Being in possession of a vagina while walking on the streets of New York is a tricky feat.
It’s hard, y’all.
Unlike, say, smoking a joint, there's really no way to hide it. When I take my vagina out for a walk, I make sure she wears layers.
First, a layer of panties from Target. And then, a layer of stretched out “denim” from Old Navy.
But, despite these glamorous efforts, everyone still knows that it's there. It's a concealed weapon that you can't ever fully conceal.
A few years ago, there was all of that controversy over those new airport scanners. The supposedly X-Ray vision ones.
I couldn't really understand the uproar. For women, that's just a stroll to the deli or taking our dog out to pee.
Because, as far as many men are concerned, their eyes are the same thing as those scanners.
There's a man who works as a dog walker for a vet clinic on my block. On any given day, I can gauge about five different things about my appearance based solely on his response to me.
He’s standing there cockily by the curb in spearmint green scrubs as a giant German shepherd wearing an Elizabethan collar takes a dump. But, he's still got the swagger to try and chat me up.
Maybe he should ditch the dog walking gig and be a confidence coach for women instead.
Whenever I take my chihuahua Clementine out for a walk, I try and see if he’s standing down the block. If he is, I always try and drag her the other way.
But, my avoidance tactics don’t always work. Sometimes he’ll pop out of the clinic with that cocky grin emerging as soon as he sees me chained to the chihuahua who is excitedly sniffing layers of accumulated stench.
His reaction tells me a lot more about me than it ever does about him.
First, how good I look that day. If I'm looking really good, I get both a provocative “Hey" and a petulant “Bye."
If I'm looking just kind of good, it’s only a “Hey.”
But here's the interesting thing: When I’m dressed up. If I’m wearing designer clothes and or shoes, then he doesn't say anything. Not a damn thing.
In fact, he barely even looks my way. I guess he thinks a lady in sort-of designer duds is a waste of his time. He is a professional dogwalker after all.
The sad thing is I found this kind of thing flattering when I first moved to New York. I've never been all that popular with the fellas. At least not the straight ones.
Suddenly experiencing all of this male attention was nice. That lasted for about a week. Because then I realized that the attention was purely sexual and really fucking creepy.
Every "Hello" and “Hey Girl” was just a thinly veiled code for "I wanna bone you." And that's just all kinds of “Ewwww."
When I first moved to New York, I lived in Spanish Harlem. I quickly learned that listening to headphones while walking on the street was an easy way to ignore panhandlers. I'm a total pushover, so I have to have an aural barrier not to give away all of my cash.
A few months later, I got dressed up to go out and forgot my headphones. Suddenly, instead of hearing Win Butler whine about the Suburbs accompanied by his way-too-large band, all that I heard was a symphony of “Hey Mami!" and a few “Looking good girrrrl”s playing in stereo.
I vowed never to leave home without headphones again. In fact, if I go deaf prematurely from listening to too much music on headphones, I’m going to blame random New York perverts.
My second New York apartment, on 82nd street, was a huge upgrade from the closet I rented in East Harlem. No more “Hey Mamis!” for this girl.
I believed that my new address would magically transform me into a Disney princess.
I imagined little songbirds flying into my window every morning to fix my hair. This was a really unrealistic fantasy because none of the birds ever got stuck in this tangled mess.
This idealized version of my new life was snatched away like a drag queen’s wig the first time I left my apartment. I had just exited the stoop when I noticed a man walking towards me.
He was completely unremarkable in every way. Ordinary looking, even attractive. Mid-thirties. Dressed in plain, but nice clothes. He had every serial killer red flag.
He also had his penis hanging out of his pants. It was as if he had forgotten to wear underwear and zip his zipper. Just flopping along as he passed me. He didn’t make eye contact with me. Or look at me at all. He just waved his freak flag.
Full disclosure: I don’t have a penis.
So, it seemed possible (if highly improbable) that this swinging penis was an accident. Maybe it had fallen out and he hadn’t noticed it.
My boyfriend, Jon, scoffed at this theory. “He knows it’s out there. He wants it to be out there.”
“He gets off on you seeing it.”
“It wasn’t even hard!”
For some reason, I never reported The Flasher. I just walked by him at least once a week while we both pretended it wasn’t there.
A few months later, The Flasher got a girlfriend. I would see them walking down the block together chatting happily like any couple. (His penis was always inside his pants when his girlfriend was with him.)
I wanted to scream at her, “Run! Run while you can! He’s a FLASHERRRRRR!”
Then, I started to wonder if any of the men I know personally are secret flashers. I have the top candidates picked out, but I’ve yet to hang out on their blocks to verify my suspicion.
It's not like all of this on-the-street perving is straight-up pervy. Sometimes, occasionally, they try and play it romantic.
I was smoking a cigarette on 5th Avenue when an extremely well-dressed man approached me.
"Excuse me, Miss. Are you Swiss?" He asked. Both "Miss" and "Swiss" rhymed with wheeze when this guy said them.
I Swissily exhaled some smoke and replied wittily, "No."
"Are you sure? Because you have the most beautiful little Sweeze face I've ever seen!”
I guess he's never seen any real Swiss people. I was quite flattered by this.
I do look like the Swiss Miss girl, I thought. I could totally be on a hot chocolate package!
He continued his nationally-confused sales pitch. “You are so beautiful! I will take you to dinner anywhere in the city! Anywhere! I have a lot of money. Name the place and I will take you there."
That's a pretty damn good offer. I wonder what kinds of propositions real Swiss women get if a Knock-Off Swiss is doing this well.
I let him down gently by telling him that I have a boyfriend. And, I comforted myself all afternoon with fantasies of bragging about the encounter to aforementioned boyfriend.
Yeah, I'm kind of a bitch.
In my fantasies, my boyfriend would be filled with the kind of jealous rage that insecure people like me really get off on. I imagined thrown books, shattered dishes, wild proclamations of love and then wild love making. And, I did it all with a smug, satisfied smile.
Finally, i went over to his apartment that evening and told him. Pretty much as soon as the door opened.
Big breath. (I’m a smoker.)
“Did I mention he was really rich?”
"Really? That's so cool! Where are you going?"
Fuck me. He wasn't jealous. Like, at all. Instead, he was excited I was getting a free fancy meal.
Because I'm as stubborn as I am insecure, I asked: “You'd really be okay with that? If I went on a dinner date with another guy?!
He shrugged. "Sure, if you're only doing it for free food."
Well played, Jon.
I'd passed up the dinner without even the reward of jealousy. I guess when you're a woman walking the streets in New York, you really can't win.