If I wasn’t afraid of being murdered, I would do yoga at night. I would meet my friend at the bandstand in the park, and we wouldn’t be afraid to come from different entrances because you don’t have to meet your friend in a well-lit public area if you’re not afraid of being followed and killed. We would meet in the darkness with our yoga mats tucked under our arms, and we would find a cool, beautiful place to stretch and breathe. Everything would smell amazing, the honeysuckle having been slow-roasted in the daylight, the aroma unleashing over us. I would look over and see her breathe in thick, concentrated puffs as she tries to stay steady in chair pose. Every so often we would hear a high-pitched squeal, and we would say “probably a fox”, and we would be sure that it probably was a fox. And not, say, a person.
If I wasn’t afraid of being murdered, I would love talking to strange men on the bus. I would have a high appreciation for quirky characters, chatty extroverts, and people who love to socialise but aren’t very good at it. I would listen brightly about their longstanding family arguments, their brothers they no longer speak to, their arguments with the NHS about medication and waitlists. If someone called me beautiful I would take it as a compliment. I would not get off the bus a stop early or a stop late. It would not bother me a great deal if someone were able to figure out my vague address or schedule.
As a person who is interested in witchcraft and the occult, I would occasionally throw little parties for the full moon. I would assemble my witchiest friends on a picnic blanket somewhere very dark where we could see the stars. We would drink red wine and perform harmonies to ‘Moon Shadow’ by Cat Stevens, and if someone were to pass by and call “sounding lovely, ladies!” we would call back and say “we know!” My dog would get two walks a day Instead of just the one.
I would never use my boyfriend as an excuse not to date someone. I would not use the fact that another man 'has dominion over me' in order to get a stranger to respect my personal space. I would not have to negotiate the space between dropping my boyfriend’s name in conversation casually, so that the stranger won’t feel like he has to waste his time in trying to sleep with me, and dropping my boyfriend’s name too much, so that the stranger doesn’t feel like I’ve assumed too much and then gets angry with me. I would not feel like I have to protect the personal feelings of strangers who are liable to get angry and violent when their feelings are hurt.
I have long suspected that the reason women learn to be passive-aggressive is because if we were actually aggressive and told people what the matter was, they might hit us, and then they might keep on hitting us. What would my arguments with my boyfriend look like if men didn’t kill women? Would I give up snide comments forever? Would I have no patience for comments that are slightly bitchy, but live firmly in the realm of plausible deniability?
Would our fights be little controlled explosions, like the kind they do to clear the snow on mountains? Hard to know. Impossible to say.
The space in my brain that has spent 31 years being filled with tips on how to survive a world with men in it would suddenly be empty, like a bedroom when a child moves out. What will I use all that extra brain space for? Do a pottery course? Learn pole dancing? Revisit my Leaving Cert French?
The isolation straight men feel, the limitations of their social groups, the great surge in depression and suicide among them, the fact that wages are smaller than ever and yet they are still often expected to provide for their wives and children — and are considered, on some level, failures if they can not. Early baldness. Erectile dysfunction. Conscription, in the countries that have it. Testicular cancer. Being expected to help carry the coffin at funerals. Being expected to propose.
I would have enormous sympathy for all that — endless amounts really. My fear of men as a category would be entirely replaced by empathy for them as a whole. Perhaps other women would feel the same, and perhaps the global shift would be enormous enough that both genders would understand each other more, and maybe some of their problems would disappear.
And those are the things I would do, if I wasn’t afraid of being murdered.