December 12, 2004
Here's an entry that will never see the light of day.
Wherein Dianna makes a liar out of herself by actually posting the entry she wrote on Friday night, despite her original intention to let it languish indefinitely as a somewhat embarrassing draft.
Occasionally, I have the unspeakable audacity to leave my house in a skirt. To compound the egregiousness of this act, I sometimes make it a short skirt -- short by my standards, that is, meaning knee-length or slightly below. With my chosen footwear coming up almost to mid-calf, that leaves 8-10 inches of each leg brashly exposed to the elements and the tender mercies of the general population. The general population rarely comments directly on my questionable decision to uncover such a large swath of my lower half, but periods of leg exposure are remarkably accurate indicators of when the general population will feel inclined to comment on the sheer fact of my existence.
This makes me both livid and terrified. There's a kind of strange reason why, and I just figured it out today.
Here's the thing: I don't really consider myself conventionally attractive. I definitely don't consider my face conventionally attractive; I have a large, beaky nose and rampant acne that I don't find remotely pretty. My legs, on the other hand, I find downright dazzling. So why should I be so upset that people ignore me most of the time but comment when my most appealing feature is apparent? They're only acting exactly as I'd expect them to, after all.
It's something like this, I guess: a guy (because the majority of people calling me "sunshine" and whistling at me across the street are guys) who'll hit on a pretty girl is something average and unsurprising. He could be paying attention to anything about her, really: her eyes, her smile, the tone of her voice, anything, because it's all lovely enough to warrant it. A guy who'll hit on an ugly girl because she's got nice legs is something creepy and different. Suddenly the come-on sounds singlemindedly sexual and uncomfortably objectifying; it's not a spontaneous "you're nice to look at" but an analytical "you're not nice to look at but the legs might be worth it". When you believe that everyone who's looking is watching your body and ignoring your face, every admirer is a rapist and every comment is a threat.
So we come to today, when I spent the afternoon running errands in what happened to be a skirt. Eventually I found myself on Shattuck Avenue after dark, crossing the street to escape the sound of someone angrily asking if it was so damned terrible that he'd called out and waved to me. Yes, of course it's so terrible. That's why I gave you that irritated look and walked away so quickly, and now we come to the real problem. You may very well have been innocently flattering me -- I'm willing to believe that in the dark you saw flowing hair and a confident stride instead of a regrettable face and nice gams -- but now you're pissed off. Now I'm not a briefly-noticed and appealing passerby, but a stuck-up bitch whose attitude you're apparently spending some time contemplating. Did I do that? It would seem that I did. Did I just increase the amount of my personal danger tenfold? It's entirely possible. Next time, will I instead smile sweetly and wave and take it as a compliment?
I will not, because the absolute last thing I want to do is encourage something that always feels like a creepy and demanding act of aggression. So instead I think I'll walk around making turned-on strangers angry, because lord knows that's a safe thing to do.
Posted by dianna at December 12, 2004 09:41 AM
I think you've taught us all a valuable lesson today.
thanks for the lesson, toots. why don't you put up some pics of your stems, eh? we don't really need to hear about all this thinking you do.
p.s. beaky nose is the best kind of nose.
Heehee. Stems. Heeheehee. Weren't you satisfied with the picture I put up when I was trying to sell my boots?
less talks. more stems. i don't want a blog, i want a b'leg.
Kristen, I think I love you.
I know, I know. Say it with legs.
Solution: put a bag over your head and walk around without pants. Then reflect on the responses you generate. Most of them are bound to be politely satisfying.
Fuck it. That last comment by me is gone. I don't even want to get into it.
um, dude, i also feel the need to point out something that you already probably know, which is that you're totally projecting. the discernible pattern in other peoples' notice of you notwithstanding, all of the "my face isn't worth looking at, but my legs are damn traffic-stoppers, harumph harumph" stuff is totally coming from you, and for the record i don't think it's true. i mean, i'm not trying to insult your legs; they're nice. er, in a totally uncreepy sister way. dammit, you know what i mean. but speaking as someone who has the previous model of pretty much the same face, i think it's a damn fine one, plus yours has got all that lovely curly hair on top of it.
maybe you carry yourself differently in a skirt, is what i'm thinking. and maybe when you look more conventionally "feminine" (you know, like you're more prepared to make casseroles than to dig post holes, whatever those are) you also come off as more accessible and people (i.e., scumbags with penises) might be really shocked that the equation (skirt=likes a compliment) isn't as ingrained in you as it is in everyone else.
when i used to catch the bus in downtown oakland every day for work, i had to get used to a very specific kind of interaction that all of my prickly feminist stuff hadn't prepared me to accept with anything but outrage. but it became clear that there's a certain reflex in, to wantonly racially/demographically profile for a moment, sixty-something-year-old african american gentlemen in velvet wingtips and fedoras, which propels them to twinkle at young ladies dressed for work and make vaguely lewd but sort of sweet comments because That's What One Does, when One is Used To Doing It to a certain demographic of woman who's able, somehow, to accept it graciously without losing any of her badassitude. for me, accepting it like a nice little girl certainly did nothing to change the blah blah fucked up unequal social blah crap limitations blah blah in which we live, but it also meant that i was able to get on the bus everyday with many of the same people without incident, and there was actually one time when some gross guy was actually fucking with me and one of the twinkly old guys came over and told him in no uncertain terms to leave me the fuck alone and clear on away from me. i could have done that myself, and i could have informed the old guy of that fact. but, because i'm a feminist-deficient slut who didn't mind the intervention, it was actually kinda nice.
i have no idea what my point is. because also, when i'm walking home by myself late at night now, i have my short hair and my huge jacket and i do everything i can to get mistaken for a dude, with variable amounts of success but not much. but the trade-off is that if people think i'm a dude, if anything happens they'll probably expect me to fend for myself, so maybe i'm just slightly nostalgic for the days when twinkly old guys came to my aid. or maybe i just need a butch mama to walk me around.
oh, and for the record, i know that twinkly harmless (?) sixty-something-year-old gentlemen wasn't probably the scenario you were trying to evoke. i guess it was just a tangent.
You've got the previous model of pretty much the same face, but what about the stems, Katie? A double dose of gams is twice as nice, you know what I'm saying, sugar?
Yeah! C'mon, show us the gams! Wait, this is totally veering into twin-sister porn territory. Never mind.
I think part of what makes me interpret this kind of thing the way I do is that as far as I'm aware, I carry myself according to what footwear I'm wearing (bootsbootsboots) and not whether I'm skirted or pantsy. The twin ideas that a) I might actually carry myself differently and b) people might just be thinking "wearing a skirt = will appreciate a compliment" are two things that, rather shortsightedly I suppose, I really hadn't considered. The latter especially I find rather compelling, although, of course, my feminist bitch side has a few things to say about that as well.
You are, indeed, correct that twinkly older gentlemen giving off a palpable aura of harmlessness are not exactly what I had in mind. It's more the 30-to-40-something guys who I know live on my block with their wives or girlfriends and who demand my name and then yell after me if I don't stop to talk to them. It may, now that I think about it, have a lot to do with the setting; a neighborhood where I can walk down the street and see spray-paint doodles on the sidewalk showing naked women with their asses in the air and their heads between their knees, topped with the words, "bitch bend over", is not a place where I'm inclined to discard my paranoid and pre-existing notions about people's intentions and try to start believing that they're just being twinkly and friendly.
God, can we say "needs to move back to the fucking white-bread suburbs"?