Dear Asshole I Met on the Street in San Francisco,
I was on my way to something fun. We were right down the street from the theater where my name was on the list, and I could see the sign from the intersection. I was almost there. And I had made it the mile-long walk from BART, uphill into Chinatown without incident in the city that tries to run me over or walk me into a pile of human shit on the regular. So I was happy.
I was wearing a short red dress and boots. I felt cute and sexy and comfortable in myself, which is how I normally feel. That takes work, mostly because of dudes like you. But I have done that work, and I don’t believe that I need to live in a trash bag of misery because I don’t prioritize your opinion of me. So I was confident.
The city is often windy as the sun begins to set, and it was windy that evening. As anybody who wears a skirt can tell you, it only takes a second for the wind to take you by surprise and lift the whole thing up and show the world your thighs. So I was surprised, but not really.
I was close to the building to let you and your friends pass by. I was sharing the sidewalk, because I am polite and treat others as I’d like to be treated (mostly). Being close to the building meant that the wind redoubled on me, swirling up in one of those city trashnadoes and lifting my skirt completely for just a second. I fought it down, but not fast enough. So you had to say something.
You had to, I guess, because you had friends with you. Would you have needed to say it, if it had just been you and me? You might have just settled for a look of disgust, which I would have missed because as I said, I don’t give a fuck what you think and I wouldn’t have met your eye. I was happy. I was on my way to something fun. I was fighting with the wind to keep my skirt down. So it had nothing to do with you.
But you had to, so you made a big show of how grossed out you were that I am a fat woman who dared to leave the house. You exclaimed, “Wow! That cannot be unseen!” in a tone that people often use to point out a particularly gruesome bit of roadkill. So I had to decide what to do about that.
I am not shy. I yell most of my feelings, and I’ve made men cry for less than this. The cool thing about being the object of horror is that when you behave in any way that is unexpected or even mildly aggressive, people really freak out. Imagine what’s just made you mildly uncomfortable: this fat body, except now it’s coming at you with surprising speed. Screaming. What might it want? What might it do? The pleasure of the look on your face might be worth it, but as I said, I was on my way somewhere. So I didn’t do it.
I did look at you. You didn’t deserve any of my attention, but I looked anyway. Person to person, we locked eyes for a second. You were confused. You forgot I could do this, I guess. You didn’t look away fast enough to hide from me how embarrassed you suddenly were, or how vulnerable you felt at having to face me. You didn’t look away fast enough to miss the fact that I was smiling at you. Broadly. Showing the canines. You didn’t look away. So now I think you know something.
No, I cannot be unseen. What you have seen will never leave you. The fake terror you showed at the mere suggestion that you might have to feast your eyes on flesh that wasn’t prepared for your consumption and seasoned to your taste is NOTHING compared to the terror that follows it. You will not unsee me.
You will see me at strange moments in your life, when you realize you’re being cruel, or better yet, when you are the object of cruelty. You will see me when desire misleads you or betrays you, when your own flesh fails to pass someone else’s test. You will see me when the wind stirs a flag on its pole, or when it whips your hair into your eyes as you try to escape your own smallness on a bicycle. You will see me, whether you know it or not, every day for the rest of your life. You spoke this curse over yourself, so it must take effect. I cannot be unseen.
I’ve been unseen before. It sucks and it’s stupid and it deprives you of even the simplest pleasures in life, like taking a walk up a hill on strong legs and feeling the wind on the backs of your thighs. I’m not going back to an unseen life. My magic comes from the glory of being seen, unafraid and unashamed. So you will see me in yourself and others, every time you meet another pair of eyes and have to look away first to hide your cowardice.
I got to where I was going. I had a wonderful time. I went up the hill and you went down. I can’t remember what you looked like. But you said it, motherfucker. You cannot unsee me.