Last night I made the huge mistake of starting to read “The Girl Who Played with Fire” at about midnight. I started, and I couldn’t stop. Because it was too scary to stop reading and go back to my room and try to sleep. I had to finish it to make sure she would be okay! It started raining while I was reading…the tap tap on my skylight was creepy. The cats meowing outside were creepy. The car coming home late at night was creepy. The clicking of the heater dying down was creepy. I was frozen on my couch, I wouldn’t turn around to look out the blinds in case someone was looking back at me. I wouldn’t get up to pee.

So I stayed on the couch, wrapped in my snuggie, reading until 7am. And then I felt okay to sleep.

I get scared like this a lot when I’m home alone. Too many scary movies? Too much tv with real life about bad things that happen to women? Its scary out there. I don’t know if I have an unreal paranoia, or if its normal for girls my age. I think it really began with the Polly Klaas case. We were about the same age. I still remember my mom coming into my bedroom and waking me up crying and hugging me because they had found her body. We were about the same age, and she lived not too far away. It had a profound effect.

I like to go walking in the park and in the streets by my house. But I take lots of precaution. I give myself an hour and a half before sundown. I wear headphones but don’t play the music as loud as I would like, so that I can hear if someone comes up behind me. I write a note on the whiteboard in my kitchen with the date and time and location of where I am walking. I carry fake Mace. I carry my keys in between my knuckles because I read once that its more painful to punch someone with your keys like that. And aim for the ears and eyes. And balls.

I try to make prolonged eye contact and say hello to everyone I come across on my walk so I can provide accurate descriptions. I look at every car that drives by. I try to dress in baggy, unattractive clothing, and wear my glasses, and if guys stare at me from their car I pick my nose or stick out my tongue.

I wonder if men know what kind of fears, real or imagined, women have. They are justified fears. According to the National Organization for Women, more than 600 women are raped or sexually assaulted every day in the US. Three women are killed every day by an intimate partner.

I think that was one of the most interesting things about these Stieg Larsson books. One of the characters, Mia, writing her dissertation on the sex trade in Sweden, discusses the fact that this crime is inherently sexist. Its black and white clear that the girls are the victims and the boys are the bad guys. There is no other crime like that.

Probably my biggest fear in life is that something horrible like what happens in those books will happen to me or someone I love. But there are lots of other little fears. I’m scared of big bugs. And birds. And horses. And getting fat and ugly. And dying alone and being eaten by wild dogs. Of electrocuting myself in the bathtub with the cool new massage neck pillow I bought (can batteries elec you??)

I asked a guy friend once what it was like to be a dude, to feel safe walking alone at night, to kill bugs, to feel in charge of most situations. I said that women seem to have so many fears, but it doesn’t seem like guys are scared of anything. He said guys were afraid of one thing. Girls.

There is irony in there somewhere.