Yesterday I wore a dress. It’s not a big deal, or shouldn’t be. I was still beat to my socks after Saturday’s adventure, and I had to sit on a panel mid-day, and I wanted to perk myself up. So I wore a new dress, a dress that hits just about at my knees. For me, this is as out of character as wearing a micro-mini. Folks who know me: when have you ever seen my legs? Seriously. But I’ve been wearing “short” dresses for a few months now, so it’s weird but becoming not weird for me.
So I wore a dress. With tights and boots. I went to work, I went uptown to sit on the panel. I left the place where the event was held and walked to the subway.
“Nobody wants to see that.”
I heard this semi-surly voice say that as I headed down Park Avenue. I kept walking because it seemed to be one of the random snippets of someone else’s conversation that filter into your consciousness.
“Big-legged women in short dresses. You’re too big. Believe me, no one wants to see that.”
This time, the speaker — a small, maybe-40-year-old Black man in a leather stadium coat over a suit — got right up on me to say what he had to say.
People often tell me they’re surprised by the things folks have no problem saying to me. I’m not surprised. Certainly not about this. Being rude and insulting to fat people is the last truly safe bullying, discriminatory behavior people have. Yes, you can be a jerk about all kinds of things, but there will almost always be someone ready to speak up for the person you’re insulting, someone ready to call you out on your racism, homophobia, sexism, anti-semitism, ableism. With fat people, that’s pretty much never going to be the case. Fat people, because we have the audacity to be fat, are assumed to deserve whatever bile you choose to spit on us.
But you know what? Not really. And not me.
I stopped and looked at him. I made a dramatic “shocked” face, complete with one hand on my cheek and my mouth in a stunned “O.”
“Really?!” I asked.
He looked pleased, ready to tell me all about how disgusted he felt at the sight of me.
I dropped my hand and smiled. “Good thing what I wear has absolutely nothing to do with anyone but me.” I looked down, gave myself a once-over. “You’re only seeing my legs because you’re looking at them.” I started walking again. “You don’t like what you see? Look at something else.”
Yes, it hurts my feelings to have some jackass say no one wants to see a woman who looks like me. But you know? I’m not here for anyone’s fat-shaming. I’m not here for men thinking I can or should be ruled by their gaze. I’m not here for strangers on the street who think they have anything to say about what I choose to wear, how I wear it, or how I look wearing it. You can miss me with all of that.
It’s the annual Slice of Life Story Challenge, hosted by the wonderful people over at Two Writing Teachers! Every day this month, hundreds of writers will be posting their stories. Head on over and check out the other slices!