living underground in the real world

summer in the city

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Did you ever take a self-taken photo that makes you think you might actually be a serial killer and not even know it? My Dexter is showing a little in this photo, no?

I’m following my sweetheart around on tour for the next few days, and today the laminated piece of paper attached to my belt loop says we are in New Haven.

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I have a tour routine: while he’s working, I scope out the city, then we have lunch, he works more and I settle into computer work and more wandering around.

After walking around the Yale Campus for an hour or so today, checking out the current college fashions and thinking about how everyone passing me had done better on the SATs than me, I hopped up on an old stone wall and sunbathed while reading this week’s New Paltz Times.*

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And the troubles began.

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Is this outfit just too skimpy to wear out and about? Ladies, please let me know. I’ve got the little slip that prevents the dress from being too short and everything!

So today, I was sitting on the wall, legs crossed all tidy, not laying out in the sun lolling about or anything, and a dude whistles at me.

Of course, New Haven is 20 or whatever times bigger than the town where I usually hang out, and this sort of thing happens in cities, I know that. A whistle, who cares. I’m reading the paper completely happy. But combined with three other incidents, it all added up to some annoyance on my part that I think I need to blog out of my system.

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So I’m sitting on the wall, and after 10 minutes or so I suddenly become aware of a figure creeping toward me around the corner. I jump about fifty feet in the air and literally gasp, and a very white, very withery 70ish man straightens up and says “I was just going to tickle your foot–it was just dangling right there.”

UM.

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I jump up and gather all my crap and start hustling down the street, literally too stunned to say one word. Should I have laughed it off? It freaked me out to a ridiculous degree, to be honest. Before I could tell that the dude was super old and possibly insane, his creeping form seemed like an attacker who was going to snatch me away to a certain death—seriously.

As I was booking it, he was on the other side of the street, and he said that he was “just kidding! I didn’t mean anything by it!” and I yelled back over my shoulder, “No worries, it’s fine!” when in reality in no way was it fine.

Why do we do this?

Most women do it: the desire to be nice above all. My concern is always that if I am my interior brutal self, I will have misjudged the situation and everyone will know what a serious asshole I am and how badly I overreact. I felt bad for being so jumpy, to be honest, and just exactly how fucked up is that?

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So then I go back to the venue and tell Jacob the story and head out for a walk. While window shopping, a (pretty cute, actually) dude walked up to me and asked if he could ask me a question. Warily, I said OK. “Are you part Japanese?” “What? Um. No.” “Oh, because you look sort of Japanese from a certain angle.” “Ah.” And I wished him a good day and walked on.

I know pretty much all women get flirted with in this way pretty much all the time. I just don’t leave my little bubble that often, so it doesn’t happen to me that often. But I am also afraid that my love of the world—my wild, intense joy at having a day to spend walking around in a brand new city in the summer sun—was palpable. My heart felt very open today, and how depressing that if you’re putting out open-heart energies you attract crazy dudes.

People who live in cities have a public face that they put on—a blank, impassive, dead stare that repels panhandlers and overly friendly tourists. If I’m in a city for a few days I can get into that routine, but yesterday I didn’t have a city face at all. I was open, very alive and wildly happy. The world will not tolerate this in women who are wearing short dresses.

Why did it have to be dudes, though? (Don’t answer that one.) Why couldn’t cute girls ask me where I got my dress? I could have told them the best story: I got it in Tasmania, at a music festival in the rain and the mist at the very bottom of the world (yes, even at the bottom of the world there are vendors selling cheap China-made dresses).

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So, back in New Haven, after the sunbathing and the window shopping I go to a charming little indie coffeeshop for lemonade and computer work at a table outside, and a Yalie prof. comes up to me after a few minutes, saying he is sitting inside and is wondering if it’s too humid to sit outside. And even though he is in this 40s and is interminably blah (fuckin’ chinos and a blue cuffed shirt), he begins blatantly flirting, saying I have an interestingly-shaped face (was that even a compliment?) and asking what I’m studying (“Um, I’m 31. I’m not in school.”) and the whole fucking thing. He was a brain scientist dude…what’s the word? Where you do MRIs on people’s brains and shit? He did that sort of stuff. Eventually I scratched my head and my luscious armpit hair entered the picture and he seemed sufficiently bored with my non-answers (“Where are your ancestors from?” “It doesn’t matter.” “It doesn’t matter in a larger sense, or you’re just saying it shouldn’t matter to me?” “The latter.”) that he drifted away, but not without me telling him my real name for some stupid reason and him saying a whole long thing about gusto and tongues and ick ick ick.

And we’re beyond the need for feminism, right?

Even though we can’t walk down the street with open hearts and short skirts without dudes jumping into our lives?

Please.

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*Speaking of: I generally cannot find fault with newish Town Board member Jeff Logan—he was super sweet when he was my nurse when I went to Dr. to get a part to a tick extracted from my back during the Lyme Disease scare a few months ago—but I was more than a little weirded out by the fact that all of the sudden he is apparently obsessed with some New Paltz medical imaging company getting rid of a trailer they apparently shouldn’t be allowed to have that they use for MRI scans (I don’t have the paper in front of me right now for the details). It seems more than a little sketchy that he works at a clinic where MRIs are available [update: maybe not—their website doesn’t mention it], which he comes pretty close to pointing out in the article, even—I’ll toss the quote up here when I get back to my car with the paper in it.

What gives, Jeff?

6 Responses to “summer in the city”

  1. jenna

    if it’s not the creepers, it’s the yalies!
    and now you know why, despite a sweet vegan nanny gig, i am high-tailing it out of new haven and back to new york. seriously. that town is weird.
    but i hope the sunshine and the bookstores treated you well.

    Reply
  2. ecclescake

    Oh how I wish we could all enjoy ourselves by ourselves in public without every smile being taken as a come-on. And it amazes me how little even the feminist-allied dudes fathom this.

    I keep forgetting that I can use armpit hair as a shield. Especially now that it’s tank top season.

    Reply
  3. Sara

    Not short!. Maybe the dress I was wearing yesterday was (it just barely covered things), but I was also *hot*.

    Reply
    • lagusta

      AWESOME. I’m glad I’m not alone in my love of shorties!

      Reply
      • Sara

        No way are you alone. And we should keep wearing them into our eighties/nineties/hundreds!

        Also, to clarify, of course by “hot” I meant the air temperature.

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