Nothing. Not a damn thing. No one said a word to me all day. Has this become the new “normal” so quickly?
Side note: I still personally feel as if I’m meeting my “second” in the mirror every day. Straight hair and makeup? Who is this person?
Nothing. Not a damn thing. No one said a word to me all day. Has this become the new “normal” so quickly?
Side note: I still personally feel as if I’m meeting my “second” in the mirror every day. Straight hair and makeup? Who is this person?
I’m already annoyed because I had to wash my hair last night. I don’t wash my hair frequently because it has a relatively nice curl and washing it too frequently strips it and makes it brittle and dry. Not only did I have to wash it after only two days, I blew it dry AND flat ironed it again. I need to find a good dry shampoo.
Comments so far:
- I like your headband! It’s really cute! – co-worker
- Aw I like that! – co-worker, big smile on their face, looking at my headband
- Nice headband! – co-worker
- I like your hair like that! – co-worker. (This one made me feel a little annoyed…what? May hair doesn’t look good when it’s a curly mess? F you! – maybe I’ll wear my hair curly next week and gauge the different reactions)
- Ms. ___ I like that headband! Where did you get it? – Peru – Oh I could tell! – co-worker
I think I’m having an ok time with the comments today because they are all focused on the headband. I have never worn a headband to work. At least I haven’t in the last 5/6 years (and there’s enough turn over in special education that anyone who may remember the one time I wore one is gone). None of the comments are really focused on my physical features/the physical changes in my hair or the use of make-up. It’s easier to accept the comments when they are about something novel that’s an accessory.
Strangely enough, no one over the last two days has mentioned the fact that I’m wearing make-up. I’m just wearing mascara but I can see a difference. Maybe everyone else can’t see a difference because of my glasses.
I’m going to leave this article here for you to read. It is an incredibly important article. Most of the article pertains to the “fear” of the word feminism, how many men and women believe that there is no longer a discrepancy between men and women, and the reality that we, as women, are NOT equal, even if we want to pretend we are. Read the article. It’s beautiful and profound.
There are moments, in the article that resonated with me so completely and deeply that I wanted to share them here. They say some of the things that I’ve been feeling but haven’t been able to adequately express.
…You are still objectified. You are still catcalled. You are still sexualized. You are still told you’re too skinny or you’re too fat. You’re still told you’re too old or too young. You’re applauded when you “age gracefully.” You’re still told men age “better.” You’re still told to dress like a lady. You are still judged on your outfit instead of what’s in your head. What brand bag you have still matters more than your college degree…
…Your daughters are still told they are beautiful before they are told they are smart. Your daughters are still told to behave even though “boys will be boys.” Your daughters are still told boys pull hair or pinch them because they like them…
I’ve spent the last month or so in an on-and- off-again conversation with my therapist about cultural norms and expectations for how women look and how that’s affected me in my daily functioning. It’s an interesting conversation with many interesting points. I’ve decided to write what I can remember about the conversations here (with the potential for a follow up experiment) to help me process it.
The most recent conversation took place this past Saturday. I’ll start there, as it’s fresher in my mind. The conversation started with me talking about how I’ve put off, for roughly a year or so, going to the doctor to have my thyroid checked. I’m a notoriously warm blooded person (my winter jacket is a fleece), my hair has thinned recently, and my temperature hovers between 95 and 96 degrees on the regular. Despite all this, I continually put off (finding, and then) going to a general practitioner to get a blood test, or a referral to an endocrinologist. We talked about why that might be. I had a not so pleasant experience at my last GP and just haven’t bothered to find a new one. I go in for all other regular check ups with my various doctors, see a therapist once a week and a chiropractor twice a month. So what is it about going to a general practitioner, or having my thyroid checked, that is so off putting to me?
After a lot of pushing (on behalf of my therapist), I relented to a train of thought that quickly spilled out of me.
If I go to the doctor and the blood test comes back that I have hypothyroidism, than there’s a reason I am a thicker woman that extends beyond poor eating, sleeping, and exercise habits – not that I want to use that as an excuse for being a size 14. If it comes back normal, than this is my body. “AND THAT’S OK,” I practically shouted at my therapist, huge crocodile tears rolling down my face, my hanky (yes, I have a handkerchief. I am apparently an 80-year- old man) covered in snot. “Is it?” he asked. “It has to be.”
Here’s what I mean by that. I am incredibly tired of living in a weight-obsessed world. I believe that as I work towards bettering my mental health, I will continue to make healthier life choices and my weight will decrease until it stabilizes at where my body will naturally be without severe deprivation. I refuse to live my life counting calories, impatiently waiting for “cheat-day”, staring at a scale and lamenting when the number shifts up or down five pounds, and spending thousands of dollars (that could better be spent – in my opinion – on a plane ticket to some foreign country) on a gym membership where I go to be publicly shamed by gym rats. I refuse to, like the majority of my co-workers, spend every day talking about my weight, what I’m eating, or how much I hate myself. I know that self-love will come with hard work, but the work I intend to do is much more focused on working through the mental barriers that I’ve created from a young age.
This is where things get a little more complicated though. I’m also aware that we live in a world that IS weight and beauty obsessed. There’s no getting around it. From Hollywood, to sports, to even politics (if you look at the nasty comments the alt-right has made about the Obama’s beautiful daughters), weight and conventional (read: white, cis-gender, European) beauty standards are all that is talked about. I’m also, at 31 and single, the bane of my Jewish mother’s existence (which brings up a whole separate issue about still being a valuable and worthy women even if I never marry or have children – something society still sees as meaning my life is “incomplete” and that I couldn’t “possibly be happy when she lives alone, isn’t in a relationship, and isn’t a mother”). I’ll take a quick moment here to state simply that I know my mother is proud of me. I am an extraordinarily accomplished person in my field and outside of it. That being said, I know how desperately she wants grandchildren. I know she knew from a young age that she wanted to be a mother and has a hard time understanding my apprehension. I know that she wants me to happy and loved, and each year that goes by that I remain single, I think her hope for me in that regard dwindles ever so slightly.
Getting back to the point at hand, as a single woman in my 30’s, navigating the dating scene is an incredibly visual task. Dating is currently based in the world of apps. Swipe left. Swipe right. Swipe up. Swipe down. Wink. Heart. Like. Whatever the variation of the app is, the opportunity to really get to know someone for who they are is impeded by the flippant task of first glance physical judgments. I am well aware that standards of attractiveness affect both men and women. We are all expected to meet a certain set of criteria, determined by the elite who have glam squads and no real responsibilities outside of looking unattainable for the masses.
Add to all of that, the beautiful efforts of the body positivity and “no make-up” movements and I’m left feeling trapped between these two worlds. A world where I feel good about my curves, my stretch marks, my overall dislike for make-up, shopping, and fashion (which has been there since the beginning), and my propensity to dress in a more casual/tom boy fashion vs. a world where I’m taught that in order to attract a man I need to wear make-up every day, wake up extra early to straighten my “unattractive” curly hair, spend thousands of dollars a year on clothes and shoes and gym memberships.
In the middle of all of these thoughts tumbling out, my therapist asked why I don’t wear make-up. My initial response was, “I never have.” “Well why not?” It’s a good question. Before anyone had really dived deep into the reasons why I don’t wear make-up, my answer has always just been, “I don’t like it”, or, “I just don’t”. I’ve always felt more on the tomboy side of feminine. I abhor shopping. I’d rather sleep an extra 5-15 minutes than straighten my hair every morning, or cause great damage to it by blow-drying it constantly. I don’t like wearing make-up. Social convention dictates that women need to get dressed up and wear make-up to be seen as desirable. It’s the norm. My push back to this line of thinking has been, “Well WHY?” Women have worn make-up almost as long as recorded history; from Kohl around the eyes in Ancient Egypt to the lead based (I’m pretty sure it was a lead based) paint Queen Elizabeth used to hide her pocks scars. You could make the argument, that like the bright and colorful feathers of male birds, make-up has essentially been used as a secondary sex characteristic (although one that is applied and not one that’s evolved over millennia of sexual selection). But again, WHY does this need to CONTINUE to be the norm? Just because something has been normalized doesn’t make it “normal”. Celebrities such as Alicia Keys have begun to push back against the cultural expectation that women, especially those in the entertainment industry, have a full face of make-up on at all times. Unfortunately for me, my natural beauty does not compare to Ms. Keys, but I feel the principle is the same. This issue seems to be a hard line in the sand for me. I WILL NOT wear make-up daily or do my hair a certain why, just because society tells me that in order to be valuable, I need to.
But again, that clever therapist of mine has a reasonable and appropriate response to that too; “You have no trouble bending or following all other cultural norms. Why is this the one that trips you up?” I wear clothes ever day because the cultural norm is to wear clothes (and the law in most places). If I didn’t, I’d most likely be brought in for drug or psychosis testing. I, very quickly, adapted to the NYC pace of living after growing up in the slow country life, because that’s the norm here. If I didn’t walk quickly and with purpose, I’d get bowled over or cursed out (most likely both) on a daily basis. I give up my seat to the elderly or women who are pregnant. It’s the norm, (not to mention respectful), but it’s not the law. Why then? Why is bowing to the fact that I should be a primped and pretty princess at all times such a difficult thing for me?
I wish the answer were simple. I wish it were reflective of what I said earlier, that just because something is the norm, doesn’t mean it’s right or has to stay the norm. I’m not entirely sure that that’s the final answer though. I’m sure, in some way, shape or form, that it’s tied up in 3 decades of self-esteem issues. I’m sure that in some way, shape or form, that it’s reflective of (subconsciously or consciously) believing that I don’t deserve whatever attention I’d receive if I presented myself differently. I’m sure that it’s tied up in a million psychoanalytic things that I’ve yet to discover about myself. I’m sure it’s tied up in a never-ending cycle of nature-vs.- nurture (DNA vs. how I grew up) arguments that I am just starting to parcel out. I think I have trouble sifting through all the emotional things because, for whatever reason, I’m incredibly resistant to this area of change. This doesn’t feel, internally, like a psychological resistance. When someone tells me I should wear make-up every day, or dress, or act, or look, a certain way, it feels like they are telling me that I, down to my very core, am not a worthy person, and that’s where I get tripped up. I can’t even begin to see the (potential) underlying issues because my immediate response is, “I can’t do that. It doesn’t feel like me”; and it doesn’t. Dressing up every day, doing my hair and make-up, it doesn’t feel like me. Am I resisting the cultural norm or am I resisting change in and of itself? I don’t know the answer.
I suppose I had hoped that writing all this out would help me see my issues more clearly. If anything, it has made me feel even more trapped. Stuck. Fighting change. Fighting norms. Fighting myself.
I think the next thing I am going to chronicle is a little experiment. I think next week, I’m going to spend the workweek getting up, doing my hair, and wearing (in the very least) some mascara. I’ll chronicle my feelings and work reactions and try to keep the already building resentment as at bay as I can.
To help understand my thoughts on this:
I really wanted to start this post with a Hamilton quote. Possibly “Burr, you disgust me”. But I didn’t want to associate the following story with the ineffable Leslie Odom Jr. or anything the handsome genius Lin-Manuel Miranda has created.
I had a date last night. As a single 31 year old, I am the bane of my Jewish mother’s existence. I probably in some way make her feel like she’s failed as a mother. Regardless…I had a date last night. And it went horribly wrong. But wrong to the point of it being so ridiculously wrong that it started to sound amusing in my own head. So congratulations interwebs, you get to hold on to this story.
Also – any to man who comes across this post: this is NOT how you go on a first date. This is NOT how you go on any date.
Flashback to about 2-3 weeks ago. I’m on the bus. A man about my own age is standing near me. About 4 minutes from my stop, he asks if I speak Hebrew. I figured he saw my tattoo on my left wrist that’s in Hebrew. Or perhaps my necklace (which contains four charms of Jewish symbols). We struck up a brief conversation. He was polite and respectful. He asked for my number. I said yes. Listen. People meet each other in all sorts of ways these days. I don’t hand out my number to just any Tom, Dick or Harry. He was well put together, and didn’t once comment on my body or elude to sex. In my book that’s a win. So my number he received.
Over the next two weeks, we had a few phone calls. About three. Each one was a little awkward, but then, I’m awkward, and we don’t know each other, so I chalked it up to that. We agreed to meet at a park near my house and take a walk.
Enter “Man”. He gets off the bus across the street. Crosses. Says, “Hello”. Hugs me. Then…grabs the back of my head while hugging me; like you would do with someone you are incredible intimate with. Ok. Strike one. Perhaps he just hasn’t been on many dates I think to myself. Perhaps this is how his family hugs. I don’t know, but it immediately puts me on edge.
We start to walk. We’ve gone roughly 3 minutes when this conversational gem occurs.
Me: So what do you like to do for fun?
Man: “I dated a nurse once. She took birth control pills so she didn’t get pregnant. Do you do that?”
Me: Excuse me? That’s incredible personal and none of your business.
We continue walking. We are 3 minutes into this walk, but we are far enough into the path through the woods that forward is the only direction to go. It’s also possible that I gave him too many chances. But, I also got the feeling very quickly that he was possibly on the spectrum and so I gave him more chances than perhaps I would have under other circumstances. Now, I’m not opposed to dating someone on the Asberger’s end of the spectrum. Ask most people and they would tell you that I probably fall somewhere on the spectrum myself (at least with sensory issues). My issue is being blindsided by social awkwardness and an inability to accept, “No” as an answer. Keep reading. My story gets better.
Our “conversation” continued in interview fashion, with me asking questions, and him mostly answering them but usually changing the subject, and him asking questions in return. Seemingly normal, but all with a great feeling of awkwardness. I tried to ignore the feeling in my gut that this wasn’t going all that well.
We got to our, (well ok, MY) destination, and turned around to go back. When I walk, I always end up with some type of nature in my hand to play/fidget with. Enter more awkward conversation.
Man: “What are you holding?”
Me: Oh, just a leaf. I like to fidget.
Man: “You don’t have to do that. Hold my hand.” (reaches for my hand)
Me: No thank you. I don’t know you and I don’t want to hold your hand. (Takes a noticeable step back).
Not to be deterred by a simple word such as “No”, our determined “Man” immediately goes up to the first person he sees, hands them his phone, grabs me around the shoulder and asks the person to take our picture. I didn’t even have time to process what was happening before it was already over. I must have looked insanely uncomfortable; because I was.
At this point, I’m now determined to make it back to the other side of the park path in one piece. This man clearly doesn’t understand “No” and I’m starting to really really feel uncomfortable. About 100 yards later and he does this whole picture thing again, and AGAIN, I can’t process what’s happening until it’s over. He attempts it all a third time but I’ve finally caught on and say, “No. No more pictures. I don’t want to have my picture with you.”
I’m not usually this forward but this is clearly the only language this man speaks, and even with being so upfront he was clearly not understanding me.
It’s at this point in our little jaunt that I decide it’s time to drop the “we clearly aren’t on the same page” bomb of truth that will usually allow any man to understand that this isn’t going to go anywhere while allowing us both to save face.
Me: So what are you looking for? What are you hoping to get out of this? Do you want to get married? Have kids? Stay in the NYC?
Man: “I want to get married eventually. Yes I want kids, and I want to live in NYC or Israel.”
Me: “Oh. I will not spend my life in the NYC area and I don’t want kids. I think maybe we want different things for our future.
Again, our anti-hero doesn’t take to subtlety well and immediately begins a 10 minute explanation of how I DO actually wants kids and he clearly knows that and is going to tell me all about the kids I want. Well if all the unwanted touching when I said “don’t touch me” and the inappropriate questions about my birth control methods wasn’t enough, I’m definitely done now.
He sees a bench and asks if I’d like to sit and chat longer (we’ve walked almost two miles at this point and are a mile away from our final destination).
Man: “Would you like to sit on the bench?”
Me: No. I’m done. Let’s keep walking. I’m hungry and I’m ready to be done.
This may seem too forward and insensitive but keep in mind that this man has now not accepted “no” on any thing I’ve said and has repeatedly touched me when I’ve asked him not to. We are on a road through the middle of a park/woods. There are lots of other people around and it’s daylight, but the only way out is forward.
We continue our walk for lack of a better option, and finally near the end. He pulls out some mints.
Man: “Would you like a mint?”
Me: No thank you (thought: there is NO way you are getting close enough to kiss me)
Man: “Are you sure? They are small.”
Me: I said no thank you.
It had been brought up earlier in our phone conversations that I had at one point taken anti-anxiety medication for general anxiety disorder. I am very open with my struggle with anxiety. It’s a large part of my personality, explains several…quirks…and in general, I’m all about removing the stigma surrounding mental health. He had mentioned that he worked in a pharmacy at a Duane Reade in Midtown.
Man: “So what anti-anxiety medicine do you take?”
Me: Excuse me?
Man: “What medicine do you take? I’ve heard of them all.”
Me: I understand that, and while I’m open to talking about my anxiety and the challenges I can face with it, my medical choices are none of your business.
Finally, by the grace of lord knows what, we reach the bus stop. I say that I’ll sit with him until the bus comes. You must be thinking, “Are you INSANE? You’re going to STAY in this guys company after all that?” Hear me out. I don’t want him to see where I’m walking. My street is half a block from the bus stop. It’s a dead end street. There are only so many houses there. I don’t want him to have that kind of information on me.
I sit on a bench behind the bus stop. He sits…with his right leg LITERALLY ON TOP OF MY LEFT LEG.
Me: Please get off me. I don’t want to be touched right now. You’re too close.
Man: “I’m too close?”
Me: Yes. Please move. (I move as he doesn’t make the move to).
Man: Immediately touches my arm several times even as I move away. “What’s this? A scare from vaccines?”
Me: (moving away). No. Chicken pocks.
Man: touches my arm again. “I’ve heard of chicken pocks.”
Me: (moving away again). Yes. Most children get them.
Man: “Where are you going to get food?”
Me: I will probably walk down Myrtle Ave.
Man: “Can I come with you?”
Me: No. I want to be alone.
Me: (thought: I literally told you 5 minutes ago that I am the type of person that needs my alone time to recharge. And you’re creeping me out but I don’t want to say that.) I need to be alone. I’ve met my social quota for the day. It’s time to be alone.
Gratefully, the bus finally appears. He goes to hug me again and asks if I’ll finally add him on Facebook now that we’ve gone out. “No. I don’t do social media” I reply. Again, this man doesn’t need that kind of information on me. He doesn’t need to know my last name. He doesn’t need to know about my friends or my life. He gets on the bus and informs me he’ll call me when he gets home. Oh joy.
One of my girlfriends calls me as soon as his bus has departed and I’m across the street (in the opposite direction of my house). (To be fair, she called because she thought I was dying. I had sent her an “OMG HELP ME” text and then didn’t have a chance to follow through on what I meant as “Man” was staring at my phone. I’m glad I have good friends who love and care about me and I’m glad she forgave my making her panic for an hour).
She and I debrief the “date”.
Friend: “HE DID WHAT?????”
Me: I know! What do I do? He said he’s going to call when he gets home. Can I ghost on him? Is that something you can do when you’re 31?
Friend: “Girl, I really think you need to answer and TELL HIM ABOUT HIS LIFE.”
Me: Ugh. I know! But ugh!
Friend: “I know. But just rip it off like a bandaid. You have to. Just tell him, ‘Thank you for the walk today, but I don’t see this going anywhere and I’m not interested in a second date.’ It’ll be ok.
I go home, crack open a pint of Ben & Jerry’s (two of the most reliable and caring men in the whole world), and wait.
Man: “Hi. I got home ok.”
Me: I’m glad you made it safely. Listen, I’m sure you’re a very nice guy, but I think we just want very different things. I’m not interested in a second date, but I wish you all the best.
Man: “What do you mean? What did I do wrong?”
Me: That’s irrelevant. I’m really just not interested, but thank you. (thought: I want to see this conversation through without having to hang up on him. I don’t know this guy. I don’t want him to show up on my bus and harass me, or call me constantly and harass me).
Man: “But what did I do wrong? Tell me so I can change. What can I do to prove to you that I’m a nice guy?”
BECAUSE SAYING NO IS NEVER ENOUGH FOR MEN IN THIS WORLD (see rape culture)
Me: (thought: you REALLY want to play this game? Ok dude, you asked for it…deep sigh) You asked about my birth control choices within the first 3 minutes of our walk, you repeatedly touched me when I asked you not to, you asked MULTIPLE strangers to take our picture while you were grabbing me – we aren’t DATING, we were on a DATE – you mansplained to me how I “do in face want kids” and you questioned my personal medical choices.
Man: “So if I hadn’t done those things you’d still want to go out with me?”
Man: “So I should have waited until later to take pictures?”
Me: YOU DON’T KNOW ME. YOU GRABBED ME MULTIPLE TIMES FOR PICTURES WHEN I ASKED YOU NOT TO TOUCH ME.
Man: So I was too controlling in the first 3 minutes?
Me: (literally shouting and over annunciating) YOU.ASKED.ABOUT.MY.BIRTH.CONTROL.CHOICES.IN.THE.FIRST.THREE.MINUTES.OF.OUR.WALK. Listen. It is not my job and I’m not going to sit on the phone for an hour and explain to you what you did wrong. I’m not interested in a second date. I wish you all the best, please don’t contact me again.
At which point I hung up the phone and immediately blocked his number.
After everything, I called my girlfriend back and debriefed again and she put me on speaker phone with her roommate. While the conversation consisted mostly of “we are glad you are okay”s and “what the hell what he thinking”, and while I can laugh about it now (because let’s be honest, it was so absurd I’m almost convinced it will be the start of my stand up career), upon further review, there is something much deeper going on here.
Regardless of this man’s social inadequacies, what continues to strike me about our entire exchange, is that repeatedly, “No” wasn’t enough. Not when I asked him not to touch me; not when I asked him not to ask me personal questions; not when I told him I would not like to see him again. The fact that I really believed that I needed to sit with him until he left on the bus so he wouldn’t see my street (a fact that made my mom feel comfortable and thankful that I did the “smart thing”) – the fact that having to spend MORE time with a man who was making me uncomfortable was the “smart thing” to do and the fact that I had (I use this lightly, I realize I could have hung up the phone and blocked this guy, but in truth I was afraid he’d find ways to find me or keep getting in touch) to sit on the phone with this guy and explain why I didn’t want to see him again, while he tried to justify his behavior or say he wouldn’t do it again…all of those things are very disheartening. And this was just one date. I was lucky enough to plan a date in public, to be surrounding by other people, and to have a good head on my shoulders and enough therapy to know that I don’t owe this man anything and I can say NO loudly and forcefully. But I also shouldn’t have to. No should mean No should mean No should mean No should mean No. I look forward to the day it finally does.