Dear Man on the Street

Dear Man on the Street,

First of all, thank you for ruining my sunny Sunday.  I’d had brunch with my friends, done a bit of cleaning, called my parents, and gone into town for a catch up with a friend as well as as some much needed time alone.

I was softly singing to myself as I was walking up that steep hill towards my home, wearing sunglasses and a big jumper, not looking particularly inviting to any conversation or attention, when you snarled at me as you walked past me.  You snarled.

Thank you for reducing me to a piece of meat.  You couldn’t even say, ‘Hello beautiful’ or ‘You look good’ or anything that, you know, humans say to each other.  You could only imitate an animal, as if I was something to a) be conquered b) to be eaten/taken wildly, because I am so goddamn hot and sexy and irresistible that you can’t even formulate the words quick enough to treat me like a lady.  Because obviously I’m not good enough to be a lady, I am only good enough for you to satiate your sexual desire.

I didn’t respond.  Honestly, because you’re not the only Man on the Street.  Surely, it should be normal by now, considering how goddamn hot and sexy I am, that this happens to me on a regular basis.  And yes, it does happen, but it has been a while since I’ve walked alone anywhere (in broad daylight).  I want to walk you through my mind, what happened in my head for the five minutes following your gutteral roar, because that’s how long it took me to get home.

To start, I looked around- are there any more of you?  Do I need to speed up my pace?  Are there any witnesses other than the cars whizzing by me on the main road?  Then, tears threatened to spring up.  I didn’t even respond to you.  I should have tripped you.  Or tae-kwon-do-ed you to the ground.  Or shouted.  Or, the least I could have done, was given you the finger.

God, I’m not only goddamn sexy and beautiful, I’m also stupid.  I didn’t even bother responding to you.  But then, what would it have helped?  Would it have actually put me in danger, instead? Yes, that’s why I didn’t respond.  I didn’t want to put myself in harm’s way, because clearly, it was a dangerous situation.  On a Sunday afternoon in Denmark at 4pm with the sun shining brightly.

But was it even that dangerous?  Come on, Arna.  You’re in one of the safest countries in the world, and there are hundreds of cars passing by you.  You really are stupid.  And you clearly aren’t a feminist.  Because if I were a feminist, I would have said something. I would have stood up for myself, and my gender.  I would have, for all the girls in the world, told you that you were an asshole.

But it wasn’t even fear.  Was it acceptance?  Oh my god Arna were you actually flattered?  FUCK no.  I was not.  But I accepted it because this happens all the time.  And no not because I think I’m so goddamn hot and sexy, but because men think they can get away with it- and voila, they do- you just let him get away with it!

Dear Man on the Street- I’m less than a minute away from the gates of my home.  My safe place.  Shortly, you’ll be on the other side of this invisible bubble, and I will rant about you and get angry about you, and mostly, I’ll be disappointed in myself.  Because I let my girls down today.  I let my women down.

Dear Man on the Street- This happens all the time.  I’m constantly letting my girls down because of you.  I am so programmed to steer clear rather than face you, that I am living in a constant state of guilt, anger, and resentment toward your kind.

Dear Man on the Street- Piss off.

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Ageist

“Oh my goooodddd.  I’m going to be so ooolllddd!” this expression, in my opinion, is far too often used when youngsters (yes I’m calling anyone under 25 a youngster) are nearing their next birthday.  I always have to laugh inwardly, “honey you don’t know what old is.”  For a few years now, I’ve lost the will to bemoan getting older.  It’s mostly not true anymore: you realise how few years you actually have left to live before you become, you know, really old, like… 38.  And also, older people actually start to become your role models, so the last thing you want to do is to actually call them old, because it means one day soon, you’ll be… old like them.

And besides, I still see my dad with black-ish hair before he went grey, I see my mother without wrinkles (she  has very few wrinkles to speak of anyway).  I’m not old until they are my grandmother’s age, and thankfully, they still have a few years to go- which means I have a few years to go.

At IPC, our bubble is actually very helpful in melting away those years and the barriers that come with it.  When I’m speaking to 19 year olds, I don’t always feel like I’m speaking to someone that is almost a decade younger than me.  We might be exchanging pleasantries or we might be discussing feminism or just how good the pizza was at lunch.  Back at home, I would barely be caught dead speaking to someone so young- ‘who do they think they are, speaking down to their elders like that!’ I would think indignantly.  The thing to remember is, they are as much people with ideas and ideals like I am.  If anything, they probably have more fantastic and outrageous dreams than me, because they still have that youthful fervor that frankly, the world is missing out on big time.

And this is probably worth keeping in mind when talking to ‘elders’.  A lot of them, yes, have experience that we wouldn’t have had, and we should learn from them.  But we shouldn’t exalt them to high heavens without thinking critically.  Coming from Taiwan it was always easier to take their word as gold, but you know, over the last few years I have come to find, older isn’t always better.  You see how badly people are affected by experiences that they try to project onto young’uns.  “Don’t fall in love” “use your man, don’t let him use you” “don’t ever go to Paris I was robbed there twice” … the list goes on.  We have to remember that our lives are ours to live, and while people are well-meaning, you shouldn’t let them define us or even keep us from making mistakes.  I have to try to remember that when I hand out my advice.  Embittered, battered, and tired of some of this inequality, sexism, and perhaps lack of luck, I sometimes catch myself being angrier than I probably should be.