Originally posted December 4, 2011
I went out yesterday afternoon on an errand. I wore a short, black dress for the unseasonably warm December day in San Francisco. Low-cut. Spaghetti straps. I was only going to the dry cleaners, but I felt “on”. I felt good. And I wanted attention. I walked downstairs. The men in my community started flirting with me. Watching me as I walked to the bathroom. As I swung my hips. As my legs swished past each other in my arrogant strut. I could feel just how badly they wanted to fuck me. I loved it.
And then I turned the corner. From my insulated little block, I headed towards the open streets of SoMa. And at first it started with just a guy on a bike with a bright orange shirt.
“Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeey girl, I’d like to get to know you!”
He bellows this as he circles past me a few times. It’s harmless. I crack a smile. “Approve,” I say to myself. But some part of me is starting to shrink back. I walk down Howard, past a grocery store with immigrant workers unloading boxes from a truck. They take their time to watch me as I walk past.
And then I turn onto 6th street. Clumps of men standing everywhere. Hungry. For everything. Drugs. Food. Connection. Pussy. Care. Love.
“It’s only one block,” I think to myself, clutching my bag and covering my exposed chest. And how I hate myself for this. A guilt rises in me that screams, “You arrogant, little white princess. Look at you running. How would you like to be fucked now, huh? You have it so good. And what did you expect wearing something like that?”
I move quickly past as one of the guys screams out, “Hey, I like them legs! Mmmm mmmmmm…”
I duck into the cleaners—safe for now in this business-focused interaction. The script has been worked out and rehearsed in this scene and my sex has nothing to do with it (or so I tell myself).
I head out of there, back to the urban jungle of 6th street, and quickly start to make my way home, when I see a very old man hobbling (drunkenly) down the road. He has a deep limp, a cane and very floppy sandals that do not bode well for his intended trajectory towards the sidewalk curb. I keep moving though—until I hear a crashing scrape just behind me. The man has fallen over and is bleeding from his ears (though, by the looks of him, the blood could have been present even before he hit the sidewalk). Myself and three other men (one of them wearing a suspicious Fedora hat) gather around.
“Are you alright man?” one of them asks. “Hey, hey don’t move,” he says. He starts banging on the locked gates of the shelter, trying to get some assistance. The door is open. I can see people inside moving in response to the situation at my feet.
The situation. This man is not a man, but a situation. And I am frozen. Impotent. This human being is lying here in front of me. Completely out of contact with the present, and yet he is still a human in need of immediate attention. All the horrible, self-centered thoughts come up.
“What if I touch his blood and get some sort of disease?”
“What if I bend over and expose the fact that I am not wearing underwear to the denizens of 6thstreet?”
“Am I really helping him here or just standing here because I think I should help?”
“What if I go to pick him up and clutches at my breasts or bites me or hits my face?”
I feel so ruthless and disgusting. The men who reflect my light are worthy of my time and attention, but those who reflect my shadows are to be handled by those of a lesser kind.
And when I see that the shelter workers have it handled, I rush on (but not before Fedora man offers me a piece of silver to buy—never miss an opportunity, that one).
I think I hear one of them commenting on “that girl that’s running away,” (or is it just my own conscience—a sort of vanity-driven Tell-Tale Heart?) as I turn the corner onto Howard street into the sunshine of the late afternoon. As I make my way down the final stretch onto Moss, I catch from the corner of my eye an older man slowing down and to stare at my ass.
I make it back home and somehow feel saddened. Not quite crushed, but muted. Dampened. And confused. How much of that was me in my own shame-y, me-centered world imagining everyone looking at me and how much of that was actually the cloud of others’ starvation engulfing me. A little of both, I imagine.
And this leaves me wondering: how do I go out into the world and shine my turn on and still stay conscious and feeling into all the pain that surrounds me, while still maintaining healthy boundaries? How can I both in approval of my extreme vanity and humbleness. My insecurity and confidence? My repulsion and my compassion? When am I acting out of “shoulds” or daring myself into some extreme situation just to prove how brave I am and when am I outing out of true desire?
Honestly, I don’t have a clear answer for any of this. The only things I can come up seem vague and not very comforting, but there are a few:
2. Remember that you are not alone. We all have our vanity. Our insecurity. Our entitlement. The places where we more important than others and the places where we feel like pathetic pieces of shit. It’s in remembering our common human frailties that the seeds of compassion are sown.
3. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. To look a little rough and ugly. That’s living an orgasmic life. In the involuntary. Without a Step-by-Step How-To Manual. Just a present-moment compass and some vague sense of North. Learn the lesson, say you’re sorry, clean up and move on.
4. Express what is real for you in the moment. If you are feeling scared and want to run away, admit it. If you are repulsed, don’t try to be a “good, loving person.” Just admit you are repulsed. Until you are comfortable looking at ALL the emotional options on the table, you will continue the unconscious pattern of choosing the “shoulds” as opposed to being authentic. And then you are not truly free.
So instead of getting caught in the mire about how I am not Mother Theresa and I should have kept my turn on out and I should have more approval and say thank you and smile and be nicer to people, I just said Fuck It. I am freaked out and scared and horrified and hate my sex and hate the world and wish everyone would just wake up and take responsibility for their lives so we can all tap into our orgasm and live from purpose and desire so we find love for ourselves and stop war and save the planet and be ready for the next evolutionary phase of our existence. Is that so much to ask?!
OK, maybe I put a little too much pressure on myself. But this is the edge I am riding these days. Living a turned-on life and exposing myself to a hungry world that either tries to kill you with a jealous hammer or suck you dry of your turn-on.
What that also requires of then is to acknowledge the places I am hungry. I think that’s the biggest piece for me to get here. Their hunger reflects my own scarcity. And I don’t want to look at that because then I have to admit that I am not independent, invincible and can hold it all together. I see the beggar in me through their eyes. I see the hustler in me through their words. I see the vampire in me through their actions. And no amount of glossy, attractive men wanting to fuck me can cover that up.
But if I can learn to love myself here, then I can truly learn to love it out there. Then wherever I am, no matter who is there, there will be no need to cover the flame of my orgasm.