yesterday i came home after a hot, sweaty, truly exhausting 12-hour day. i’d been wearing work-approved corduroy pants in the 85 degree humid heat, and when i got home, i wanted nothing more than to sit around in my underwear for a few minutes before toiling some more on the house. i thought i was allowed to do what i want in the privacy of my own home. silly, silly me.
i hurled my pants to the floor in my living room, which has curtains. after laying around for a few minutes, i was like, “god damnit, i want a blueberry-hazelnut smoothie.” so i went to my kitchen to make it. my kitchen has two windows that look out on a narrow pathway to my neighbor’s house. in the two minutes it took to wash out my blender and assemble a smoothie, a dude walked by. he looked in the window and saw me wearing underwear & a clingy tank top. he stopped. he stared. i made eye contact & glared at him. he walked away. and then he came back again.
i retreated to the living room & put on a skirt, enraged that i can’t even do what i want in my own fucking house without dudes making me feel uncomfortable. enraged that i can’t have even just one thing that is safe.
i made my smoothie, it was great, and i kinda forgot about that incident. i painted my bedroom, watched half of “jeffrey,” read a zine and went to sleep. i was woken up at 3am by two dudes loudly shouting outside of my window. it was mostly just loud drunken bullshit, but as they walked by my house, one of them started talking in a lower voice. “nuh-uh,” said his friend. “i’m tellin’, you, man!” he yelled. “it got my dick all wet and shit!” “you could get your dick wet in your own home, fool. no need to come over here.” and they laughed meanly and went inside their house.
i couldn’t get back to sleep. pittsburgh is safe, probably the safest place i’ve ever lived, and i’d forgotten for a minute there that i am nothing but prey in the eyes of so many people. because i can walk around in a skirt and guys don’t yell about how they want to rape me, because people don’t really go out of their way to try & start shit like they do in other places. i had let my guard down; i had forgotten. but once i heard that voice jarring me from my exhausted slumber, i sprang into action like a hunted animal. i jumped up. immediately awake & on guard. how do i get out if they come in. what do i do; where do i hide. immediate escape plan, attack plan. everyone i know who is, or who is percieved as, a woman knows what i’m talking about. i get way less shit than most ladies do because i’m tall, because i am not femme, because i am not conventionally attractive, because i look tough. none of this matters at three a.m.
none of this matters when their voice is bouncing off the walls. they closed their door & probably forgot the whole thing. it was just a little offhand comment to them. it wasn’t that way for me. i lay awake in the roast-y guestroom, trying to calm myself down. luckily, sheer exhaustion won out and i fell asleep pretty quickly. i didn’t have to lay awake thinking about every invasion. the dude who wanted to rape me & my housemate because it was his birthday and he hadn’t gotten a birthday present. my ex-best friend, raped in a cab at age 14 and i didn’t take cabs for years because i didn’t want to accidentally tip her rapist. the dude who threatened to kill me because i talked back to him. the new jersey four, in prison because they fought back to a guy who called them dykes & yanked their hair out. that guy was portrayed in the press as some kind of hero. i could go on and on, but i won’t.
i used to always feel like this. this past year in pittsburgh has been a vacation, mostly. and a year without that constant strain has done amazing things in my heart and mind. but i knew in the back of my mind that i was just deluding myself. and yeah, nothing actually happened. most of the time, nothing does. but i still can’t shake this feeling that i am always at war, that i will never be safe anywhere, & that this will never go away. nearly every woman i know understands this feeling perfectly. nearly every guy i know dismisses it, or pretends to sympathize. there is no way to let them know how it feels–even dudes who are persecuted for being queer or weird or whatever; it’s not the same thing. it’s not as pervasive. dudes aren’t forced to watch dudes being gaybashed in nearly every mainstream movie & primetime crime drama, & have that be treated as though it were just a normal part of the culture. dudes aren’t told, and shown, in hundreds of ways throughout their lives what happens when you go out by yourself, when you take walks, when you live alone, when you live your life the way you fucking want to.
i have a whole lot more to say about this. but my time at the library is running out & honestly, i don’t want to write about this any more. i’m exhausted.