"Oh, she may be weary. Young girls, they do get weary, wearing that same, old, shaggy dress."
Yes, ladies; we can practically hear ol' Otis crooning alongside us as we trudge home from the office/gym/Whole Foods. Maybe we've just had a rough day putting in our dues as citizens of one of the wealthiest countries in the world, or maybe we couldn't have been bothered to pull together an outfit that went a step beyond leggings-the ones with with the hole in the crotch-and an over-sized ‘Nantucket' T-shirt, but we're down and out, checked out, and are therefore invisible to the crowds surrounding our pity party, table for one.
Or so we think.
Just as we've stepped back onto the sidewalk-Mother Nature's runway-and shifted our reusable grocery sacks to better balance the stunted Macintosh apples that sit inside, a James Brown lookalike zips by in his Toyota Corolla and blesses your behind from the safety of his rusted chariot. His voice is a lilting screech, but we're sure we've made out the words, ‘Girl, you is FIONE.'
FIONE. With an ‘O.'
We immediately think back to the night before, where we-some clad in tight jeans and high heels, others in free-flowing dresses and, perhaps, boots-looking fine (with an ‘I'), had engaged in witty banter, intellectual stimulation, and the crossing of legs that suggest, yes, we are interested, available, yearning; and yet!-no dice. No bites. The best compliment we received all evening, it seems, is that our cab driver didn't put up a fight when we went to use our credit cards to pay for the solo cab ride home. We are not disheartened; we are merely confused. For what, we wonder, scratching our scalps with manicured fingernails, would compel men to find us attractive at our most wilted state, dead corsages left on the gymnasium floor while the prom queen is giving head in someone's parents' basement, and not at our most fresh, strategically scented with three-figure French perfume behind each pulse point?
The mathematics, I believe, are dizzyingly simple, where:
Dumpy, tattered clothing + skin cloaked in an adolescent cocktail of T-zone oil, sweat and 12-hour old bronzing powder + a general lackluster attitude = A female appears approachable to men who otherwise wouldn't have a shot in hell,
A well-constructed, slightly sexy getup + skin enhanced by an expert application of department store cosmetics + general attentiveness = SLOW THE FUCK DOWN, I'm not looking to get married tomorrow, all right?
There are, of course, exceptions to these rules. For example, a man in a Garfield sweatshirt once told me to move my "fat fucking ass" out of his way while I calculated the cost of bulk toilet paper at Target (I had inadvertently blocked the Swiffer refills-my bad!), and I've been made the butt of countless behind-my-back jokes on the subway as those grocery sacks block both exits and cocks alike. Nor should I exclude the men who've pursued me at my preferred standard of prettiness and the ensuing, expensive weekends spent rendezvousing throughout the East Coast's best restaurants, beaches and bedrooms, my face caressed and blanketed with kisses once I've confirmed for a second time that I'll be sure to pick up the morning after pill on my way home like a good girl.
But so it goes. The world spins on. The plot, and gender gap, thickens. And on those walks home-in cocktail dresses crumpled into a states of disrepair, emergency contraception shoved deep into our purses, eye makeup blurred into fantasy landscapes that would turn Bob Ross green with envy-we'll pass the jaunty men who kvetch in corners and leer as we make our way down the sidewalk once more. "Looking good, girl," they say, giving us a once-over and a low whistle if the mood is right. "Looking good."
Maybe this time, we won't stereotype. Maybe this time, we'll smile-politely-and keep on walking.
Karyn Polewaczyk lives in Boston. This piece originally appeared on Put That Shit On The List. Republished with permission. Read more of Polewaczyk's work at KarynPolewaczyk.com and follow her on Twitter @KarynPolewaczyk.