Friday, June 10, 2022

Marc/Chantelle: Don't pretend you didn't look

I decided today was the day to leave the apartment. I haven't been seen in public since I got to Albany, basically settling in and coping with the situation but this morning the sun was shining and I desperately felt the need for a coffee other than the stale Maxwell House in the pantry (in my house we always kept coffee in the fridge but I guess Chantelle and I differ in that way.)

As compared to my last outing, I've had time to get accustomed to this body. I know well that I have boobs and a butt and that most of the weather-appropriate (gorgeous spring we're having) clothes don't obscure that fact, although loose-fitting jeans appear to be "in" for young single ladies. I think they're ugly but if I can get away with them then I am on board. Finally, fashion designers are thinking of the much-overlooked "women who are secretly men with odd relationships to their new bodies" market. 

The trade-off is that these jeans have gaudy big holes all down the leg. I guess I'm old enough to say "who would buy jeans like that?" while still young enough to look at women ("other" women?) wearing them and feel satisfied that I am fitting in. I topped that off with a light top and a cute little jean jacket, because why not?

Of course nothing could make me forget that under those jeans, and the light top, were ladies' underthings. I still can't get over the fact that I have this body and am wearing these clothes, it is so wrong and yet, it just makes me laugh. Little old me, with girl parts.

Being out in the world was a very strange experience. I suddenly became very aware of myself, how I walked, stood, carried myself... do I stand with my shoulders back or slouch? What do I do with my hands when I talk, or when I'm idle... fold them under my boobs, stick them in my (shallow, un-usable) pockets? When drinking my coffee do I sit up straight or lean back? When I walk down the sidewalk, what does my butt do? These are not things I ever gave a thought to before. I sat in the cafe and watched everyone, men and women, and made mental notes on what I saw, just for comparison. Is there a natural "feminine" way to stand, hold your arms, walk? And do I want to aim for it or somehow defy it and just "man" it up?

The downside of all this people watching was... it's a two-way street. I think I'm used to being more or less invisible out in public as a very vanilla, very forgettable-looking guy. If anyone ever noticed me on the T or in a bar, I sure didn't notice them noticing me, and I had Laura as deflection anyway. I had that was located near the exit of the shop, so after three or four guys noticeably angled their heads to look at me -- including guys who had come in with girls -- it became impossible to ignore the pattern. After about a half hour, I mentally calculated the odds of some guy asking to sit across from me -- or worse, not even asking but just doing -- and decided I had had enough of being out in the world, and left.

I'm not totally ignorant, I know what it's like for women out in the world, they get all sorts of attention they don't want. I'm not special, I probably wasn't even the prettiest girl in the place. But imagine never having that in your life and not wanting it, and one day you wake up and it's your reality, like it or not? I'll have to get used to this idea very fast.

What worse, I was guilty of it too. I was people-watching all morning, paying special attention to the women. I had so many weird thoughts about that... comparing myself to them, their bodies, their fashion, their energy, and usually feeling like I was coming up short. Then I would notice the guys they were with, and think, "Really, him? He looks like a gorilla..." or at best have very neutral feelings about them.

As I walked home, I kept my head tilted down, and put my earbuds in, not making eye contact with anyone. I had had enough looking and being looked at for the day. I spent a lot of the afternoon on my phone. I've noticed that if Chantelle's sisters don't hear from her often they razz her pretty badly, but I still don't know what to say as her so I respond to a lot of their texts with reaction gifs and hope I've captured her essence well. Seems to be working.

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