I have a lot of pet peeves.
The phrase “Thank you much.” People who suck at reading out loud. When the lid is snuggly fastened to your coffee cup, but hot bean juice still leaks out everywhere from some mysterious crevice and gets all over your clothes.
You get the picture.
I also absolutely hate when someone sits next to me on the L and touches me. Maybe it’s just an arm or a leg here or there. I’m sitting in my seat, reading my book, and someone sits down and decides to touch me. I know it’s intentional, or at least careless because I can always cross my legs or move my arms closer, and VOILÀ – WE’RE NOT TOUCHING!!!
Except one day, I looked around at me, and noticed several other women sitting exactly like me. Legs crossed, arms so close together our shoulders were clenched, everything tensed. Trying to make ourselves smaller. Occupying less space. Even though we each had our own seat. Just like everyone else seated on the train.
Then I noticed several men seated with legs spread, chests out, shoulders protruding, arms hanging loosely. They weren’t worried about touching anyone. Or anyone being inconvenienced by their inconsiderate posture. They took up the space made by the shrinking passengers.
Made by me.
Suddenly I had a new pet peeve. I pushed against the arms that were in my space so I could hold the edges of my book normally. I unfolded my legs and let them sit hip length apart, the way they sit effortlessly. I thought about that terrible joke, the one about women keeping a penny or aspirin between their knees as a form of “birth control.”
This is why. This is fucking why.
The anger made my blood boil. The blood helped the rest of my muscles loosen. Slowly, I let my body take up the natural physical space it’s meant to occupy.
Because this isn’t a size discussion. Our bodies fluctuate throughout our lives, daily even. But whether a body takes up one seat, or two, or half a seat, no one should have to make themselves smaller because someone else needs to feel bigger.
So now I hold my ground. I only tense up in order to keep that space. To not be smothered. And if I touch someone, then we touch. This is my body I say with the space. And I’m not going to give it up for you.