I’ve always considered myself a pretty tough character. After all, I gave birth to two children.

Having said that, I admit I’m a wuss when it comes to the possibility of being attacked. I know there are bad guys out there. I read newspapers. I get around. And they’re all waiting for me to do something really stupid, which in my case is kinda like waiting for a dog to bark, or for taxes to go up. Just hang on a minute.

So, I went to the Chapel Hill Police Department’s recent “Self-Defense for Women” class at the Women’s Health Spa. I am now not only strong, but potentially lethal. (In fact, if I can get a hold of your thumb, you’re history, baby!)

I have to give these officers credit. They were so polite, so patient. For example, one of their tips was to keep a stick in a sliding door to stop burglars from getting in. But sometimes, these doors are installed backward, they warned. One woman asked how to tell if the door is backwards and the officer said, “Well, the door that slides should be on the inside.” The lady looked perplexed, so the officer noted that otherwise the stick would be on the outside and the bad guy could just remove it. She was still confused until a friend whispered to her and finally her face took on the same “Aha!” look that must’ve been on Einstein’s after that whole Relativity thing.

We asked lots of questions: Can I shoot a man who’s trying to break into my house? Can I shoot a man if he’s banging on the door, screaming he’s going to kill me? If I lock the car and take the remote, can I leave my keys in the ignition?

There were also unspoken questions I wish I’d asked: Can I shoot a man who’s stealing my hair dryer? Can I shoot a man who says I’m fat? (Just kidding. I know I can shoot a man who says I’m fat.)

Eventually, there were enough real questions about shooting men that the officers got a little nervous. They stressed to us that women are capable of inflicting serious injury and are punished just as harshly. Like the time they were called to a “domestic disturbance” at the home of a well-known baseball player. When he came to the door, it was obvious that his girlfriend was beating the crackerjacks out of him, and she was arrested.

The officers were solemn, but we all looked back at them with barely concealed smirks. The girlfriend had obviously heard, “Sorry, honey, I got a game” and “Cool! the World Series is on!” and “Why go out to dinner? We’ll have hot dogs at the park” just one time too many. He’s lucky she didn’t get a hold of his thumb.