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Ask Amy: Solo woman hiker is creeped out by a male stranger

Dear Amy: Most mornings I walk by myself on a forested walking trail.

Like most women, I keep a special eye out for my safety (regularly checking over my shoulder).

(For context, I’m a fairly attractive 33-year-old, or so I’ve been told.)

Recently, one man (aged in his late 40s) has starting appearing on my walks. At first he seemed OK, and so I said “hello” back to him after he greeted me.

But very quickly I started to get what can only be described as creep-vibes, based on the way he was looking at me, the way he’d try to engage me in conversation (as opposed to a simple hello), the way he’d show up on the more secluded parts of the track I walk and seemed to be waiting for me.

I stopped saying hello because I wanted him to get the hint: I’m not interested, so leave me alone. And yet, he keeps persisting; his behavior is getting weirder.

I’m changing the time I walk so I won’t run into him. But I want to know what is socially acceptable in these situations.

Women seemed conditioned to think that we must be friendly, but I don’t buy it. And while I want to expressly tell this man to get lost, I don’t know how to say it in a way that doesn’t engender a dangerous response. What if he is a deranged stalker? What if he has deluded himself into thinking that my not saying hello is a signal for interest?

I’m worried that’s the level of crazy I’m dealing with.

What would you do?

— Solitary Walker

Dear Solitary: The first thing I would do is to find another place and time to walk. (You’ve done that.)

I would also notify whatever entity is in charge of this trail. Other people might have reported similar concerns.

I would also consider walking with another person, and/or carrying a bottle of protection spray.

Next, I would override that inner voice about what might be “socially acceptable,” and focus completely on self-protection.

I would also reread “The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals that Protect Us From Violence” (2021, Back Bay Books).

This book is author Gavin de Becker’s own gift to people — women, especially — in instructing us to pay very close attention to our body’s signals for when we are in danger, and to act on those instincts.

Women have been socialized to be polite, and to even ignore our own instincts to flee, in order to make a stranger comfortable.

My suggestions might seem like a serious overreaction to what others might believe is nothing more than an annoyance.

But you should never disregard your own instincts. This is “the gift” of your own fear, and this fear, concern, and caution is legitimate.

Dear Amy: My wonderful fiancée and I are getting married in two months. We have shared the planning duties really well, and we’re really looking forward to our big day.

We are planning for around 100 guests.

We sent out “Save the Date” cards, and last month I sent out the final invitations via the US Mail. This was my job.

About 35 people have submitted their RSVP.

What about the rest?!

We’re worried that people don’t want to come to our wedding and that we will have to scale our plans back dramatically. I feel like a loser because this was my responsibility.

What should we do?

— Nervous Groom

Dear Nervous: This issue is universal. It’s not you, it’s them.

Now is the time for you to rattle the mailbox.

If you have a wedding website, you can post a notice: “We’re still waiting to hear from some guests. Have you sent your RSVP? If not, click here…”

Otherwise, start emailing/texting people. Don’t blame or shame them, but give them a nudge.

One month out, you should call all those left on the list.

(I have both made and received a nudging phone call. Because … stuff happens.)

Dear Amy: Don’t you ever read the comments that run underneath your column on the newspaper’s website?

If you did, you’d gain a lot of wisdom, as well as the opportunity to correct your mistakes.

— Online Reader

Dear Reader: My column appears in around 150 newspapers and online sites. I agree that commenters have a lot of wisdom to share, but I think it’s best for them — and me — if I let them exchange ideas without my interference.

Readers who have a bone to pick can — and do — email their thoughts to me.

(You can email Amy Dickinson at or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

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