If I write down three sets of numbers, you will know everything about me.
Rather — if I write down three sets of numbers, you will know everything that society deems worth knowing about me.
3. How many people I’ve slept with.
My age will tell you if I’m legal to drink, drive, rent a car, scratch a lottery ticket, buy NyQuil, serve in the army, or book a hotel room. Since I’m on the younger side, your eyes won’t leave me as I walk around your store. You will follow my hands as they pick up that thirty-dollar necklace and watch my pockets as I walk out the door. You will assume I know very little about life. You will offer me words of advice and wisdom, sure that I have experienced very little heartbreak or strife in my time here on earth. My post-grad age will prompt certain questions. What do you plan on doing for a career? Because though a career is not a number, how much money I make is, which will also define me for you. You can get all that information about me from one two-digit number. With this number you will miss so much. You will overlook my potential. You will forget my intelligence. But you probably know better anyway, I’m basically still a kid–right?
My weight will tell you if I’m beautiful. It will tell you if I can fit in generic brand-name jeans, or if I ever had a shot at being a dancer. It will tell you if I walked out with a smile or a frown after the doctor read the scale at my last visit. Since I’m on the average (whatever that means) side, you know I could never be a model or a dancer. The extensive and unconscious research you’ve done in magazines has taught you I am not a generic beauty. However, since I’m not “overweight” you probably assume I work out and eat fairly healthy. Because only lazy people get fat, right? You are certain I don’t eat too much junk food or fast food, and I probably stick with the organic stuff. You forget that the junk is all most low-income people in this country can afford. You forget a whole meal for $3.00 at McDonalds would get you about as far as a tomato and a cucumber at the grocery store. Never mind some people don’t have a kitchen to cook in. Never mind some people don’t have a house to live in. My weight tells you if I’m good enough. It tells you if I can date the person I’m dating, or keep the company I keep. This little big number helps you know me so well. With this number you will miss so much. You will overlook my personality at times. Maybe I won’t even be worth your time.
How many people I’ve slept with will tell you if I’m a “slut.” It will tell you if I’m clean, if my parents are good people, and if I am a good person. It will tell you if there is a spot for me in heaven, or a special place for me in hell. Since I’m on the lower end, you probably think I’m okay. You are proud of me, and you have done a great job instilling fear in me. You decide I am from a good family, who raised me right. My parents are probably still together—definitely–actually. You decide I am a clean, wholesome girl. Maybe I’m even a little prude. You forget that we are supposed to be living in a “sexually-liberated” time where women and men are to be treated equally. But maybe I forgot that, too. You forget that you hold my male counter-part to a different standard. You wouldn’t even think to question his number. With this number you miss so much. When the number is high you overlook us. You decide we are gross, easy, or sluts. When the number is high, we get counted out. No longer “wifey” material. When the number is high we have an “unnatural” sex drive and when the number is low we are too inexperienced. This number tells you everything you have decided is true and nothing that is.
Income. GPA. Height. Shoe size. Cup size. Standardized test scores. We quantify and make all kinds of assumptions based on those numbers, so no wonder we live our lives being obsessed with them. Whether they’re too high or too low, words suddenly become justifications and explanations as to why you don’t fit into a narrow, pre-determined concept of “okay.” If one of those numbers is too high or too low, the words don’t matter, the actions I make go unnoticed. I become one equation for you to solve. I watch you add and subtract me every single day. I watch and wait to see if end up in the positives, or get stuck in the negatives.
Stuck in the negatives over things that are all inherently neutral.