Last night at the bar I ordered a beer and while waiting for it I felt the gaze of the man sitting next to me. I turned to him, met his eyes and he said, “You look like you’re 14.”
My posture stiffened, “Excuse me?”
“You look like you’re 14,” he repeated.
“No I heard you.”
“It’s a compliment.”
I paused as a primal sense of fear began to well in my chest, an alarm that has not sounded within me for a long time. I said, slowly, “There’s nothing attractive about a 14-year-old ordering a beer at a bar.”
“Sorry, I meant it at as a compliment.” He was using hand gestures now, his palms towards me in defense.
“Well, it’s not,” I stared straight into him and he shifted uncomfortably, fumbled with his shirt collar.
Embarrassment radiated from him and for a moment I felt kind of sorry for the guy. I thought I should offer him an opportunity for redemption. “It’s the sweatshirt, right?” I said, motioning to the bright purple piece I was wearing.
“No, it’s your gorgeous face.”
I narrowed my eyes at him.
“Sorry,” he said, “Nevermind, sorry.”
I grabbed my beer and walked away.
There should never be anything attractive about a 14-year-old found by middle-aged man, period. And likening a woman to a 14-year-old should never be an acceptable attempt at flattery.
When our exchange began, I had an impulse to laugh casually at his remark which would have established the flirtatious grounds he intended. I knew what he meant. He meant that I appeared youthful, which is a biologically attractive quality in people. But then I caught myself and thought, wait a minute, this is a problem. Because outside of our biological inclinations, societal status quo defines appropriate courting rituals, and the gender roles that should be assumed by both parties in order to facilitate mutual sexual investment.
When and how in our cultural narrative are men taught that approaching a woman in this way is welcomed? When and how in our cultural narrative are women taught to receive this approach as flattery?
Being Becky with the Good Hair
All the Tomatoes
Weapons in the Backyard
I seem to have lost my center of gravity
There are days I make a mess just to clean something up