Here’s what I’d like to see: I could count on many more hands than I have the amount of times I’ve watched a talk show, let’s say it comes on somewhere close to 4pm, let’s call it the Tyra Show, let’s call it “learning lessons about the people you previously judged/knew shit about.” Tyra Smize or Access Hollywood Reporter or Reality Television Celebrity slaps on a fat suit or a burka or bucked-fucking-teeth and they walk around Times Square. Ten minutes strutting by a Toys’R’Us in their 2XX Juicy Couture and they want OUT. “This was so TOUGH,” they cry. They’re so tired now. Don’t blame them. They had no idea. They eat Chiobani solemnly in their green room, nodding and practically floating on the fizz of all this new information! Yeah. Big lesson. Great. Pour the ratings on that shit like granola.
Point: I wish we could do this with the kind of people who don’t think about what it’s like to be a woman.
Really put them out there—masses of them wearing pencil skirts from The Limited or flirty spring bustiers from Charlotte Russe or big sweatshirts or fucking towels. Make their faces angled and symmetrical, cheekbones like WHOA, lips pouty and upturned. Or give them acne and just a little mascara. A noticeable unibrow! Put their hair up in a chignon! A ponytail! Who gives a shit because it literally doesn’t matter! Let them walk home from yoga at 7pm, from the grocery store on a Sunday, from a club at 2am, from the subway at literally any time in the whole world. Give em the instinct of lots of things—keys in hand, pointed out, pretend phone conversations when walking around late at night, taking a cab because there’s no choice in this, quick glance behind the shoulder, a feeling that you are next, that you are or could be a statistic, a defense of the coat you put on, the dress you wore, a defense of how many drinks you had, as many defenses you can gather because people will try to take that shit away from you. Let them feel fear instead of the normal fart bubble they surpress, let them feel fear instead of “oh, now I understand because she’s somebody’s DAUGHTER,” let them feel muted-I-barely-even-notice-it-anymore-fear instead of “it’s just a joke, Jesus.”
Quick story: One night, I was walking home around 10pm after slinging coffee for eight hours which was tiring enough, and it was St. Patricks Day in Boston, which was even MORE tiring, and I was wearing black because that’s the uniform, you see? You see how I was wearing what, essentially, I was paid to wear? I was walking home and I lived ten minutes from the T and most civilization and cars and things that hear you scream. A bunch of Tufts guys who were drunk and ten feet away started talking about me, and I know this because sometimes I wear headphones to seem defenseless but the music is off and I learned that from a police officer. My gut kicked in, you see? And I was right, because two feet and I’m surrounded, apparently because “I was wearing black, so I want it.” (What even? I’m assuming Green Coors Light had somehow distorted their knowledge of color function) They made a little circle around me, right on that street with no cars passing and lots of trees to hide in, and one of them grabbed my arm, and a million visions of myself as a whole person flashed across my eyes, so I darted underneath them like the little fucker I am and a guy across the street offered to walk me home. I was too scared to walk home with a guy so I ran all the way to my place, wind in my eyes, and drank three beers with my roommate until everything didn’t seem so awful and I felt like “a lucky one.”
I don’t tell that story often, and I never really told that story because to me, fucked up as it is, didn’t feel like it was a real “story.” I knew real stories—I saw them on late-night news shows and in Glamour magazine and in the eyes of the girls at parties who get drunk and tell you about the time somebody violated everything they knew. I don’t even know if St. Patrick’s Day changed me because it just proved what I already knew: take your drink to the bathroom, watch out, be careful, the worst can happen.
The worst didn’t happen because I ran and those boys probably aren’t even monsters, they probably are out there looking for jobs and eating QDoba and chalking everything up that happened in college as “too drunk, bro.” They are the one’s who are somebody’s kids—somebody’s sons who lived in a world where girls and those who are different learn to be scared and others learn if they go to college, people will feel bad if they get accused of an assault they might just have committed.
Listen, I didn’t want a “story,” but if we’re on the subject of stories, I can pick up my phone and call every girl and every woman I know and they’d throw so many vignettes and flash fictions and one-acts (Handsy jerks. Drunken blurry lines. Catcalls. We call them CATcalls, people) at you it would create the biggest fucking book in the world. And that would just be from the contacts in my phone. And that would just be what I could collect, in say, two weeks?
Back to Point: if I could get a couple of people who roll their eyes at this kind of stuff to walk a mile in the shoes I had when I was walking home one night, if I could get those people to read the book, if I could just make them see?
I would still lock the deadbolt as I closed the door to my apartment. I would breathe a sigh of relief that my day ended without any sort of, you know, “incident.”
"It’s so TOUGH," they might say. It’s just so TIRING."
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