The alternate title for this blog post was going to be "When Should You Talk to a Woman You Don't Know About Her Appearance? Hint: It's Less Often Than You Think!" (It's never, if you were wondering.)
Hi! Long time no see! In my absence I have: Started a new job, adopted a kitten, and turned 24, just to name the big milestones. What hasn't changed since we last spoke, though, was the absolute garbage that is men interacting with women in a public space and my lack of patience for it. Let's not even pussyfoot around; let's just dive in to the time I almost fought a Subway sandwich artist.
On Tuesday evening I was leaving my aforementioned new job to meet up with a friend, and decided to stop by the Subway across from my metro station to grab dinner. I was hesitant heading that way, contemplating if I wanted to pay $7 for a just okay sandwich. The only other time I'd been to this particular franchise the "sandwich artist," (which is not a term I'm making up, but rather their given title) was incredibly rude and seemed almost bothered that I had the audacity to try and exchange money for prepared food. But I figured, whatever, I can survive 5 minutes of awkward interaction. Plus there's no Which Wich around here, so we'll make do. To quote Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman: Big mistake! Huge!
I walk in, and the artist (okay, no, I'm sorry. I can't keep using that term in earnest. I'm going to say "worker," sorry Subway) making my sandwich was perfectly friendly. The worker this blog post is dedicated to wasn't even helping me! He didn't need to talk to me at all! Isn't that always how these stories begin?
He came out from the back room and looked at me, as the worker actually assembling my sandwich was laying down the prescribed slices of pepper jack.
"Hey," he said, "I have a question for you. And now don't get offended, okay?"
What a wild start to a conversation. By the time a woman is 25–if not much, much younger–she will have experienced several unwanted advances from men she doesn't know. So primers like this don't come as a surprise, but you never quite know where they're going. The part about not getting offended was new, but I've been unfortunately asked by countless dudes why I look familiar or what I'm doing someplace all alone. It's always super slick and wanted, just so you guys know. We as women looove it, so please keep it up! Anyway, enough about shitty dudes in general, and back to this one shitty dude in particular.
"Umm...sure..." I said, cursing the me from five minutes ago who thought getting a sandwich for dinner would be a good idea.
"Okay, so, you're a pretty girl, right? So I'm just wondering...why do you feel like you have to wear makeup? It looks better without it." He said, smiling. SMILING! He really thought he was doing me a favor or telling me some brand new information that was going to have me heading straight home and throwing out my foundation and eye shadow.
Not that it matters at all, because anyone can wear any amount of makeup they so choose, but I wasn't wearing much. I mean, yes, I had on more than just chapstick and mascara, but this wasn't a smoky eye and red lip kind of day. This was a normal "I'm going to the office, and I'd like to have on some makeup while I do it" daytime look. So for this dude to tell me, a perfect stranger, that I would look better without it left me slack-jawed in the middle of this Subway. I was the only customer there, by the way, which really aided in my comfort. I hope the sarcasm is appropriately transcending screen here.
"I...uhh...don't...know how to respond to that..." I said, narrowing my eyes and quickly going through the rolodex in my head of where to even begin.
"Oh, you're offended. Okay, look, I didn't mean to offend you. I'm sorry if you're offended," he said.
"I mean, I'm...I'm not offended, but you shouldn't think it's okay to say that to anybody."
I lied, because of course I was offended. But it's one thing to go off about harassment in general when you're out to brunch with your friends and quite another to stare it in the face and figure out the right thing to say. Because yes, reader, this is harassment. I know it could've been worse, and there wasn't a moment when I feared for the safety and autonomy of my body, but it's still harassment. And I think this dude, and others like him, need to know that.
I am firmly of the belief that there is never a time that it is appropriate to go up to a person you do not know and comment on their appearance. Women experience the lion's share of this kind of unwanted comments, often made only worse by belonging to an intersecting marginalized group. Regardless, I just want everyone out there to know these types of advances are never wanted, and you especially suck if you have the audacity to get offended when they don't go in your favor.
Because really, Subway worker, consider a few things for just a moment. Consider the fact that maybe I wear makeup because I like it; because it's fun and cathartic to have an hour in the morning to slowly get ready for the day. Consider the fact that I'm not putting on bronzer wondering what a fast food worker is going to think of it and whether or not he will approve. And, most radical of all, consider the fact that I know I don't need it and I know I look cute without it, too! Consider the fact that I didn't go to work today to be a walking art exhibit for you to comment on.
As women, sometimes it seems like we can't win. We don't wear makeup and we're "tired" or "sick," but we do and we're self-centered or unaware of our natural beauty. We either get shamed for buying into the multibillion dollars the beauty industry rests on or we get shamed for dismissing it entirely. We try to walk to our jobs, or drop our kids off at school, or exercise, or just order a fucking sandwich and we're bothered by men who just want to give us some unsolicited advice, or assume we're willing to participate in some asinine discourse just because we put on lipstick or wore yoga pants. I am truly so sick of it and, more so, sick of people clinging to women being rude or oversensitive when these advances are put in their place. I know I'm pretty without makeup, but more importantly, I know that I'm smart and funny and a good friend and a million other things that are far more important.
The kicker to this whole story is the worker (not the one who made my sandwich; he just awkwardly stood by) ended this conversation is the most bizarre way possible. I think he thought he was being helpful or smoothing things over when he gave me three sheets of coupons for half off a Subway breakfast. So, uhh...if anyone wants them, I certainly won't be needing them. Just know that the coupon comes with a few terms: Expires in a few weeks, not to combined with another offer, may be served with a side of unwanted commentary.