“Will you take me to Paris with you?”
This vaguely charming come-on has been lobbed at me by a slumping, shrugging drug addict with a tan face, his skin drawn like melting plastic. I’m standing outside of a methadone clinic, one of those shadier remnants or the “Old Bowery,” a social relic sandwiched between an apartment building with a multi-million dollar penthouse and a high-end hotel. I happen to be wearing a skin-tight mini-dress.
This is the thing when you venture to dress provocatively: the entrance threshold for unwanted male attention becomes incredibly low, which is why I probably dress like a 12-year-old boy most of the time. I don’t care for this varietal of staring; it feels like a cheap ploy to exploit man’s greatest, stupidest weakness: the need to have sex with – or at least imagine having sex with – every woman on this planet. And when you’re wearing what I’m wearing tonight, you’re a shoo-in for the dream board.
In my insistence on wearing the fashionable equivalent of a burlap sack most days, I have likely created a litmus test that generally proves too difficult, too cumbersome, too incomprehensible to the average male. All they see is flowing fabric and odd shapes when all they really want is T & A, as clearly defined as possible. In my principled resistance to this, I believe I have painted myself into a very single corner. Not only have I avoided the lecherous gazes of former heroin addicts, I have also avoided the lecherous gazes of someone who might accidentally end up not just wanting to sleep with me, but who might want to be my boyfriend. The truth of the matter is if you’re going to catch a fish, you’re going to need some bait.
From the moment I left my apartment today, I have received more catcalls, more lecherous stares, and more general acknowledgement that I am a living, breathing girl-person than I have in the last two years combined. As I stood on the subway, my hand rapped around a silver pole, I could feel how the male energy around me shifted — a combination of paralyzed lust and outright discomfort. And you know what? It felt cheap and easy, but it also felt good. Effective manipulation usually takes a lot more work than simply not wearing a bra.
But this move into sluttier territory is not simply to bag a bro. As I count the days of my last year as a twenty-something, I have realized I’m not going to look like this forever, which means I’m not going to be able to dress like this forever, either. One day, my butt will be a flat stack of pancakes running down my backside, my breasts like two sad sparrows, the de-elasticized meat on my upper arms crying for a sleeve. And then, trapped in an aging body of inevitable decay, I’ll look at pictures of me as a young woman and be able to see myself as how men saw me today: a pretty hot piece of you-know-what. More mini-dresses it is.