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.
April 6, 2015