Thank You For Asking

You roll down your window while I’m crossing the street, your buddy’s backseat laughter barely audible as you yell out,

“Damn, baby, why you look so sad?”

There’s a brief frenzy of whistling and honking, feigned interest in the downward curve of my mouth just long enough to get a glimpse of the curve of my ass before you peel off and go about your day. My body is frozen mid-intersection, mind racing too sluggish to address your concern in due time, and though I didn’t see your face your voice echoes clearly the remaining blocks—

Damn, baby. Why you look so sad?

Well, you see, sir, last night I heard the news of a high school classmate’s passing, and I cried myself to sleep. I thought about his family and friends and that tattered ACDC shirt he used to wear, and I choked out sobs until the heaviness of my head matched that of my heart. I lay in bed motionless, imagining the marathons and competitions this strong, beloved, goofball of a man would never have the chance to run, and I wondered how “Sometimes bad things happen to good people,” could become so common as to be a comforting cliché when all it does is make me feel sick.

And if you really must know, sir, last week my mother called to say she can no longer afford to live in my childhood home. The mortgage is too expensive, the divorce too final, and I can hear her desperation as she replies to my incessant questioning with unintended derision, “Don’t be so stupid.” The cabinets cluttered with embarrassing elementary school poetry and doodles, the rock bed once the source of endless fairy kingdom adventures, the Birds of Paradise lining the kitchen window—all to be torn out, re-landscaped, coated over in a nondescript cream for the next middle class family of four. My very own Superwoman is struggling to keep it all together, and there’s nothing my admiration or meager paycheck can do to help.

I’m not sure if you’re keeping up with current events, either, but lately these headlines make me wonder how anyone can go around looking anything but sad—how any of us can step foot on a college campus or get lunch at our favorite sandwich shop or turn on the television without feeling overwhelmed by hateful stories with halfhearted solutions. Everywhere you turn people are more invested in protecting themselves than empathizing with others, and just when it all starts to make me feel hopeless and terrified and increasingly insignificant, here you are, sir, asking so sweetly about how I must doing.

You want to know why I look so sad, cowardly man harassing me from the shielded safety of his beat up car? Maybe it’s because I live in a world where being verbally accosted by strangers who couldn’t give less of a fuck about my emotional wellbeing is a standard consequence of going outside. Because somewhere in the fine print of my city apartment’s lease, the frown lines on my forehead, the instructional tags stitched inside my clothing it’s written, “Young woman walking alone; Do not handle with care.” Perhaps you noticed my upset expression because I am truly, deeply, irrevocably sad, and if you took longer to stop and think about how your lewd gestures and unwarranted hollering would make me feel longer than it took you to roll through that light, you might realize I should be treated not like your sister or mother or as a respected woman purely out of blood obligation but because I am a goddamn human being who deserves to grieve our perpetually fucked society however I please.

You drive off feeling powerful because you think I somehow care what you say about my body, as if there aren’t more important things in life than the fact that I have a vagina and you’re an outright asshole. You high five your friend and revel in the simple minded achievement of making a small girl feel smaller, proud your quick comments could have such a lasting impression, mistaking my silence as an inability to fight back when the truth is that my spirit was broken long before you passed by. You ask me why I am this way but aren’t prepared to hear the answer, the pain and suffering I haven’t felt personally but that feel so heavily personal, and it makes me so infuriatingly sad to think you’ll go to sleep tonight without even a care in the world.

If I think you’re awesome will you think I’m crazy?

On Wednesdays at my favorite coffee shop there’s an open mic night where people like to carry on conversations and slurp awful caffeinated beverages while guitarists/singers/writers pour out their souls in the background. I only found out about it because I happened to be eating a cheeseburger in the very spot the barista was setting up and I was almost decapitated by swinging equipment, but since I’m a fan-girl for anyone with the balls to get up in front of strangers and open their mouth, it was a pleasant surprise.

After taking spoken word in college I’ve developed a soft spot for performers. It doesn’t matter if you’re off-key or spouting rhymes about hipster hamsters–if you’re on stage sharing part of yourself, I’m going to think you’re the shit. I’m sure my rapt attention and buggy eye contact is a bit alarming in a room full of texters and halfhearted clappers, and maybe it’s the safety of being in a dimly lit audience, but during a show I make no effort to hide my emotional hard-on. I will injure my hands through aggressive applause and stare you down to the point of making you fidget-level-uncomfortable just to prove I find you fascinating. Which is why when a lanky rando named Daniel got up and started singing

I don’t really have lyrics, won’t you help?
That espresso machine sure is loud!
I’m going to make awkward eye contact with everyone in this rooooom…

it felt like he was strumming my fallopian tubes instead of his guitar.

Now, before you think I’m a groupie willing to drop trou for any dude with an iota of musical talent/hand skills, lemme clarify something. My attraction to rando Daniel was not sexual. I did not throw myself on his lap or ask him to “take me backstage, if ya know what I mean.” I have been dramatically serenaded two times in my life, and to be honest I would’ve been more wooed by a 2-for-1 coupon for Neutrogena sunscreen. Yet in a completely platonic, you’re tall and blonde that ain’t my thing kind of way, I thought he was amazing. He was quirky and confident and hilarious, which is hard to be when the crowd seems more captivated by their cappuccino order than your music. I found myself grinning like an idiot long after he left the mic, and I had every intention of telling him how much I enjoyed his playing.

But… I didn’t. I ducked out in between sets without complimenting any of the performers, humming their melodies and reciting their poems on my walk home. For days I thought about how I’d love to get back into spoken word; how after knowing what it feels like to have people approach you and tell you how great you were on stage, I really should’ve said something. And yet I kept my appreciation interal. Being openly complimentary isn’t exactly my default setting (I much prefer shy and snarky, if you hadn’t noticed), and if we’ve reached a point in our relationship where I’m giving you genuine admiration, run. Run screaming the other direction, because I’m most likely memorize-your-schedule-take-pictures-of-you-while-sleeping status obsessed with you. I’m also not very good at receiving pleasantries, usually because I don’t believe them–oh, woe is me, not fishing here, shut up–and because sound effects like pfffft or mrahhh always seem to come out quicker than a simple thank you. I’d like to think it is this lack of grace which explains why a week ago, when the universe was shouting HERE’S YOUR CHANCE as I happened to run by a blonde, lanky guy casually strolling down the street, I still didn’t express my overwhelming friend crush. About sixteen steps too late I realized it was him, my quirky little guitarist, and stopped mid-stride to debate if it would be more creepy or flattering for a chick to literally chase after a guy and tell him she loved his performance god knows how many days ago. I had every intention of correcting my previous wrong, and yet as I watched him get farther and farther away, I continued to stand still, disgusted with myself not only for the absurd amount of sweat dripping down my face, but for being too much of a self-doubting chicken to go after him.

I’m aware I sound a little crazed, griping about my inability to say, “Hey, you’re cool,” and just move along. I have no idea where this compliment paralysis stemmed from, but sheesh, piss praise or get off the pot already. If someone’s presence could make me feel that entertained and happy, however briefly, the least I could do is let them know it. Seriously, what is the worst that could happen? I turn a lovely shade of fuchsia or he has no idea what I’m talking about? Yeah, welcome to my life. I feel like so often we go through the day feeling unnoticed, unwanted, un-whatever we’d like to be, and yet I’ll bet you all the quarters in my eight purses there is at least one person out there thinking you’re quite the opposite. Maybe they’re too shy to say it, or maybe it just doesn’t occur to them to vocalize how they’re feeling, but they’re out there, thinking you’re the shit. Imagine how less lonely or self-conscious you’d feel if each day you made an honest connection with someone, even if it were as simple as saying “Thanks for not spontaneously punching me in the face. I appreciate you.” Imagine a world where everyone was as friendly as they are while hiking or as sentimental as they are after a Pixar film. Dear god, that’s disturbing. But it’s also sweet. It’s warm, and kind, and all the things I’d like to be. It’s hard for me to give or accept flattery without throwing in a punchline for good measure, but I think it’s worth trying. It’s worth letting our guards down and being vulnerable and allowing our emotional boners to stand proud.

So, on that note: if any of you see a skinny dude with rectangular glasses and slightly fluffy hair yielding an instrument, please tell him you know all about him and that he’s awesome. I don’t care if it’s not the same guy–it’ll probably make his day. Or get you a restraining order. 50/50, really.

An open letter to my fellow DAB in the ladies’ room

Dearest Drunk Ass Bitch currently freaking out behind me,

Oh, young Tampax blossom. I feel your pain. Your bladder bursting, spastic squirming, drunken stupor pain. I truly do.

You have arrived at the loo brimming with bright hopes and bodily fluids, only to be greeted by ten female forms anxiously awaiting their own two minutes of glory. You are devastated, crestfallen by the harsh realization you are not the sole Porcelain Princess seeking her majestic throne. You have trekked through the mass of writhing, intoxicated bodies, dodging gropes and spilt drinks alike, abandoning your friends and a moderately attractive lad wearing too much cologne at the bar—only to be denied your natural human desire to piss at a moment’s notice. You would cry if only the wetness of your tears did not remind you of the unfortunate reason you are here.

I understand your plight. And I think your skirt is cute. But alas, my sloppy sister, I have a secret for you:

Your snatch is not a *special snowflake*.

We are all here for the same damn reason, and the urgency with which your Honey Blonde Ale is passing through your tiny body does not surpass the social standard of getting in line.

Your need to utilize your high n mighty urethra this instant does not entitle you to throw a tantrum akin to a toddler soiling herself. The betches in front of you have been waiting for a stall longer than a few mere seconds—some of them in heels, for God’s sake—and while I do not envy their poor footwear choices, I do envy their ability to tune out your incessant puppy-near-newspaper whimpering. By all means literally get your panties in a bunch if it’ll help ease your suffering, but seriously. Pull yourself together, woman.

The women’s restroom at a bar is a sacred space. It is a safe haven from crass male advances and the passive aggressive inner-workings of your inebriated girlfriends. It is the communal gathering ground for the incessant mirror checkers, the lighthearted gossipers, the too gone too soon 21st birthday girls. The ladies’ room is where you will bond with your cootch possessing soul mate for one minute over a shared interest in Amaretto sours, only to lose her seconds later as she fixes her top and immerses herself back into the outside world. But it is in those fleeting moments—when you glance at the rando girl next to you and exchange a look of isn’t this just the craziest line you’ve ever seen/oh wow you have the prettiest eyes where can I get some of those—that you learn what a blessing it is to be female and not be forced to put your parts on display via urinal usage.

There is particular restroom etiquette we women must adhere to. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if drunk betches can’t be nice to drunk betches in the bathroom, the fuck kind of world do we live in?

So, my darling DAB, go forth into your much anticipated pee palace. Relish this feeling of relief, as I’m sure the initial urge will reoccur approximately 23 minutes from now after you’ve downed another beer. Also, I’m sorry for muttering “Shut up or I’ll punt you in the vagina,” every time you opened your mouth.

Much love,
A fellow small-bladdered betch