Wednesday, October 6 2:15-3:15 pm
Monroe and Lake Michigan (on the lake path)
“People aren’t too friendly here. But it’s sure pretty!”
– Tourist from Tennessee
It is a beautiful 75 degree fall day. The sun shines down brightly from above and reflects off the lake. And just when I thought it was time to don red sweaters and pants. This is the second coming of summer. It’s definitely a day for sunglasses but I try not to wear sunglasses when we hug. It feels like shutting people out.
Last week Sara and I agreed to hug in silence today. Oftentimes we will get chatty while embracing, catching up on the goings on of one another’s lives. But we vow to hug in silence unless someone approaches us and starts a conversation. It’s a way to hold space and allow the action to become meditation. For the most part we keep our pact.
Despite the warm sun and peacefulness of the lakefront, today’s hug feels especially exposing. Sara makes a comment about our red cordoureys being too much for people to handle (hers especially, complete with leather lace-up crotch). But I am not sure the pants are too blame. Some guys lean out their car as we are walking down Monroe to the lakepath and yell that they want a kiss. I try to laugh it off but inside my blood pressure rises a little. Once stationed at the lake, we have a long and uncomfortable interaction with some drunk middle-aged guys who spend a long time hanging out and leering at us. Leering is definitely the word to describe it. I feel like I am on display. They tell us we should come hug near their boat when they finally walk away. Some guy on kitchen staff keeps popping his head out of one of the doors of the yacht club to yell something indistinguishable at us. I’m glad I can’t hear what he is saying.
Other then that, our interactions with passerby on the lakefront are pretty minimal. Some people stop and take flyers, but few stop to talk. Unfortunately the experience is mostly characterized by the feeling of being on display. That feeling is one of the things I hate the most about living in a big city. I know that people get leered at all over, but I think there’s something about anonimity that supports a certain sleazeball bravery.
I am working on letting obnoxious comments just roll off my back, but it’s definitely a struggle. I have particular admiration for women who are able to take something comlimentary away from otherwise objectifying experiences. I was walking down Milwaukee Ave. a couple of months ago and I heard a guy call out to a woman passing “Ooohh, mamacita, que bonita!” In response the woman turned around and in a perfectly sincere voice replied, “Why thank you!”
I know that these experiences are going to keep happening again and again and it’s important to find a way to make peace with them. I want to find a way that feels empowering rather then degrading. A couple weeks ago I was trying on some clothing at a thriftstore. I have a special technique where I use a large skirt and swap out the things I am trying on underneath, in an attempt to maintain as much modesty as possible in a somewhat immodest situation. An older guy walked by and whistled me. Feelings of vulnerability and anger began to rise in my chest. I mumbled some retort under my breath and then changed my mind. I turned, looked him right in the eyes and said firmly and with as much control as I could muster, “Get lost.” The guy seemed surprised and stumbled away.
I’m not sure if it was our pants that brought us extra attention this week or if the creeps were just out and about. But the pants aren’t going anywhere. I feel safe with my arms around Sara. We have each other’s backs, literally. We are sharing a message of love, compassion and understanding through hugs. As far as the creeps are concerned, they can just get lost.