Man on the Street

man

“You’re looking pretty today”

He says, looking me up and down, biting the corner of his bottom lip
Almost hidden beneath his scruffy beard.

His words hit me
Instantly
Like push pins piercing my skin.  I feel my face getting hotter, redder in the already moist, humid Air.
Nervous that he will take action on his preliminary words.  

Like his words were somehow his gateway to my affection.
Like, complimenting me was somehow going to flatter me instead of making me clench my fists Tight and walk faster like,
Feeling the blister from a long days work press harder into my heel as I try to walk away
Faster.

I softly smile back.

I smile so that I don’t seem ungrateful like,
His unasked for compliment was something I should automatically feel grateful for in worry that If I don’t look grateful I am being a cold bitch.

I struggled with this.  I walk with my back now pulling opposite direction as his,
Feeling unsure if my upset, fearful response is legitimate.  

He was more respectful than the norm.
I think to myself,
He didn’t cat call me really, just a mere casual compliment.

But this “compliment”, calling me pretty today,
As if he knows me, knows that I may not look pretty on other days as I walk to class in my Sweatshirt and soccer pants but today,
Today as I walk home from an interview
In heels and a dress that show off my lean legs,
My hair nicely straightened to impress the woman that interviewed me

Like, what I’m wearing today makes me prettier than another day
But I don’t like that he pretends to know me.
Don’t pretend to know me like you see me, watch me all the time.
I am pretty all the time.

Like, I feel prettier when I where my soccer pants like,
I feel prettier when I walk down the street without you calling me pretty.  

You don’t make me feel pretty, you make me feel violated.  
You somehow hold the power to instantly make me feel impure.

Like you don’t know me.
Like you don’t know that I’ve been having a hard day, and your “compliment” only makes me Feel smaller.  
Like “I look pretty today” enforces my need for your approval.
Like
I need a man’s approval that I look good.
Like I put on this dress for you.

For your pleasure.
So that today,
I could look pretty.
Well, I will tell you this.

You certainly don’t make me feel pretty.

Written by Gabrielle Saul


Art by Thomas Callahan, Graphic Designer, What the F Magazine

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