Survival

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When you get called “Sir”
for the dozenth time
in two weeks/
you cry/ briefly/
while dragging your suitcase 
through the underbelly of Los Angeles’s 
Union Station/ and wonder if only 
you had worn a tank top today/
maybe you wouldn’t be crying.
But she looked you in the face/
this time/ took in all 14 hours of travel
your body endured just to get here/
to buy this bus ticket. You/
with two bobby pins in your hair/
you with your faded blue hoodie on/
you with your impossibly tight skinny jeans/
she was a foot away from your face
when she asked, “One way, Sir?”

And it’s as if the blood
was never enough. As if
the men who have chased you
down the street, hollered, or laughed,
or begged, or used their bodies 
as a weapon against you 
just disappeared. As if you 
didn’t understand the paradox 
of needing to be attractive 
but not too attractive.
As if you didn’t already feel 
unattractive most of the time. 
As if the day your male boss 
said you should have worn more 
clothes to work meant nothing.
As if you weren’t immediately aware
you were being sexualized
and being told it was your fault.
As if you were born Temptress.
Witch. Object. Apple.
Let your mouth
be a swarm of protests/
a night of cicadas:
it will still be your fault.

As if at your college internship
you didn’t have to get everyone’s lunch
while the male intern got to actually learn something.
As if you’ve never ran home
like your name was thank God 
it hasn’t happened to me 
yet.
As if you didn’t flinch every single time
a man or a group of men or a car full of men
or a city block of men or a nation of men 
called out to you/ because they knew 
you would flinch.
Because of everything that has come before.
Because you are a womyn who is alive.
Because not all men, but enough men.
Because the good ones/ aren’t telling the bad ones
to stop.

As if you are nothing more than your gender.
As if everyone has a gender.
As if calling someone “Ma’am” or “Sir” is necessary.
It’s not. 
Every sentence you say with those words in it
will make sense without those words.
What can I get for you? 
Would you like some sugar?
Are you buying a one-way ticket?

The worst part about being called “Sir”
is when you correct someone.
And you say, “I am a Womyn.”
And they laugh/ before apologizing.
As your body isn’t something you live inside of.
As if your request to be called what you want 
to be called isn’t important. As if you 
haven’t just been surviving/
enough/ already.
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About Carrie Rudzinski

Named Best Female Poet at her first national poetry competition in 2008, Carrie Rudzinski is a published author and internationally ranked slam poet who has performed her work across the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and India. She currently lives in Los Angeles. View all posts by Carrie Rudzinski

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