I was in a spin class with eight other women when I first heard the report of Kim Kardashian West’s hotel robbery in Paris. We all reacted in unison, in the way that rational humans should: We were horrified. There was no discussion on whether or not she “deserved it” or “had it coming.” We wholeheartedly agreed that it’s a terrible thing to have happened to a person, and that’s that.
It was something else that divided my eight sweaty spin companions: It had to do with Kim’s friend and stylist Simone Harouche, who was reportedly asleep in the next room when the robbery went down. Upon hearing the commotion, Harouche immediately locked herself in the bathroom and called Kim’s bodyguard, who finally alerted the police. We were torn: Half my group thought she was a hero, while the other half seemed mildly outraged, with comments like, “A hero? She just locked herself in the bathroom?” and “Pretty SELFISH move for a hero,” and so on.
I thought to myself, What could Simone have done to earn the title of Selfless Hero Friend? Try to reason with five armed burglars? “Here, take the Yeezy Season 4s. OK, fine, I’ll throw in the Balmain Fox Pelt, just leave Kim alone.” Or maybe she should have burst out of her room yelling, “PLEASE, TAKE ME INSTEAD!” Would such a sacrifice be enough to satisfy my spin mates?
Later that evening it hit me why their reaction to Simone’s actions bugged me. One, I’m pretty sure these women were all talk. We all like to think we’d be brave in these horrifying situations, but we don’t know how we’d react until we’re in them. Two, I’ve been in a horrifying situation and I reacted just like Simone.
In my early twenties, my then-boyfriend was attempting to teach me how to drive standard. We were on some back road on the outskirts of Vancouver when I came up to a red light at a train track. We sat there for several minutes, nothing happened. He urged me to drive over the old tracks, as he felt the light was probably messed up. So I crept forward. But then, just as we were in the centre, the barriers descended in front and behind the car. Now the bright red lights were flashing, signalling a train was on its way.
I panicked, froze and, of course, stalled the car. I looked to my left and saw a train coming at me—it had anywhere from 10 to 30 seconds before it was going to hit me. So in that split second, without thinking any of this through, I bolted. No warning, not a single word to my boyfriend—there was no time for any of that. I ran out of the car.
I stood behind the car, watching as the train screeched toward my boyfriend. I stared in horror, my mind racing, thinking, “OH, NO, THIS TRAIN IS GOING TO KILL MY BOYFRIEND. HOW DO I TELL HIS PARENTS? AM I GOING TO JAIL? WHY CAN’T I MOVE MY LEGS?” It was awful, but probably not as awful as it was for him. Adrenaline must have kicked in, and he somehow jumped into the driver seat, slammed on the gas and smashed through the barrier one millisecond before the train flew by. He got out alive—shaken up but physically unharmed (just like Kim).
In life-threatening situations, we’re programmed to fight or flight. They’re both totally normal responses, and yet we love to shame those who choose flight. We associate it with being selfish or cowardly, as if it were a choice.
Do I regret fleeing from my stalled car? No. On a good day I could barely get into first gear, let alone with a train barrelling toward me. I’d almost certainly be dead if I chose to “fight.” Do I regret how I handled the train situation? Sure. Should I have at least given a warning like, “Hey, I’m running away now, bye!” before I put my boyfriend in grave danger? Yes, I feel bad about that one. But I did the only thing I could in that moment, and thankfully we’re both still alive.
Thank you, Simone, for locking yourself in that bathroom. It’s OK to not be brave. If you had been brave, who knows, we may have ended up in a Kim Kardashian West-less world, and nobody wants that.
Winter is a scriptwriter/actress who stars in the webseries Just Cuddle.
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