Passport? Check. Toothbrush? Check. Wedding ring… check?
Traveling as a single female has its benefits and drawbacks, one of which being hordes of unwanted attention from men. Like many other traveling ladies, I’ve personally experienced leering old men getting a little too cuddly on a chicken bus or asking for too much information on a long shaky train ride. The creepiest ones are also the most socially inept ones who can’t read any ‘get the eff away from me!’ signals. There isn’t a lot you can do in these situations except try to walk away, but here are a couple of tips to help ease the awkwardness.
First, be polite but abrupt.
Don’t lead into a conversation you’re not comfortable with and give body signals that show your uneasiness. Often locals are just curious about foreigners and take any opportunity available to talk to them. It’s generally harmless intentions, and more often than not you can gain a lot from the conversation as well. But if it’s the type you’re not comfortable with, you don’t have to continue. Feel free to fake sleepiness or lack of English language skills; anything you need to do to move past the situation.
One way to ward off unwanted attention before it even arrives is by wearing a (fake) wedding ring. More often than you realize, men might avoid a married woman, assuming her husband might be just around the corner. If they continue to ask questions about where my mysterious husband may be, I’ll mention he’s in the army and overseas, sometimes he’s even in a war zone. No one messes with a Navy Seal’s wife. (Sometimes I upgrade.)
Sure it seems silly and old fashioned but the truth is in certain parts of the world it’s just not worth the effort of explaining why you’re single and then dodging awkward compliments followed by the uncomfortable thigh touch. Sometimes it doesn’t matter, especially if they don’t talk to you at all and instead unzip their pants and “fall asleep” and then start to lean on you. The ring simply won’t work on everyone. But it does work in certain countries.
For example, traditionally religious places where women have less rights, single Western females are looked down upon. Enjoy your freedom, but don’t flaunt it because if you pass by a boy’s club, it’s not worth the unwanted attention. (Don’t forget to dress modestly in these places as well.)
You don’t need to wear the ring at all times, in fact most places I’ve forgotten I even have it tucked away in my bag. You should be the judge of your own comfort level. But it’s a nice accessory to have just in case it all becomes overwhelming. It’s also important you don’t bring an actual important ring, just a cheap knock off that gives the impression that there’s a husband somewhere nearby.
All this might seem anti-feminist; a step back in proving to the entire world that women can go anywhere and do anything. But wearing a fake ring shouldn’t hold you back from demonstrating this to the people you have real encounters with; it simply wards off the surface unwanted attention from men you don’t really want to know anyway.
Besides, you can think of it as a commitment to yourself. You’re single and traveling the world; what an amazing thing to be proud of! Sure maybe you want to find that special someone someday, but in the meantime, promise yourself no one is worth giving up your dreams for. Your ring can be symbol of your independence and freedom, modifying society’s symbol of commitment.
So the next time an old man grazes your arm a little too long and asks you where you’re staying, say nothing at all and show him the ring. He’ll get the picture and you won’t even have to worry about how to escape.