The glances on the subway platform confirm it; I look great tonight. There’s definitely something empowering about feeling the world stop around you when you walk into a room. Previous talking lowers or stops entirely; any movement seems to come to a complete stand-still. And then of course, there are the turning heads. Even just those brief moments where the eyes look over briefly to acknowledge that someone significant has entered the room. Yes, I look incredible and you all wish you could talk to me right now. Is there anything wrong with wanting to be noticed?
I think men seem to confuse this sentiment with a desire to being objectified. Just because I look good does not mean you need to come over and tell me that directly. The expression goes “actions speak louder than words.” Whether you’re stopping what you’re doing when I walk in the room or turning your head to see me go by, that says to me a lot more than a stupid come on like “Hey baby you’re lookin’ fine tonight.” Well, no shit genius. I didn’t just roll out of bed doing my make up, fixing my hair, and picking an outfit because I thought it was good for my health. In the same way men pick clothes, dress themselves, and bathe (though not everyone seems to follow this maxim), women want to look good. Not because we are looking to get affirmation from every loser on the street, but because we want to feel good about ourselves. And in a world where everybody’s obsessed with appearances, yeah, I do want to look good. Not for you, but for me.
While it’s nice to get noticed when you walk into a room, the same can’t be said for the subway. I hate being noticed in the subway. You can walk in and out of a room. Once those doors close on the subway, you’re essentially stuck in a metal crate with whatever whackjobs share the space with you. Sure, you could walk between the cars, but have you tried walking between moving subway cars in high heels? I haven’t and the thought terrifies me. You put a lot of faith in the powers that be that your trip from point A to point B doesn’t involve the kind of creeps we all know are out there. Otherwise, you’re stuck in a metal box that’s traveling underground where your only hope to escape is the next train station. And of course, you know there are going to be train delays and stops in between where you can only hope the thin veneer of humanity holds long enough before guys start harassing you and asking for your number.
Aside from the drunks, the worst ones are the ones who don’t seem to understand English. I’m not talking about foreigners. I’m talking about men who don’t understand the meaning of “No”, “I’m not interested”, or “Please leave me alone”. I’m pretty sure that if I wore a sign saying “I’m married, have 2 kids, and do not appreciate being hit on” I would double the number of creeps that approach me on a daily basis. I can already imagine the encounters. “Are you being sarcastic?” No sweetheart, I’m just fucking tired of being hit on any day I decide I want to look good for me.
Perhaps I was wrong; the worst ones aren’t the ones who ignore your rebuffs. The worst ones are the ones who don’t say anything but insist on following you or staring at you, and it looks like I won the creeper lottery tonight. Look, I appreciate being recognized as a lovely person, but didn’t anyone ever teach you that staring is rude? On top of that, it’s terrifying. Why are you looking at me? Why aren’t you saying anything? I’ve switched cars twice already and each time you’ve followed behind, staying a few seats away but still fixating on every inch of my body like I was being scanned for imperfections. I’m not your damn property and I don’t think anyone would ever want to be followed like this. We hear enough about rape and sexual assault on a daily basis that it’s a surprise women aren’t walking around armed to the teeth to scare off stalkers like my follower tonight.
It’s times like this where I wish I brought my partner’s pepper spray with me tonight. Maybe if there were more people on this train this wouldn’t be happening, but I know that’s a lie. There have been too many times where things like this have happened where people have just looked down at their phones and ignored the need of women as if they were walking down the train car asking for donations.
I could pretend to reach for the pepper spray I know I don’t have, but that might just be a bluff that provokes this guy to get closer. My stop is coming up and the train car is empty except for my stalker and me. As we pull into my station I decide that I’ll just make a run for it in the second that the doors start to close. Walking between train cars in heels is beyond me, but running up and down stairs seems like one of the first things I learned, especially when I’m running late.
I didn’t look back after I sprang out of the train. I did hear the doors close on something that I can only imagine was my friend in the train car who didn’t quite make it out. He may have pushed them open and tried to follow me. It didn’t really matter. I kept running until I got back into my building. The elevator closed behind me and I felt a brief moment of relief. Once I closed the door behind me as I got back into my apartment, the sound of the bolt locking was like a rattle that brought me back to reality. I was safe.
After throwing my keys on the desk and heading over to the bathroom, I pulled off my wig and took off my shining ear rings. Even though I just shaved in the morning, I could notice very closely how facial hairs were starting to peek through my expertly applied make up. I looked myself in the mirror and noticed that I was shaking. It wasn’t the first time I came home in drag, but it was definitely one of the most terrifying. As the mascara started running from the mix of water and tears, I realized just how hard it was to be a woman.