My father had a not-so-secret admirer

Tracey Folly

*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events as told to me by my mother, who experienced them firsthand; used with permission.

My parents were newlyweds in the 1960s when my father attracted an admirer.

His admirer was a young woman who lived in the same neighborhood where my mother and my father rented their first apartment as a young married couple. According to my mother, this woman had briefly dated my father. However, they had broken up and gone their separate ways before my mother entered the picture.

Apparently, this young lady didn't get the memo.

Because my parents lived in an apartment on the third floor of a three-family home, they had a nearly bird's-eye view of the block and surrounding streets. My mother often watched from the living room window while my father walked down the sidewalk to the parking lot where he kept their only car overnight.

Frequently, when my father unlocked his car in the morning before going to work, he found this woman waiting for him.

My mother saw it all from her perch at the window. She told me the woman would enter the parking lot, stand in the shadows, cross her arms over her chest, and wait for my father to arrive.

He never interacted with her, didn't even acknowledge her presence, which made her persistence all the stranger and odder.

But was she an admirer, or a stalker? Let's look at her behavior.

There is no difference between male and female stalkers. Men and women may stalk for different reasons, but whether we're talking about a man or woman, stalking often involves the same elements: following the victim; unwanted contact; threats or implied threats; and fear by the victim that the stalker will use violence against them.

Here, we are talking about a woman who is stalking a man, my father. If it's the same behavior from a man or woman, why does it have such different connotations?

Now let's consider those things one at a time.

Who is stalking whom? A stalker can be anyone of any gender.

A stalker can be anyone who doesn't have your best intentions in mind and wants to do you harm—physically, emotionally, psychologically—sometimes even all three. If you're being harassed by someone who means you ill, that person is a stalker.

In either case—if you're being stalked by a man or by a woman—the victim fears for their safety and well-being. Of course, women fear men more than men fear women. Social conditioning has primed us to believe that men are physically stronger than women and, therefore, potentially more dangerous when angered. But this isn't always true. A strong sense of injustice can also fuel anger in some people regardless of gender or physical strength, leading them to lash out inappropriately.

Fortunately, the behavior of my father's female stalker never escalated into violence, but it didn't end until my parents bought a house of their own and my father could park his car in his own driveway behind a locked fence.

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