I’m in Boston. It’s 9am. I’m walking to class, and I end up side by side with a man about my age. He has headphones in his ears and is wearing a long black jacket. We walk side by side for about a minute, and I can feel him staring at me. I ignore him and continue to walk with my eyes in front of me. I have a goal. There is a reason I’m here. My education. That’s what I’m here for.
The man takes out one of his earbuds, looks at me, and says “Damn. You look good in those jeans. Can I reward you?”
I thought I misheard him, because who the fuck would say something so idiotic?
HIM: “I said, you look good in those jeans, can I reward you?”
Then he reaches into his pocket, pulls out a piece of Orbit gum, and tries to hand it to me.
ME: “You want to reward me for looking good in…my…jeans…? You should learn how to talk to women.”
HIM: “You should learn how to take a compliment.”
Let me tell you something, baby.
When I woke up this morning, I was not thinking about which jeans would compliment my shape. I was not thinking about what I could wear to get a man’s attention. My thought process went something like this:
why does this ungodly hour exist?
you’re gonna be late
get your ass up
I need to feed that fatass cat
grandma has chemo today
love when people don’t answer my texts
i need fucking coffee
can my teeth just brush themselves
can i be a cat
In the small spaces between my thoughts, there were tired eyes and dark circles. There were yawns and there was irritability. There was a moment or two of sadness, because I’m me. And there was a moment of motivation; I graduate college in a month. There was no room for concern about the opinion of a man. My morning thoughts stretch and fill my mind, and linger until mid afternoon, trailing off until they come back when the sun rises the next day.
These tired eyes and my sleepy body did not suit up in preparation for a man’s obscene comments at 9am. My attention was on me. On the road. On the ground in front of me. My small steps leading me to a place where I have purpose and responsibility. I am not here for your pleasure and convenience. My body does not choose its shape based on your preference. I do not fit nicely into a pair of jeans to make your day better or to give you something to think about when you’re laying in bed with your wife tonight.
Your words lie on the curves of my body and stay with me. I can feel people seeing them, reading them. They’re published on my skin and tattooed in my mind. Please, don’t feel good on my account. This is not for you, love. Take your words back and put them in your pocket with that piece of gum you tried to offer me. I did not give you permission to comment on the shield that is my body. I did not give you the impression that I wanted your comments nor will I welcome them in the future.
Tell your friends.
Tell your friends to make a sexually obscene comment to your mother, your sister, your daughter, your aunt, the strong woman in your life whom you love; then tell me again why it’s okay.
Listen, babe. I am not here for your entertainment.
I am not a show to be watched or a meal to be eaten.
I am not your glass of wine.
I am not your Magnum Opus you can hang in your bedroom.
And I am not the dream seducing you in your sleep at night.
Keep walking. Educate yourself. And with all due respect, I am not accepting your fucking gum.