Illustration by James R. Eads
Every time I do, I have to battle with some man bred on patriarchy and sexism. We took a bus today with Peter to test out the new route to school, plus for me to exercise my knee before the trip to Colorado. On my way back I walked to a bus stop and said "Good morning!" to an old man and smiled. He smiled back and said, "Do you have a boyfriend?"
I should be on constant alert for this behavior, given my life history of being viewed as a sex object, but no, my head was in my book, and so I was taken by surprise (I fucking hate it that I forget). I slipped into my usual mode of battle: question to question, laugh it off with some tasty jabs. So I said, "Why do you ask?" And he said, "I want you to be my girlfriend." And I said, "Sure! Let's get married." That shocked him, and he laughed. "Really?" he said. I said, "I'm dead serious. Only you owe me a huge diamond. Once you get me one, I'm yours." Of course he told me he couldn't afford it. Of course I told him he stands no chance. The bus was coming up, and I had no time to ask him if his equipment still worked and how big his dick was, because if it was small, he'd have to grow it. OR ELSE. Then I was getting on the bus, and he told me he's sad now. I said, "Well, too bad. I hope I broke your heart. Maybe you'll meet another girlfriend on your bus." And then I stewed the whole bus ride home.
I did it all wrong. And I was mad at myself. Note: I WAS MAD AT MYSELF. What is wrong with this picture? I've been trained by family and society to internalize my anger, to never spill it on a man but to spill it on me. And on top of it, I asked him the wrong question and missed the opportunity to show him that this type of question hurts—not like a woman to a man, but like a human being to a human being. I should've asked him if he had a daughter, and how it wound make him feel if some strange guy asked her this question. Or if he didn't have a daughter, I should've asked him to think about his mother and how she had to endure questions like that when she was young. If all that failed, I should've asked him how it makes him feel when white people view him as an object because he is black. We could've shared our pain. But we didn't. And so I wonder.
Did he ask me because I was a woman? Did he ask me because I was white? Did he ask me because I was pretty? What was his motivation? He sounded in good humor. I did too. We played our parts and we parted, and will never see each other again. I'm feeling physical pain right now in my belly. I'm sure he feels pain too, being old and maybe rejected by women all his life (and scorned by white women because he is black?) and not knowing how else to approach women because nobody ever taught him, and not understanding why he has to suffer this misfortune. Not having a clue. Or maybe it was all a joke to him. Something he's so used to doing, he never thought about it twice.
The question is, how do I battle with this in the future? And how can I change it from the battle to the sharing of human experience and coming closer together instead of drifting apart?
I don't know.