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Lima Goes to Hollywood and The Power of the Grey Man

Amidst all the media attention surrounding my Babywearing and Carrying class was a call from CBS’s show, “The Doctors.” They thought my class was interesting and wanted to fly me out to California to talk about it. It took me a few days to get to the place where I decided to take the trip. I said yes on Tuesday, had a travel itinerary on Wednesday night and was on a plane on Thursday.

This is the first solo trip I’ve taken in a very long time to a destination that doesn’t include rendezvousing with friends or family or a firearms class.

No lie, the idea of two days in Hollywood by myself was very appealing though the reminders to be careful started in earnest along with concerns of, “Aren’t you nervous to be traveling by yourself?”

I don’t subscribe to that kind of worry and fear. Lots of people travel by themselves. Lots of females travel by themselves. I’m a pretty secure and confident individual who enjoys doing new things and new experiences.

I was not even worried that I had to leave my gun at home. I don’t have reciprocity in California and while I contemplated bringing my firearm anyway I figured it would be more trouble than it was worth seeing as how I couldn’t carry it (not legally, anyway).

I arrived in downtown Hollywood at around 7 pm local time. I noticed something immediately. I was tragically underdressed. Jeans, t-shirt and flats are as out of costume for Hollywood Blv as if I were dressed in a towel. I was establishing my baseline and already I was not fitting in as a “grey man.”

The head-to-toe glances of the natives made it obvious they recognized me as an outsider.

I was scheduled to go on television the next day so I spent the evening organizing and preparing myself in my hotel room and went to bed at a reasonable time.

The next morning I was up with the sunrise and out to breakfast at 7:30. The diner I chose was right on the Blv and allowed me to watch the people coming and going. In other words, to keep establishing my baseline.

My hotel is on the right. The Chinese Theater on the left.

My hotel is on the right. The Chinese Theater on the left.

The tourists were easy to spot. They got distracted by the names of the stars on the sidewalk, they took pictures of everything. The people who seemed to be local ignored the tourist attractions entirely or pushed the entirety of their belongings around in plastic tubs and shopping carts muttering to themselves.

The blv was practically empty at such an early hour aside from businesses polishing store fronts and setting up kiosks, vagrants milling around, the occasional jogger and hurried individuals dressed business casual, checking cell phones as they hurried off to what I can assume was work. I took that moment to do my tourist thing. Still dressed in flats, jeans and a tank top with no makeup and my hair in a ponytail, armed with hot tea, a knife and pepper spray I walked around taking pictures of the things I found interesting, enjoying the gorgeous weather and being slightly annoyed that absolutely nothing opened before 9 am.

I wasn’t scheduled for pick up until 11:30 so I had lots of time. I looked like a tourist and I knew it. But it was okay. I was a tourist.

When 9 am hit it was like an eruption that spewed people and cars onto the street. They were, literally, bussed in by the dozens. In the course of a half an hour it went from ghost town to shoulder-to-shoulder. With the tourists dressed in t-shirt and jeans and tennis shoes, came the street vendors selling maps and actors dressed like actors trying to entice tourists to tip for pictures.

My status as a tourist was so obvious I was accosted by both a Thor and a spiderman. Vendors hounded me to buy maps and trinkets and take pictures and give hugs. One man followed me for a block telling me I was beautiful and that he had to know “the beautiful redhead.” I found it interesting that he kept asking where I was from. It was clear to him that I was not a native. I fought my way through the crowds to get back to the hotel to get ready for the show.

I spent any time I had left by the hotel pool relaxing. I had been put up in an expensive hotel right on the blv that would not have been common for your average tourist. This allowed me to observe the people who “belonged.” None of them were dressed casually. Even at the pool the women were dressed in heels, their hair and makeup was done and they wore jewelry. Laying out to relax was more of a carefully orchestrated display than resting.

I took note and went off to the show. More on that later.

Even at the studio I took careful note of the staff–the people one could easily peg as local. The males could easily be described as “hipster.” Skinny jeans, graphic t-shirts, wild hair, random piercings and leather jewelry and an occasional hat that never seemed to fit in any form of function. The females, on the other hand, were all wearing heels, dresses and jewelry. There was no one dressed practically despite the hustle.

Upon arriving back at the hotel I wanted to go out again but not be subject to the endless requests to buy or take pictures or answer questions as to where I was from. I wanted to blend in, to be the grey man. My hair and makeup were already done so before leaving I made two very important changes to my wardrobe. I added a pair of comfortable heels and a string of pearls. The things that many would assume would attract more attention.

Heading out for my "grey man" experiment.

Heading out for my “grey man” experiment.

On the contrary. It made me invisible.

Having done all of the picture taking and sight seeing I was also no longer distracted by the sights which freed me to walk directly to and from my destinations with the determination of seasoned locals.

For the next hour of walking on the blv I was left entirely alone. Not a single street vendor or actor-of-actors bothered me. They looked right past me. It was as if I didn’t exist. Even going back to the hotel, the up-and-down glances I’d received when I first arrived were replaced with a passive indifference to my existence simply by changing my shoes and putting on a necklace and not washing my face. Even when I went out to the hotel bar for some more time to relax by the pool with a drink, I was completely ignored.

To continue this social experience, the next day I wore heels and jewelry and did my hair and makeup for my trip home.

In Long Beach I continued to enjoy my new found camouflage. Arriving home to a place where practicality in dress prevails above all things and the only women you see in heels and full makeup on a Saturday are those going to weddings, made me the odd woman out again. The up-and-down glances returned and people stared at me from corner booths wondering who I thought I was being so dressed up.

I live and run in particular circles where practical dress and weaponry are expected. Cover garments, practical shoes and “blending in” mean 5.11 gear and a whole lot of khaki. Women are admonished to wear practical shoes and leave jewelry home that might attract attention. I can no longer say, however, that we can paint a clear picture of what blending in may mean based upon one costume. I’m pretty sure I would consider divorcing my husband if he ever tried to wear skinny jeans and an impractical hat just for the sake of blending in but if putting on a pair of loafers instead of tennis shoes or a graphic t-shirt instead of a button up makes you go from “look at that outsider” to invisible, it may be worth it.

Being an outsider (even if that outsider is practical) draws attention to you and being a grey man may mean balancing a different wardrobe than your used to to keep that attention at bay. Yes, there will be times when you won’t be able to blend in no matter what you do. Race, language, accents, overt cultural differences, limited time to establish norms, can all combine to make it impossible to blend in to some environments. It may also be impractical to completely change your wardrobe by purchasing clothing and items you wouldn’t normally wear for a brief stay. In which case you must accept your outsider status and what comes with that.

Heckling, unwanted attention and even violence can be bestowed on the outsider. Decide for yourself how much you need to change to blend in and whether or not it’s worth it to try. At very least, you may be able to avoid being hugged by Thor.

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Who’s To Blame For The Accidental Gun Death Of An Idaho Mom

Who’s To Blame For The Accidental Gun Death Of An Idaho Mom

Authorities: 2-year-old boy accidentally shoots and kills his mother inside Idaho Wal-Mart | Fox News.

The above story has been shared with me no less than six times over the past twenty-four hours. I’m sure in the next twenty-four I’ll get another ten links, messages, tagged in a few more Facebook comments or asked, “Did you hear about the woman who’s son shot her in Wal-Mart?”

While I initially balked at the assault to my inbox I suppose I understand it.

I’m twenty-nine years old. The same age as the mother. I have three children. One of them just days past her third birthday. And I carry a gun.

I’ve carried a gun longer than I’ve been a mother. In fact, day in and day out since the days my three little ones were born my children have spent more time in the presence of a gun than they have spent at zoos, parks, pools, and possibly with other children. If they have been in my presence, they’ve been in the presence of a gun.

I could say that but for the grace of God, a couple hundred hours of professional firearms training and a strict adherence to safe gun handling practices this could be me. I could be dead in a Wal-Mart. Shot to death by my own gun in the hand of my baby whom I carry to protect. The irony could almost be funny if it weren’t so tragic.

As I type these words dozens upon dozens of pro-gun bloggers are out there writing about how and why this could happen and what we can do to prevent it. They are listing things like keeping positive control of your firearm at all time, keeping gun bags away from children, making sure your firearm is secured in a quality holster and teaching your children about safe gun handling. Many of them are probably demonizing off-body (or purse) carry (rightfully so in this case) and maybe even lashing out at the mother for her irresponsibility and complacency.

Some not-so-pro-gun writers and opinion-spewers are also making sure we put blame squarely on the shoulders of the gun. Oh, and the NRA. Because you can’t blame one without the other. They are calling gun owners like myself crazy and questioning why any of us would take a gun to Wal-Mart, especially with our children in tow.

I get it. I do.

People like something to blame. Guns are a pretty fine target to aim all that rage at. It’s just like the car that backed over the toddler playing in the driveway. The pool that drowned the boy. The medication or household chemicals that poisoned, the tree that was fallen from, the pharmacy screw up or the car seat that wasn’t strapped correctly.

In case you missed it, there was a theme going on there. It was people. People screw up. People and their acts of complacency and ignorance are what kills kids. And sometimes tragic accidents happen through a series of unfortunate events that no one could have ever foreseen.

And while we’re talking about people to blame for this mother’s death. Let me tell you who I blame.

I blame you!

That’s right.

YOU!

You, the anti-gun activist who told her she shouldn’t have a gun but couldn’t give her a better option to protect herself and her little ones so she put the gun in her purse anyway.

You, the pediatrician who asked if there are guns in the home but couldn’t recommend any safer advice than, “Get rid of it.”

You, the Facebook friend who would post 100 times a day about car seat safety but not once about gun safety.

You, the relative who would put 1,000 hours into studying the safest stroller to buy for the new mother but not a second into what constitutes a good gun purse or holster.

As long as you are willing to deny reality and advocate unreasonable measures these things will continue to happen.

The reality is that there are almost as many guns as citizens in the US and that number is rising. The reality is that there are processes in place that allow average citizens to carry firearms on their persons in public in all 50 states. As many as six states allow the concealed carry of firearms by citizens without any permits and trainingwhatsoever. Gun ownership is on the rise and so is the number of concealed carry permits being issued, especially to women.

Guns are not going anywhere and to act as though they are is irresponsible.

Years ago we discovered that young men and young women were having sex. No matter how much we told them not to do it until they got married it still happened. And as a result we had lots of unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. We tried harder to tell them to stop having sex and it didn’t work. Finally, someone advocated that instead of being unrealistic about sex it was time to face reality and start educating kids about safe sex. Teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases decreased.

When we embrace reality and decide to address it in a reasonable manner we do great things.

We faced the reality that kids ride in cars and are vulnerable because of it. We’ve made amazing seats for them and advocated their safe use to the point that complete strangers who have never had children can tell whether your car seat practices are safe or not. We have whole groups of mothers who come together to advocate safe babywearing, safe sleeping and safe play.

But a mom can still go to a gun store, get a gun, put it in her purse and not know the safety risks. If she tries to talk about it instead of getting reasonable, realistic recommendations on how she may safely own and carry a gun around her child she is blasted with judgment about how she shouldn’t have that gun in the first place.

She’s been alienated and left that much more vulnerable to error.

We, in the gun community do what we can. By law we are required to give out gun safety pamphlets and child locks with the guns that are sold but we have no control over how they are used. We arrange classes that few come to, but you won’t put up our fliers because you don’t like guns. You wouldn’t help us get funding or access to do gun safety talks in schools and libraries and other public places. You would say it has no place in school ignoring the fact that kids are getting access to guns and accidentally killing themselves and others. You would rather tell me that I’m a terrible mother for having a gun than listen to my tips on how I’ve managed to carry a gun around my children for over six years safely.

And in doing so you are the one who is making gun safety inaccessible. You are the one who is shutting down the conversation on how to keep these things from happening. You are the one hampering the information that could have saved this woman’s life.

I don’t know all the details. She could certainly have been a woman just like me. She could have had the hundreds of hours of training and preparation and known better and that complacency and lack of judgment is what got her killed. It happens.

But more than likely, she’s like the hundreds of women I run into day after day after day. The women who have guns but have no idea how to store them. They have no idea how to safely carry them and they don’t feel like they have access to that information. Their pediatricians don’t know and she doesn’t feel comfortable asking because of the judgment she might receive. There’s no poster on the library wall reminding them to keep their firearm away from children but it’s okay to alienate her further with the picture of a gun with a big red X through it. They can’t ask you because instead of directing them towards a credible source you will judge them for their decisions to be armed.

Instead of being part of the problem, start helping. Stop advocating for unrealistic measures like bans on guns or forbidding carry in certain places. It’s not working. Instead, start advocating safe gun practices. Accept that there are guns in this country and that people will carry them. If the manpower of the Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America would redirect their focus to real, reasonable safety measures what a benefit for reducing accidental gun deaths they would be!

Learn about gun safety yourself.

Learn the four basic rules of gun safety.

Learn safe storage in the home.

Learn what makes a safe holster system for carrying in public.

Learn about the safety issues with purse carry.

Learn what a safe gun purse looks like.

Share what you’ve learned. It’s okay to be honest and say, “I’d rather you didn’t have a gun at all, but since you do and I care about you and your safety, I want you to do it as safely as possible.”

Let’s be realistic and foster real, positive change.

And may the family find comfort in their time of loss.

Share this on social media to start the conversation in a positive way.

Share this on social media to start the conversation in a positive way.

Melody Lauer

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