Friday, July 15, 2005

Bitch Shoes

The other day, I made them shut up, and I knew that day that I had won. This is what I wore:

A simple hot pink, sort of sparkly tee shirt from Anthropologie, which is cut well, accentuates my bust while slimming my waist
Also well-cut Seven jeans. These used to be tight, but are looser now since I lost a few pounds, but like any quality clothing item, they still fit well
Hair curly & up in pins, in my signature style
Jangly silver bangles
My Perfect shoes

I have worn this outfit a thousand times since I first assembled it last summer. It's my sort of signature backup, something cute to throw on when meeting friends for drinks, in which I always feel good. But really, it's nothing special.

I saw them from a block away, clustered in the usual spot, on the corner of Gainsborough and Huntington, right by Symphony Market II and Burger King, waiting to shake their cups in my face and ask me for change. These men are the worst and most frequent kinds of sexual harassers. They want my attention, and they want my money, which I guess gives them special license to call me anything they want. You never know what you're gonna hear.

Sometimes they just call me pretty. Sometimes they call me sexy. Sometimes they call me pretty, then sexy, then bitch because I don't give them any money. No matter what, they make me feel about as big as a mosquito. I hate it, And for different reasons, I struggle each time with denying them change. We both know I have money and they have none, so why shouldn't I share? Then they call me whatever it is that day, and my guilt vanishes, replaced by shame, anger, frustration, and fear. When I walk past these men, I am at once degraded, and degrading.

But the other day, I won. I decided to take anything that happened in this interaction for the team, because I now want to write a book, and I can chalk up any pain/embarrassment/anger/frustration I feel to "living" and "research". So I held my head up high, kept my steps long, and kept walking. I made every effort to wipe any trace of openness from my face: the curling remnants of a smile, faint happy wrinkling in the corner of my eyes, raised eyebrows--all of these, erased. I replaced them with a firm, angry looking mouth, and a glare that I assume looked accusatory. I wasn't trying to look like mad, per se, but I presume that I did.

But I think what cinched the deal were My Perfect Shoes. These are shoes that I bought on sale last summer from Diesel. They are slightly platform, open toed, and sturdy in structure, with a curved heel and shabby chic fabric. Perhaps it was the way these three inch heels pitched me forward, or the thunk thunk that their wood heel makes along the sidewalk. Or perhaps it was just the extra three inches, with the added height of my Prom-tastic up-do, plus my very formidable posture, which can make me seem about 6 feet tall at times.

So there the men were, shaking their cups, commenting to people as they walked by, craning their necks in an effort to make eye contact with these rich strangers. But as I approached, the men grew silent. As I stalked by, I could feel their faces looking directly into mine, eyes searching. As I passed them, I knew they were carefully observing my ass. But all I heard was one brazen sole whisper to a friend: "I ain't saying anything."

I walked on and smiled. Because that one day, I won.

It must have been the shoes.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005


I have a very fickle and often antagonistic relationship with my body. When I was young, I was a fat kid. Looking back on the pictures now, I'm kind of shocked that that's how I thought of myself at the time. But it has shaped me, possibly more than anything else.

I was tall, always about a head taller than my twin brother until he finally, anti-climactically outgrew me. My cheeks in the old photos are roundish, but my body doesn't look how I remember it. I remember it as a wide, fleshy vessel, inside of which I hid, waiting with a book propped in front of my nose for puberty to hit and give me hips and breasts and perhaps even someday a boyfriend who would pull me out of the hellish in-between.

I spent so may hours wishing my body different, and when I look at the pictures from those years now, I can finally see the cute little girl my mother saw. I now know why she kept the infamous horse picture, that wretchedly embarrassing photo of me posing with the horse in front of the barn. I am standing there, with my hair teased into perfect Jersey coiff, in my big hoodless green & white Joyce Kilmer Elementary School sweatshirt layered over thigh hugging stretch pants. On my feet I am wearing white keds. I am awkward but adorable and I look so happy, and I can see why my mother kept this photo on display in the front hallway, much to my chagrin, until just about a year ago.

I hated that picture so much in my youth. Mom protected it, knowing full well what I had done to my old dance pictures in a fit of self hatred. She found them lying in a lifeless pile, many multicolored snowlflakes in the bottom of the plastic bag lined trashcan in her bedroom. I hated the horse picture, the dance pictures, all the pictures so much. When I looked at them, all I saw were parts, like the parts I described above. Disjointed, ugly, hateful parts.

So it should come as no surprise, if I saw myself as parts as a child, and if I continue to see myself as parts to this day, that I am completely and utterly confused when confronted by an assessment of my whole being. It continues to come as a surprise when people call that whole being "hot stuff", or "sexy", or simply hiss like the Dominicans used to in my neighborhood in Jamaica Plain. What, exactly, do they see? What do they see that I don't?