When I moved away from the liberal, fat-accepting bubble of Portland, Oregon, I had ZERO tools in my emotional toolbelt to deal with the amount of side-eye I was getting EVERY DAY. Moving from a city of 600,000 with an intense car culture to a walking/public transit city of 8 million was a shocker. I don’t think people realize what a buffer a car can be and how much it shields you from awkward interactions with the cranky strangers spooning you on trains.
Shortly after I moved to London, my partner and I went to Italy for a holiday. The staring there was much worse, especially in the fashion-centric areas like Florence and Rome. I was hyper-aware of my surroundings and feeling raw and exposed. At one point, a man and his son spent an entire 45 minute train ride blatantly pointing and laughing at me from across the aisle. It gradually wore me down to a dark place. My partner asked me why I didn’t fight back and I said that it honestly hadn’t occurred to me.
I decided it was time to speak up and the next day as we headed out to board a train for Pompeii, I puffed myself up for the inevitable. Walking down the platform, I noticed a man leaning over a railing and staring. He watched me, unblinking, from the moment I appeared until we were directly in front of him. Furiously, as we started to pass him I turned my head and said “YES???” in a “Can I HELP YOU WITH SOMETHING” tone. His response was a slow, sexy, appreciative “Yeeeeeesssssss!” Incredibly Gross Misogyny aside, that’s pretty damn funny. I finally put up my dukes and the guy I challenged was a lover, not a fighter. 😉