucket of beers" and put my hand down his pants.

I had heard several doors open and close in the three stall bathroom and I knew I needed to get out of there before someone started knocking, so I wiped away my distress as best as is possible with single ply rough cut dive bar toilet paper and exited my safe haven.

She slipped her hand into mine before I even really saw her, and squeezed it as I looked over to see a woman in a loud green top with a giant curly mop of a ponytail spilling everywhere.

Come to the sink love, rinse your face and take a deep breath. She led me there with her warm hand that I noticed was decorated with more diamonds than was average for what I had seen of this establishment.

She was pulling out a make up remover wipe and tissues and proceeded to piece me back together, right up to pushing my shoulders physically back and straightening my collar & skirt.

And the whole time I barely said a word. She asked if I had anyone there with me besides him, and if I had any money. Both no. I asked how she knew I was in there, and she laughed.

Because he's a drunk jerk and you look like a baby, no offense, a beautiful baby, but hon, you're too young to be here. Then she just told me to breathe, dry off, and never allow myself to be in situations where I am forced to react.

Never.

She put her finger directly in my face and repeated it with force.

You go about your day with built in options, for everything. You have choices, and if a situation isn't what you bargained for, you exercise an option, you make a choice. Tonight, you have no money, you have no ride. You have no options, no choice to make. You never do this again. In any part of your life. This is the only thing you need to remember, keep choices open by keeping options at hand. In love, in education, in vacations, in life. Have a plan B, because plan A falls apart constantly and never leave the house without the bare bones of what you will need to pick yourself up and get your ass back home. Now where did you come from?

I told her my address, about 10 miles away, and she pressed some money in my hand as she pulled a pen from her purse.

This is my phone number. You go outside and up the block to the cross street, there is a hotel there with cabs out front, go to the first one and tell them your address. Pay when you get out and call me to let me know you aren't dead or kidnapped. Give me your number, you don't call me by midnight and I call your parents so they can call the cops to find you. Next date be smarter and bring money.

I can pay you back, I have a job. I'll come meet you somewhere.

I don't want your money. I want smart young people.

And when I called her about 45 minutes later, safe and sound, whispering from my house phone, she sounded relieved, and told me she loved me and to have a good night and to always have choices lined up.

Just a random loud funky lady in a bathroom that took the time to wipe mascara off a teenager and slip her a 20 to avoid being groped, or worse, but she left me with a simple approach to nearly every aspect of life.

In the recent decades, knowing what my alternate options are at any given moment has proven to be an asset that has saved many situations as they took a left turn to a place I no longer wanted to journey. Or the world shut down and we were all forced to pivot from the immediate futures we had planned. And the most beautiful effect of this method is that by always having a second option in mind, I am more resolute in the options I choose. Knowing that I have a choice in any matter means there is no place for resentment to grow about circumstances, life is intentional.

I don't think the loud lady in the bathroom meant to give me a motto for life, more that she just wanted to help a dumb kid in over her head avoid getting there again, but her words have stuck with me longer than her name, and certainly longer than the name of the creepy guy who was trying to date a teenager.

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About the Creator

R. Byer

I'm the average. The plain. The everyday. You can barely see me.

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