Text Me When You Get Home

When I passed my driving test, aged 17, and got my own car, my Dad would say the same phrase every time I left the house:

“Mind how you go.”

I came to almost expect it after a while. Sometimes, if I was feeling particularly anxious that day, I’d prompt him before he even had a chance to say it anyway. It was a phrase I came to love.

“I’m off to work!” I’d shout up the stairs, grabbing my keys from the hook and stuffing my lunch in my bag.

“I’m going to a friends house,” I’d say, popping my head around the door of the lounge and waving goodbye.

“I’m going for a drive”, I’d yell, indicating that I just needed to go out for a bit. To clear my head.

“Mind how you go” he’d say back, without fail.

It took me a while to work out what that really meant; mind how you go. It means ‘be careful’, ‘stay safe’.

It’s kind of a warning, but the underlying message is ‘I care’

I care about you so be careful. I care about you so stay safe. I care about you so drive carefully.

When you grow up and move to a big city, your friends become your adopted family. You don’t need a car here so you use public transport, but no-one’s listening out for your key in the door anymore. No-one leaves the porch light on for you. No-one knows you’re home safe. No-one says ‘mind how you go’.

You learn a new phrase, and it’s a phrase you’ll find yourself saying almost automatically, over time. A phrase you say after you’ve kissed your friends on the cheek and hugged goodbye and thanked them for coming.

Before a holiday to The States, one of my male friends told me he was worried about being in New York; about the guns, about feeling defenceless, about how one misunderstood look could lead to something he’d never experienced here in London.

It struck a chord with me. Not because I worry about travelling to America; I don’t. I’ve been to America, although not to New York.

What struck a chord with me was that, to him, this anxiety about his safety was something completely new. It was something he’d never thought about. Never had to.

He worried about feeling intimidated. A feeling we, as women, know all too well.

Because a woman can walk down the street and glance at a man, in passing, and be called a slut or a whore.

She can look up from her book on the tube to work and be told, by a man, to smile.

She will take her hair out of the ponytail she’s worn all day before she walks home in the dark alone because it gives a potential attacker less to hold onto.

She’ll have her phone and keys and Oyster in her pocket so that if someone grabs her bag she can still get home and call someone.

She’ll take out her earphones on a quiet, low-lit street.

She’ll keep an eye on her drink in the bar, her keys in her hand in the dark, her head low in the street when a man in a passing car yells at her.

Some of us, even, have got back to our flat, one gorgeous Summer’s afternoon, to find our front door on the floor and our valuables gone and a knife in our bed.

We know intimidation like the backs of our hands. We don’t have to go far, don’t have to leave the country, to be afraid. We know what it’s like to still watch our backs in a city we love.

That’s why, when we hug at the entrance to the tube, the door of the pub, the end of the street, the last thing we say to each other isn’t goodbye.

It’s “text me when you get home.”

It means I know what it is to be a woman. It means stay safe. It means mind how you go.

It’s kind of a warning, but the underlying message is ‘I care’

Originally published at pack-your-passport.com