I want to talk about how simple it can be to prevent something shitty occurring, and how huge an impact you can have on someone's experience of the world, just by noticing what's happening around you.
I've written a few pieces about the importance of being an up stander, and today I want to write about something that happened last night and how grateful I am that active bystanders exist.
Yesterday was my 31st Birthday (HOORAY!) and last night, Jordan took me out to celebrate with sake and sushi rolls at one of our favourite local Japanese restaurants.
As backstory, usually when we walk somewhere together, we only take one set of keys, and it's become a running joke that on returning home whoever has the keys feigns empty pockets while claiming that, "I thought you had the keys?!?" Last night was Jordan's turn to take the keys.
Dinner was delicious and after a couple of bottles of warm sake between us, we were both having a great time joking and laughing at one another, and I was at that happy point of tipsy and warm without being too silly.
As we were stepping back out on to the street about to head home, Jordan turned to me and said, "So you've got the keys, haven't you?"
I loudly respond with faux irritation, " Oh my god! You're such a shit head!" while noticing a woman walking across the street towards us.
Jordan hit back with put on insult, "Don't call me a shit head!"
Me, running with the joke, "Seriously? Every time! I specifically asked you before we left!"
The woman slowed right down.
Jordan, "Don't call me a shit head after I took you out for dinner and paid for it, you have to be nice to me!"
By this point, the woman has stopped walking and pointedly makes eye contact with Jordan.
I burst out laughing at the ridiculousness of everything (not having caught the stare that the woman had thrown at Jordan), and said, "Wow! That's not how relationships work."
He followed up with put on confusion, "But taking you out for dinner and buying you drinks means I get the sex now, isn't that how it works?" before also bursting out laughing.
Me through giggles, "We have become the loud couple who wakes everyone in the street up with our laughter on our walk home and by the way, excellent faux pas."
In my happily tipsy and warm state, and being in on the joke we were making, I'd kept walking the whole time and hadn't stopped to think about the context of our in-jokes not looking like jokes to an outsider, although it is something that we're both usually pretty careful about.
As we reached the corner and recovered from our laughter, Jordan told me, "The woman we just passed back there was looking out for you."
Me, "I know. 'No girl gets left behind' isn't just a thing we say to feel good."
Jordan, "Yeah, but I saw it happening. It's so subtle and powerful at the same time. All she did was make eye contact, and I knew the joke had gone too far."
This honestly made my birthday.
In The Girl Gang, we often highlight the importance of Rad Bitches Looking Out For One Another, but after everything that's been happening in the world lately it can be challenging at times to remember that the world is predominantly filled with awesome people who are looking out for each other.
Looking out for one another is something that girls in particular are taught from a young age. We go to the toilet in pairs because there's safety in numbers - even if all we can do is watch out, or run for help if something happens.
As women, we know that the world can be a scary place, and we've carried those lessons with us.
We notice things about our surroundings, and we bear witness to the people we share them with.
Even when we're tipsy.
We notice when the guy at the table across from us orders their date a blue drink and check to see if the bottle it arrives in is sealed when the she receives it.
We notice the middle aged couple at the table beside us who seem to have mutual friends, but are only a few dates into getting to know each other.
We notice when she seems flustered and frustrated at something and gets up to use the bathroom, and he makes her leave her phone on the table.
We pay attention to how he behaves while she's gone, and what her demeanour is like when she returns to make sure that everything seems okay.
We pay attention to the little things around us that guys miss, and these were some of the real examples of things I noticed happening around us last night. Jordan hadn't observed any of them.
While Jordan and I understand the jokes we make together, and we're comfortable satirising toxic masculinity, we do it knowing how damaging it can really be. He goes in with the awareness that I've experienced conversations like the one we jokingly had last night in a real way, and we make these jokes with a clear understanding of my boundaries. We both have a pretty dark sense of humour, and for me it's helpful to make jokes out of and laugh at my own experiences. It's part of why I believe that we need dark, inappropriate and violent jokes, films, art and music. Laughing at that shit can be cathartic.
But as always, context is everything.
Thanks to the awesome woman who stopped last night, Jordan's had a little reminder that some parts of our jokes are best kept to being shared among an audience who understand what's actually going on.
I do wish that I'd been quick enough to thank the random stranger in the street who felt that something was off even though everything was actually fine.
She didn't have to step in, or say anything, but she made damn sure that Jordan knew that if he was the kind of person who was going to mistreat his partner right then and there, that someone was going to know about it.
These things matter and they can make a huge difference to people's realities.