When Youths Attack
Sunday started out like any other day. Some chores in the morning, a spot of lunch, then headed to meet a friend at her house that I hadn’t been to before. Armed with Google maps (my saviour), I set off, found her flat, then suddenly Sunday took an odd turn when three boys tried to mug me as I entered her building.
I hadn’t noticed the boys as I ambled down the street, but when I rang the buzzer for her apartment, I felt someone behind me. She buzzed me in and I assumed whoever was behind me must live in the building too. I held the door open for them without looking. As I started up the stairs, a young boy behind me (who I had apparently just let in) asked me for the time. I looked at my watch and told him it was four o’clock. He climbed up a few stairs, edging closer to me. It was then that I noticed his two friends, holding the building door open. Something wasn’t right. ‘Can I see it?’ he said, referring to my iPhone which I was holding in my left hand (he must have seen it as I glanced at my watch). ‘I’m partially blind, so can I see it?’ The kid’s got balls, I’ll give him that. ‘Are you partially deaf too? I just told you it’s four o’clock.’ I said. And then it came: ‘Bitch! Give me your phone!’ ‘I don’t think so,’ I said calmly as I continued to move up the stairs. All three of them were hollering at me now; bitch this, bitch that, yelling at me to hand the phone over, but before anything else happened, they scuppered out of the building.
As it was happening, I didn’t feel scared. These boys were aged probably between 13-15. Maybe it’s my boxing training that gave me the confidence to think I could defend myself if they came at me, but I was strangely calm. It wasn’t til later that it sank in. Sunday evening, I was slightly shaken up, but mainly just mad.
I was mad at the sense of entitlement these kids have, as though they have a right to take my phone from me, as if they deserve it. I was mad that they thought they were so tough because they singled out a woman who was alone to try pull this crap on (let’s see them try it with a 6’5″ man). I was mad that they called me a bitch – they said it so quickly, it was the go-to insult and just rolled off their tongues with such ease, something they clearly bandy around on a daily basis (all of this has subsequently made me think of my own use of the word ‘bitch’ and the power it holds, but perhaps that is the subject of another post).
Then I tried to look at it objectively. I don’t know these kids or their lives. To behave that way, so young, I think speaks to them being victims of their circumstances. Who are their role models? Why do they think this is acceptable? I hate to get all when I was that age but…when I was that age, I was scared of people older than me, I respected them – because I was taught to. I don’t know what it’s like to raise a kid, especially in these times, especially in London, but I’m gonna just go ahead here and say parents, you need to do better. Did the mothers of these boys know where they were on Sunday afternoon? That they were out terrorising a woman who just wanted to see a friend? Doubtful. But it’s also unfair to lay all the blame on the parents. If we’re going with the ‘it takes a village…’ theory, we’re all failing these kids. We all need to do better. Rather than being scared of them, we need to embrace them, teach them, guide them, show them alternatives – especially men, please stand up and teach these youngers some life skills. Stealing mobile phones will only get you so far.
Cut to Monday and as the dust settled, all I could seem to do was cry. I don’t even know why. It seems so silly that three teenage boys can work me up into such a state, but it became about more than that. I felt an overwhelming sadness for society in general, that this is where we find ourselves. I felt sad that I feel fear, that I’m now gripping my bag extra tight and viewing everyone as a potential attacker. I cried more on Monday than I’ve cried in a long time, uncontrollable tears (goddamnit, I kid you not, I’ve just set myself off again! *grabs tissues*) and I’m not ashamed to admit that as a 30 year old woman, all I wanted today was a hug from my dad. Nothing beats a dad hug in situations like this.
So I guess for the next little while, I’ll be extra cautious, a little jumpy and generally suspicious of anyone under 18. I shall do my best to shake it off because I’ll be damned if I give three jumped up teenage twats the power the control any aspect of my life.