Dear Random Man on the Street Who Kept Talking to Me Until I Finally Looked at Him,
Thanks so much for picking me out of a crowded sidewalk of people to talk to. I was moved, almost really!
I mean, it sounded like you recognized me from somewhere, with all that babbling “hey, how are you, hey sweetheart, how you been doing.” As if you wanted to check in on what’s been up with me since the last time we talked.
Or rather, since the last time you talked to any totally random woman on the street. Because one thing I’m sure we agree on: who I am beyond “woman” doesn’t matter in this interaction.
In case you were wondering: no, I didn’t think you were dangerous (unless it turned out you were). And no, I didn’t you were going to follow me (unless it turned out you did). And no, I didn’t feel sexually objectified by our encounter (unless we’re gonna count the fact that it is men—always and only—who make this kind of you-owe-me-your-attention-cuz-I-called-you-sweetheart move on women. Also always and only).
I spent my afternoon, as one is wont to do, getting interviewed on my thoughts regarding vaginas and vulvas. (As one is wont to do, WHEN ONE IS ME, I should perhaps have specified.) I’ll share that piece with y’all when it’s published—but in the meantime, an observation: ain’t it wonderful how brains are pliable, and how writing plies them?
See, I wrote this post last fall about our cultural reluctance—and my own personal resistance—to using the word “vulva.” Today, what I found? Personal resistance gone! Another plank of internalized misogyny fallen! Appears I am now fully aboard the vulva-train.
And so I invite you to join me in raising a glass to the liberation of sexual bodies and sexual vocabulary alike, and to tell me about a time you wrote yourself into a different way of thinking.
Just please refrain from using the word “moist” in your comment.
In a revelation that will shock exactly zero readers of this blog, I must confess that I’ve always been obsessive about using words correctly. About knowing both literal and connotative meanings. About finding le mot juste for every occasion.
Add gender into the lexical mix? At that point, “obsessive” becomes, well…
Lemme put it to you this way. I still feel pissy about the idiotic joke made by some fellow Unitarians when I was 11 and the UUA was revising the official church hymnal to remove gender-exclusive language: “Maybe we should just call this new HYM-nal an IT-nal, since you hate men so much.”
[Picture here a tween-sized Alice, hands on her hips, fuming at her male peers. . . and more than a few grownass male grownups.^]
In those days, if I heard you call someone a “girl” who was clearly a grownass female grownup? Them were fightin’ words, far as I was concerned.
He cannot believe that the air-conditioned bedroom is truly the only comfortable space in the apartment, and so, every few hours, he marches to the door and meows loudly, demanding access to the rest of his domain. Perhaps five minutes later, he meows loudly from the other side of the door, demanding to be allowed back in—hotter than when he left, and somehow more indignant as well.
To be clear, I am just as pissed as the cat is about the heat. Almost as disbelieving, too, despite the fact that I am the only one in our shared home with access to weather reports, as well as the cognitive capacity for number sense.
Numbers which—if my sense is correct—hate me right now.
A friend tells me she is bracing for the inevitable ‘well why was she holding her child?’
Why did Sandra talk back. Why did Tanisha have a heart condition. Why did Yvette step out of her house. What was Miriam doing in Washington, DC. Why was Korryn holding her 5yo son, sitting with him on the living room couch in her own home.
Traffic tickets. This began with traffic tickets.
If a response to that (yes, of course, inevitable) question is “so they wouldn’t shoot her,” said in a tone of (yes, of course) scorn—my reply, simply: “yes, of course so they wouldn’t shoot her.”
So they wouldn’t kill her.
And still they did.
And still they did.
And still they did.
Traffic tickets and her baby in her own young arms. How small the humanity that looks at that scene and thinks he must (of course, yes) destroy it first.
Featured image: Instagram photo of Korryn Gaines, via The Root
I suppose this doesn’t qualify as much of an admission—seeing as how I’ve written on this subject before, albeit briefly—but I adore and despise the romantic comedy genre, in equal measure.
From the romanticization of stalker behavior to the gaslighting of every leading lady, romcoms are the adult version of “he only pulls your hair because he likes you.” They’re stories snatched straight from the playground, dressed up with schmaltzy soundtracks and marketing targeted to women under the snarky diminution of ‘chick flick’.
Cuz not only will Hollywood not make us decent movies, society’s gotta mock us for taking enjoyment in those scraps we are offered. [See also, for a book-centric analysis of this soft bigotry of the romance.]
My next also!not!shocking! admission?
I find hating romantic comedies part and parcel of enjoying them.
In fact, “Once you’ve mocked romantic comedy clichés, you are free to indulge in them” is itself a pervasive romantic comedy cliché, as Chloe Angyal once pointed out. (By the by, Dr. Angyal is both an active and vocal feminist critic…and herself so romanced by the romantic comedy that she wrote her dissertation on the genre, and its relationship to post-feminist Hollywood feminism.)
One of my favorite mock-worthy clichés is the obligatory makeover of the heroine.
The Ur-Romcom in this respect remains Pretty Woman, a flick my college roommates and I used to watch over and over in our dorm room—but only up through the shopping scene, after which we would each drag our sartorially-satiated selves back to our desks. Athough newer movies have done it differently, none has done it better.
1999’s She’s All That, which holds its own place in the makeover pantheon as Most Glasses-Removal That Were Ever Removed*, even paid homage to these roots.
[*I acknowledge this film’s status, even as I maintain my own soft-spot preference for the glasses-removal scene in the Australian delight Strictly Ballroom: where our heroine is enticed to remove her glasses—and apparently cure her own nearsightedness for the remainder of the movie??—not because she will look better with them off. But because she will dance better.
Nothing says “two left feet” quite like 20/20 vision, I guess.]
Now, to see a truly genius act of romcom makeover-cum-gentle self-mocking of its own tropes-cum–Pretty Woman shout-out—all served up with a side order of genre gender-bending, no less!—for my money, nothing comes even close to this scene from Warm Bodies, a Romeo-and-Juliet retelling in which the House of Montague is played by zombies.