Stay Safe, If You're Going to Make Out With a Stranger

Should I have gone back to the apartment of a man I barely knew? A self-defense expert weighs in with thoughts about how we can protect ourselves from violence (and STDs).

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I'm glad so many of you are fond of Barnaby Jepperdoom! He's a sweetheart, it's true--although, despite all your (very appreciated) predictions, I continue to think he and I will end up as friends. We'll see. I'll keep you posted. ... He had yesterday off from work, so we had a lovely lunch together, in leafy Park Slope, which was incredibly pleasant; and though I was quite cranky and stressed on my way over there, I left feeling kind of blissed out (particularly following a lovely mint-tea digestif at Cafe Regular du Nord).

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In other news, I hung out with the inimitable, adorable dating coach John Keegan, Guru, yesterday; I'll give you the full report on that (along with the next round of his tips) on Monday or Tuesday. The guy must have some kind of magic pixie dust he sprinkles on me, because after I left him yesterday, people were falling all over themselves to hit on me--not just men, but wome and children, too! Seriously, it was weird.

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Finally ... a few days ago, in the comments, Celia said: "Maura! You went home with the Baby Fireman after meeting him online and knowing him only a couple of hours??? And then he--a very muscular man--picked you up with the intention of carrying you off to his bedroom? You're lucky he put you down when you asked him to. You need to be more careful!"

Fair enough. And I will admit that when we were walking down the concrete steps of his building, into the windowless basement bunker where he lives, I did think: If he decides he wants to kill me down here, I'm sure he could do it and not a single person would ever hear my screams.

At the same time: I'd done something of a threat-assessment-test on him. Or, at least, I'd run certain pieces of information about him through the MK database, and determined that while he might have warranted a five-alarm fire in my loins, he did not warrant a code red terror alert. Why? Well, he'd shown me his driver's license (to illustrate the long hair he used to have) so I knew he wasn't lying about his identity; and I also figured that since he was a fireman--and had even posted a picture of himself in the NYFD uniform on the personals site--he was probably a relatively upstanding citizen (even a less upstanding memeber of the male race).

All the same, I figured Celia had a good point, and that a little caution can go a long way. So I decided to touch base with Katy Mattingly, author of Self-Defense: Steps to Survival, to ask her for a few rules of thumb about how we dates can stay safe while still having fun.


Katy says: "Figure out what your personal safety blind spots are, and unlearn them in order to protect yourself effectively. To determine what they are, write in your journal; ask for help from friends; or get a little therapy under your belt. If you think you don't HAVE any blind spots, you're in a LOT more danger than those of us who know what ours are."

What are some possible blind spots? Regrettable things you've done in the past. So, if you know that having that third drink--or taking a hit of that joint--is going to mean that you'll get in a car with a drunken driver, or have sex without using a condom ... don't do it! Back in my wilder days, I used to be a really heavy boozer; I also did my fair share of drugs. But eventually--after a few close calls and really scary situations--I started to realize all the substance use was making me do some dangerous things. So now, as you may have noticed, I almost never have anything more stiff than a club soda on a first date.


Katy: "Make sure someone you trust knows where you are and who are with--every time. Tell your mother, sister, friends, or post it as your Facebook status update if you have to. That information will help friends, family or police locate you if you run into a very rare but very real situation like the Craig's List Serial Killer." She adds: "When you meet the guy, take a photo of his driver's license and text it to your best buddy." If he won't let you do that, you have some really important information about him--and you might want to get away as quickly as possible. (If you think doing that sounds weird, please blame it on me: Tell him your friendly neighborhood blogger insisted on it. Also, if all women banded together to insist on that kind of thing, it wouldn't seem odd at all, would it? So why not start a trend!) Similarly, you can ask a friend to call 911 if you don't text her by midnight to say you've arrived home safely.


Katy: "Consider taking a self-defense class. Some great organizations that offer them include IMPACT, Kidpower/Fullpower, and RAD. You wouldn't jump into the deep end without a few swimming lessons, so don't hook up with anyone if you can't physically stop from hurting you!" Ladies, I know this sounds like a big commitment--and it is. But why not give a girlfriend or sister a self-defense class gift certificate for her birthday or Christmas--and then take it with her? Just like nice clothes or the gym, this would be a real investment in yourself. I've been meaning to take one of these classes for a long time, myself, and this might just be the kick I need.