“take care take care take care” (lower east side graffiti)

 

I just sat down on one of these benches that’s on the island that runs down the middle of the street and realized that I am doing so at the hottest time of the day. In Jerusalem, people don’t even leave their houses at 3 pm. They nap. They go to the darkest, coldest part of the café, or they lay under trees. I would always forget this, and end up desperate, sweaty, dehydrated and burnt. True to form, I am not planning on moving from this bench. Beside me, a man is explaining to his female companion that therapy will help her.

Yesterday, I was sitting at Columbus Circle again, writing whatever it is I’m writing, and along came this balding,middle aged white guy, wearing white and khaki and a jaunty straw hat. He looked at me, and because I’m scared of everyone, I pretended not to notice. He sat down near me but not next to me, by the fountain. After a while, he got up to go, and waved at me. I took out one of my ear buds.

Man: Do you have wireless access out here?

Me: No.

Man: Oh. Where did you get your glasses?

Me: Um. I don’t remember.

Man: Well, I like them. They make a statement.

Me: Okay, thanks.

And then I put my ear bud back in, to signal that our conversation was over, and he looked at me with his mouth open for another moment, and then he walked away. I can’t remember if he shook his head, or if he seemed pissed off, but as I watched him go, I thought, Oh, I am so mean.

This sort of thing has happened to me before, I might have even written about  it here. Jonathan Ames, whom I adore, has a thing about plagiarizing himself, how he does it all the time, so if it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me. 

When I get approached by strange men on the street, I run. I don’t think this is a bad policy. (Cue the comments about how I’m scarred or I hate men or that I should be More Open, as this is the way to finding true love or deep friendship!) Once, I was trying to get a cab and a guy came up and starting talking at me about my bag or my handkerchief or something, and it went on for way too long.  I walked away, and he yelled, ‘You don’t have to be such a fucking bitch.”

Yeah. If you’re a dude, approaching a lady on the street, you have to be prepared for this kind of reaction. In turn, I have to be prepared for the reflex of immediate remorse-I should have been nicer. I should have talked with him longer, I should have smiled. That’s sexism. Even if this guy was a psycho, I should have been nice, because otherwise, I’m a bitch, and that’s the worst thing ever.

Being inculcated with a feeling of vulnerability is the result of a culture that makes it not only awesome, but mandatory to our concept of masculinity to treat women like public property, and if we object, well, then-someone hit the “bitch” alarm. Ding. (No, but seriously, it’s way louder than that.)

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