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What it feels like for [this] Girl.

February 2, 2010

I’ve been on the receiving end of a lot of looks.
How many is “a lot”?
Enough to have categorized for myself the different types.
I know which ones are merely conveying acknowledgment
(I am a human being passing you on the sidewalk),
or appreciation
(sometimes I shower and do my hair).
Which ones are confused or amused
(usually the result of the observer undergoing some internal conflict as whether or not to tell me my skirt is tucked into my underwear, or that I am too old to be dressing up for Halloween),
and then there are the ones that don’t fit into any category,
except uncomfortable.
As in, they make me uncomfortable.
There’s a difference between being friendly and being vulgar.
Maybe it’s a thin line, perceptible mostly to me,
but I assure you, it is there, and I can sense when it is crossed.
When I feel vulnerable.
When I feel like I need to avert my eyes, walk more quickly, pretend I am momentarily unable to hear or see anything other than some distant point, some distant safe point.

Because sometimes the looks are accompanied by suggestive facial contortions in my direction, sometimes by disgusting words
(and I can usually tell when those are going to follow).
But they don’t have to, for the look to be scary, or threatening,
or simply just a way that I don’t want to be looked at.
Am I overly sensitive?
If it was nightime on a deserted street, you could see the validity of me, as a young woman, feeling uncomfortable walking by myself.
But why are those feelings less valid during the day?
What is so scary about the night?

Do you think those people who make me feel uncomfortable at night magically disappear during the day? Do you think that they are only obvious monsters, like vampires or some other vulturing creature alive only at night?
You don’t think that they also walk the streets during the day,
or drive past me,
honking the horn,
waving their tongues at me as they stop at the red light?
I can hardly eat a freaking ice-cream cone without it being construed as a freaking sexual simulation.
Did I ask for that, by daring to eat an ice-cream cone as I walked down the street?
Or maybe I was dressed too suggestively – I did forget the bag that I am supposed to wear over my head.
And again, the looks don’t have to be accompanied by such explicit vulgarity.
The subtelty of it all is what is sometimes so scary.
I know how I want to be looked at, and how I don’t.
20 years of field experience has helped me figure out the difference.
So when I say I am uncomfortable,
do not tell me I am being overly sensitive.
Respect me enough to listen to me.
Respect me enough to see me as a whole person, and take me seriously.

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