More Than a Picture, a Reminder of My Need for Grace


I took this picture a few weeks ago, when my mum came to visit. That’s her on the staircase, white handbag in stark relief against her black outfit and the muted colours of the landscape. I almost wanted to shout at her to take it off and hide it or throw it down to me, so it wouldn’t ruin the shot. But I was just killing time as I waited for her to reach the ground; I wasn’t sure I wanted to go to that much effort and possibly change the  atmosphere.

When I first got to the bottom and looked around, everything seemed ugly. The bare tree branches, brown and muddy earth, sputtering rain, pale grey sky – we were in a park but it certainly didn’t feel fresh or restorative. Then I don’t know, watching my mum descend, umbrella overhead, recalled the photos I’d seen of people walking the same way; the moment gained some dignity, my mind allowed it a reluctant beauty. I could have a picture of my own like that, unscripted.

Looking at this photo I remember those simple feelings, but also the not-so-nice impatience I was struggling to keep in check. The only reason this picture is possible is because I bounded ahead of my mother on this and two other staircases, tired of walking in step with her and eager to feel a little like flying. My mum had mobility issues on this trip, so she walked slower than usual and pain caused her to need many breaks. This, combined with being unused to winter and having to wear borrowed boots, meant she was not the agile person I am used to spending time with. I found it difficult to maintain the pace that was comfortable for her, which led to more than one instance of frustration on my part. Then I would feel bad for being selfish and unsympathetic, and coach myself – with prayer – to slow down, and consider that she was more put out and emotionally affected by her mobility problems than I was.

Although at the time I was only trying to get a nice umbrella’d-walker shot, another memory for the album of my mum’s visit, this picture has come to be more than that. I can’t look at it without remembering the mental adjustment that happened at the bottom of the staircase, from dissatisfaction and impatience to calm and a bit of rainy-day wonder. It’s a stand-in for the other times I was frustrated with my mother too. Patience is not a strength of mine, and one downside of living on my own is that I don’t have regular outings with family or friends to practice waiting and compromise with loved ones. Mum’s visit was also a glimpse into what it might be like caring for her when she’s older; in addition to adjusting for her moving slowly, I was always observing places she could have a seat, modifying my expectations of our pacing so she could rest, and adapting our outings to minimise time she would be exposed to the wind and the cold. (Not to make her sound like an entirely sickly person, we had an amazing time together with marathon days of sightseeing, shopping and museum visits, just with lots of little stops sprinkled in between.)

Living on my own, it’s also easy to feel like I’m doing ok in the sin department – that I’m not as bad as some other people, or that I’ve improved leaps and bounds from the place I was in a few years ago. The ugly, self-centred feelings that came out during my mum’s visit chastened me for that complacency, and this picture is a reminder of that chastening. I need God’s grace a thousand times to help me to live the way he wants me to: for things I’m aware of, for things I have a tendency to forget, and for things I have yet to learn.


A Meditation On My Maker


A couple of days ago I listened to a sermon on God as maker of heaven and earth. It reminded me of how big he is, how unfathomably big he must be to have created our whole earth, and galaxy, and universe, and to live above and beyond it. On the opposite side of the spectrum, I thought about the intricacies of the human body, the lives of ants and spiders, and the microscopic chemistry that keeps the whole earth – human and animal lives and the natural environment – humming. It’s incredible. Our world is made of things simultaneously greater and smaller than we can see and whose scale we can barely imagine. How is it that a being can create something as massive as our universe, and as tiny as protozoa? Dextrous though they can be, some work renders human fingers bumbling and clumsy, forcing the use of other tools. Psalm 8 – which the sermon was based on – describes God as working with his fingers. There is nothing too delicate for him; he made it all.

My life – human life – lies somewhere on the line of creation; bigger than plankton and insects but smaller than planets and galaxies. Everything I see (Tim Keller reminded me), points to God and can tell me something about Him. The heavens declare the glory of God  – how breathtaking are sunsets and natural landscapes – and so do the tiniest parts of life, like a spider’s web and fractals in leaves and coral. After a visit to the Met museum with my mum last week, she remarked on the fact that we saw countless art objects, each one unique and made by a person with esteemed artistry and skill, but every person made by God. There are people who are going to make more wonderful and amazing things who haven’t even been born yet! And our God is master over all.

I’m still trying to wrap my mind around what this means, and what it tells me about God. I’m sure I’ll be thinking about it for the rest of my life. I feel at a loss for the words even to write this post. All the same, I find it so exciting to consider. On top of his other attributes, God is infinitely brilliant, the ultimate artist, and his work tells us about him in much the same way that human artists’ work tell us something about them. I will never know everything there is to know about him, even from the perspective of this physical world. Thus, I can never tire of learning about him.

Furthermore, this magnificent God, whose being and nature I can scarcely grasp, cares for me. Thinking of his grandeur in comparison to my own fleeting life makes everything I deal with, both positive and negative, seem insignificant. Yet it matters to God, and he wants a relationship with me. Not just me, all of us. He is everywhere and sees and hears everything. How is that even possible, if he is so big the universe can’t contain him? More questions.

At the heart of it all though, love. God made our beautiful home: sights that never fail to bring joy, sounds that move us to tears, smells and feelings that bring us comfort and security, both out of his love for us and to point us toward himself, who is even greater than the things we experience here. I want to continue seeking him in everything I  encounter in his creation. I am awed by his majesty, and thankful for his love.

Psalm 8 (ESV)
Lord, our Lord,

    how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
    Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
    to still the enemy and the avenger.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
    the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
    and the son of man that you care for him?

Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
    and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
    you have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen,
    and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
    whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

A Night in the Village


Last night I went on a magical, meandering, frosty walk through the streets of Greenwich Village. I had a couple of hours to kill, waiting to meet my cousin at the West 4th St station. Initially I thought I’d spend the whole time reading, but it was cold underground and it occurred to me that it would be good to get moving and fun to see the neighbourhood late at night.

And it was late at night. I left the subway at 2am, headed down a familiar route – past a piercing and tattoo parlour, the moderately famous pizzeria where I planned to take my cousin, and the mish mash of bars, small restaurants and other piercing and hookah places on MacDougal. Then I looped back onto 6th Ave, remembered finding an amazing looking bakery on Bleecker and decided to head in that direction.

The temperature was below freezing, and it wasn’t long before I stopped being able to feel my toes. The streets and sidewalks were so much emptier than I was used to seeing them. I stared into store windows, read plaques posted on gates, imagined the lives of the people behind lit curtains. I wondered a few times – is this safe? wise? – but felt comfortable and kept moving, prioritising bright paths and main roads.

I love the tumbling, intimate feel of the Village: the buildings and individual stores so much smaller than in other parts of the city; the many trees and green spaces; the creative, transgressive, atmosphere; the streets narrow and at odd angles to one another, in contrast to the grid in most other parts of Manhattan. Usually I’m miserable when I’m that cold, but my stroll felt like getting better acquainted with a friend, and I revelled in my discoveries.

I read a little about Christopher Park, and finally went over to get a good look at Stonewall, a diminutive, two-storey building for all its infamy. I noticed the Northern Dispensary, an abandoned 19th century clinic, for the first time, and found the fun Paparazzi Dogs statue; though I’d never heard about it before I realised immediately it must be one of those ‘things’ that people go looking to see. I was jolted out of my quiet wandering by a loud accident – two vehicles fighting for space in a single lane, the loser, a taxi, driving over a cement median. “Oh shit!!” said a woman nearby me, the only other pedestrian in the vicinity. The second vehicle, I think a big truck, zoomed on uncaring. The woman and I stood frozen, watching to see what the taxi driver would do, curious about what must have been serious damage to his car’s undercarriage. After getting out and glancing at the road, he hopped back in and took off as though all he’d done was drive a little too fast over a speed bump. Unbelievable. In case I’d forgotten I was in New York City.

I peered through the bars of Jefferson Market Garden and read about the kerfuffle caused by the ‘too dignified’ Jefferson Market Courthouseturned-public-library next door. I saw for the first time one of the medallions placed on 6th Ave’s corners: Canada’s coat of arms hung from a rusty piece of metal on a lamp pole overhead. I smiled at Christmas trees, lit hedges and two men transforming the inside of a restaurant with boughs of white lights. I wished I could take pictures of the wonderful things I saw, but my phone is on the verge of collapse and I didn’t want to risk it dying from an overwhelming ‘use the camera’ command.

What a lovely night, an impromptu adventure, at an hour I would usually be in bed. Who knew that would be a good time to go on a field trip? I walked as slowly as I liked, not worrying about holding anyone up or causing them to trip when I stopped abruptly. I looked up and around, got a little lost, then found myself again. And isn’t that the best way to learn a new place, the best way to enjoy a place you love, the best way to spend the gift of free time.

War and Peace

I finished War and Peace a few weeks ago, after about nine months of reading. It wasn’t difficult, just too easy to put down. I pushed through because hey, it’s lauded as one of the greatest novels of all time, and I wanted to see if, when all was said and done, it lived up to the hype. Welp, not for me.

To start with, the book opens with a protracted party scene, which introduces us to mostly unimportant characters and is incredibly boring. It goes on for over 100 pages, which in the scheme of the book is hardly any time at all, but for an opener it’s really no fun. I read it carefully too, expecting I’d have to remember everyone, but much to my later annoyance found out that most of the people didn’t matter. Although come to think of it now, it was a good primer for the rest of the book, since there are countless characters weaving in and out of sight, some reappearing after I’d decided they weren’t going to show up again.

The ending isn’t great either, as there are two – yes two – epilogues, the first setting up the remaining characters with a more or less rosy future, and the last indulging Tolstoy’s love of philosophising on the nature of  life, free will and causality. This was another thing that I didn’t like about War and Peace. I’d be in a good part, happy that I wasn’t having to work so hard to move forward or enjoy what I was reading, and bam! Tolstoy would pull up and start talking directly to me about how historians are ridiculous, giving too much credit to the famous men from the 18th and 19th centuries and their role in starting, winning or losing wars and setting revolutions in motion. Or you know, I might be in a not so good part – the war bits weren’t my favourite haha – but it would be made even worse by Tolstoy’s analysis of troop movements, generals’ actual versus perceived qualifications and explanations of why Napoleon is vastly overrated. Yawn. Can we get back to the story now? I love historical fiction generally, and I liked that War and Peace helped me learn a little about the wars between France and Russia, but a little more excitement and less academic musings please!

Another issue I had was that I didn’t care enough about any of the characters. There are a handful whose lives we follow closely throughout the novel, but even those ones couldn’t get much emotion, other than annoyance, out of me. Pierre for instance is the bastard son of a count who inherits his fortune and finds himself thrust into the social spotlight. He struggles interminably with the meaning of life and how he ought to be living, but he’s so snivelly, indisciplined and changeable that there was only a brief period, somewhere in the early to middle part, when I found him actually likeable. He’s also incredibly out of touch with reality, following around the Russian soldiers as if on a field trip, endangering his life – he literally stands in the middle of gun and canon fire – with no intention of actually fighting. Who does that? Why did no one kick him off the field/send him home? How is that even believable? Even describing it now is making me frustrated. Then he gets it into his head that he’s going to be the one to take down Napoleon. Pierre the assassin. Good grief.

Then there’s Natasha, who I dislike more for the way she’s written than her actual character, if that makes sense. She’s the stereotypical flighty, shallow, beautiful girl, who plunges into a deep depression after a heartbreak that she brought on herself. It’s understandable, to an extent, but Tolstoy writes her as sick to the point of death, for months, which I found too dramatic, especially given the way things happened. In general the women in War and Peace are two dimensional caricatures: the beautiful mercurial one, the pining-away-for-the-love-she’ll-never-have one, and the pious-to-the-point-of-perfection one. The other women we learn about are much the same, with two busybody mothers and a greedy socialite. The men are much more interesting, complicated and given credit in ways that the women aren’t. None of this is surprising, given when War and Peace was written, but it still bothers me that people today completely gloss over this fact when they give it such high praise.

Another frustrating trope is the noble savage. War and Peace revolves around the aristocracy; peasants are written as simple beings needing guidance, but there’s an especially repugnant storyline involving Pierre and a fellow POW. Platon Karatayev is a grown man in his late 50s, but Tolstoy describes his attitude on waking as “a child wanting to play with his toys straightaway” (p. 1079, Briggs 2005) and tells us that the great thing about his conversation style was that he “never thought over what he had said or worked out what he was going to say” (1079). If that’s not ridiculous enough, somehow Karatayev could “never remember what he had said even a minute before” (1081). He “enjoyed no attachments, no friendships, no love in any sense of these words that meant anything to Pierre, yet he loved and showed affection to every creature he came across in life, especially people, no particular people, just those who happened to be there before his eyes” (1080). Karatayev is the most vapid, uninteresting, impossibly unreal human in the entire novel, but somehow crowned as simplicity and truth personified, the “epitome of kind-heartedness and all things rounded and Russian” (1079). He plays a small role, but every time he was on the page and Pierre interacted with him in all his condescending glory, I cringed.

In spite of all this, I wouldn’t say that War and Peace was a bad read or a waste of time. The prose is pretty straightforward (I wonder how it feels in the original Russian), but I came to enjoy its clarity. I liked following the development of characters in such detail, over years of time. At least as far as the men were concerned, they have interesting problems to solve or goals they’d like to accomplish, and we see them react to the various challenges and opportunities life throws at them. As their experiences change them, my feelings for them often changed as well.

For a good while I was expecting something to happen, for there to be a big climax or problem that needed solving, the usual climb and descent of a novel. Then I realised that War and Peace isn’t that kind of story; it’s more of a window into people’s lives and relationships, like real life, with people that you can’t stand, that you just tolerate, that you root for and who disappoint you. It’s impressive in its detail and grand in its scope, painting a picture of a particular time in history and a class of people that are entirely gone today. While I wouldn’t go around recommending it to people, I can see how its subject matter and ego made possible its status in the canon of great literature. To put my earlier criticisms in perspective, I picked up a few shorter books while I was reading, since my copy is big, bulky and not great for carrying around. None of them were as good. Since I’ve finished the best thing I’ve read is The Rosie Project, which, although a very different type of novel, I wouldn’t put in the category of lasting literature. Overall, I’m glad it’s done and I can check it off my reading bucket list, and though I can see how another read through could help me understand it more and maybe enjoy it better, I don’t see myself picking it up again – I read in the introduction that one writer has read it as many as 12 times! :O

(Post script: I ran into a Russian grandmother on the subway platform one day while I was reading. Her 7 year old grandson had a copy of War and Peace and I made a comment that got us talking. She was thrilled to see me with my copy, and promised that I would laugh and cry and have the greatest time. As I was 3/4 of the way through I knew this wasn’t the case, but I just kept that opinion to myself.)

The Morning Before Thanksgiving

The morning before Thanksgiving was one for the books. It’s going to go down in history as one of the most dramatic of my life. Or maybe my life in New York. Either way, completely unforgettable.

It started early, at 3.55am, when I woke up to get ready for my trip to Pittsburgh. I was out the door 20 minutes later, and 6 minutes after that waiting on the subway platform for the A train. I was eager, wide awake, and hungry. I had packed a banana and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to eat for my breakfast later in the morning, but decided to eat the banana right away instead. I opened it once I was on the train, and left the peel on the seat beside me. I didn’t think it mattered much since it was so very early; there wouldn’t be enough people travelling for it to be in the way of someone’s seat.

I started reading my book, Cutting for Stone, and a few stops in heard a man trying to get the attention of a woman in my section. It could have been me, or it could have been the woman sitting perpendicular to me. We were the only two in our part of the car. Both of us ignore him. But then he says, “Sitting next to the banana!” and it was obvious that he meant me. I continued trying to ignore him, but his voice was this ridiculous falsetto. Was he putting it on, as part of a bizarre attempt to woo me? Or did he really talk that way? (I hope it was the former, because going through life with that voice would be hard for any person, let alone a straight black man.)

The banana comment was the beginning of an endless stream of chatter. He showed remarkable skill at keeping a conversation going in spite of the fact that I was almost entirely uninvolved:

That’s how you eat? I’d like to take you out, that’s how you eat.

Just in case it wasn’t obvious enough that he was talking to me, he refers to my bright pink Jansport –

With the backpack. You a teacher or something? (no response) You do hair? (Maybe because he thinks my hair looks nice? It’s in two large twists.) If you were my teacher would I bring you a banana, instead of an apple? (Finally I give in, thinking that was cute. I nod.) Yea? That’s how you like it? (Oh my goodness, what have I done?! Completely mortified, I gaze squarely at my book, ears closed.)

I got a job. Get your boyfriend a job too. Get him off the couch. (No response.) Oh he got a job? A big job? (Studiously examining the page in front of me.)

He a cop? You like that? Tie you up? (Ohh my gosh! :O Is he kidding? I continue looking down, and perhaps my face revealed something of my horror -) Oh is that too much? (Yes, most definitely. Please be quiet, how are you still talking?)

Says something about bitches and wanting things and how I’m not like them. How he’s deduced my character and quirks from our non-conversation is beyond me. I don’t know what he read in my face after that statement – 

I’m sorry I don’t mean to curse. Too much profanity.

Then his stop comes up. 

Have a nice day. Just cuz you beautiful. You and the woman in the orange coat. I want both a y’all.

The woman in the orange coat jacket has had her head tucked into her chest, like a sleeping bird, this entire time. Neither of us acknowledge him as he goes out.

This guy was mildly entertaining, with his high pitched voice and persistent attempts to engage me in conversation, but he made me feel extremely exposed with his sexual comments. If it weren’t for his voice, I’m sure I would have felt more uncomfortable, even threatened.

After he left the car, I felt bemused, and relieved that I could get back to reading in peace. I would have been happy just to have this scene to write about: women’s lives are constantly interrupted because some strange man or another wants our attention. I think there’s an actual negative impact on our lives and the things we’re able to accomplish because of this. I wrote down a few quotes from his monologue, planned how I wanted to share what happened with friends and settled back into my book. I had a long ride to the airport ahead of me.

Barely 20 minutes later another man disrupted the quiet of the train. This guy was on the opposite side of the car from me, but yelling loudly enough that there was no mistaking what he was saying or how angry he was feeling. Initially, I ignored him. There were only a few other people in my section, all men, and they continued sitting silently too, half-sleeping. The man was spewing profanities, dropping f-bombs every other word. Maybe he was one of the mentally unstable homeless, or maybe he had an anger problem and someone upset him; either way, I knew the best thing to do was to lay low and wait for the situation to pass.

We got to the next stop, and though I thought about moving to another car, it would’ve been hard to make the quick transition with all my bags. I hoped/expected Enraged Man would leave, but he remained, and a few more people got on. One, a 20something man with long, neatly styled dreadlocks, well dressed in all black, sat down next to me. He looked around, slightly confused, as he became aware of the situation. After a second, he settled in to wait Enraged Man out too, like the rest of us.

But he only got more upset.

Someone nearby him must have said something to him – bad move – because he directed his attention toward them. A whole new onslaught of profanities ensued, and people started shifting. I looked up and realised that he was shouting at a white woman. I assumed she said something to him about calming down. A black man near her got up, moved to confront Enraged Man. Then two other men a few seats away from him also got up. There are now four men bracing themselves for a fight on a fast moving train. My anxiety level rises. This is America. Any one of those men, or someone else in the car, might have a gun and feel like they need to use it. That would be the stupidest thing of all to do, but with emotions as high as they are, I wouldn’t be surprised.



WHAT?!? If I was concerned before, I’m seriously frightened now.

The man opposite me shifts in his seat.

“I ain’t gonna touch her! I ain’t gonna touch her! I do this (mimes talking with his hand) to shut y’all up.”

The man opposite me shifts once more, rises. He takes a few steps toward the drama. The man in black next to me moves around too, also preparing for a fight. I think to myself, please, both of you, stay seated and calm. Don’t bring the fight over here.

The man next to me says to us, “I’m just trying to keep calm. Not smack his ass.” No one responds, but I wonder to myself – Where is your bravado coming from? How is it possible that you’re thinking of taking this man down while I’m here concerned about how he could seriously hurt anyone of us on this train?



The atmosphere is tense and the air is almost ringing with nervous energy. The man in black says, more to me and the man opposite us than to Enraged Man, “Please don’t come this way, because I’m gonna smack the shit out of you.”

We all continue to sit in silence, waiting for the next stop. I’m hoping that this guy will get off. No one is directly engaging him anymore, at least as far as I can tell, but still, he’s carrying on with his rant.

“Old faggot niggas can suck my dick. Fuck all y’all niggas!”

This last, hate-filled declaration seems to be the end of his diatribe. He continues cussing and carrying on, but at a much lower voice. The atmosphere relaxes.

Then we reach our next stop, and after waiting a minute or so for the conductor to get us going again, he announces that the service has been terminated due to a rail problem. We all need to disembark. At 5.15 in the morning. There begins the second pressure-filled part of my day, as I deal with a repeatedly dying phone and missed uber rides in a battle to get to the airport on time.

Overheard in Transit (2)

November 17th

“Ladies and gentleman! I have an announcement to make! Tomorrow, I am getting married (someone starts clapping) to March! My paper clip!!”

This was bizarre. It was around 10.30pm and I was coming home from a wonderful dinner with a friend. The train pulled into the station and as I and other passengers were leaving, this mid 20s woman started shouting. She was able to grab the attention of the entire train car – who doesn’t want to hear about a wedding? – create feelings of goodwill and excitement, and then leave us stranded on an island of confusion and bemusement. Did I really hear paper clip? Why is it called March? At the end of her announcement our collective bewilderment was palpable, but the woman continued chattering away with the person she was travelling with as though nothing had happened. I should note, she was sober (it appeared) and sane. I guess this was just her idea of a fun time.


November 17th
“We didn’t even eat lunch yet, I’m not eating two lollipops!”

I was sharing a train car with a group of students who looked to be around 12 or 13. Everyone – even their teachers – had a lollipop, the hard candy kind with gum or chocolate in the centre. The lollipops caused much happiness and conversation. For example, before this boy’s declaration, some students were jealous of another boy who had somehow managed to get two lollipops. They went running to a teacher to ask for a second one for themselves and were denied. They came back, telling Two Lollipop that he was in big.trouble., but clearly still disappointed not to be in the same boat. A few minutes later, after some  more lollipop-related conversation, Proud One Lollipop made the above exclamation. It was cute, funny and unexpected. Here are all his classmates clamoring for as much candy as possible, and he’s steadfast in his desire to… preserve his appetite for lunch? Not overdo it on the sugar because it’s too early in the day? I can totally relate though. I’ve long held strict ideas about what to eat and when – breakfast for dinner? unacceptable! – I’m only just coming around to that idea. If I were in this class I’d be almost like Proud One Lollipop, the difference being that I would want a second lollipop, I would just save it for later. 😉


November 16th
“I wanna figure out a list of things to do before the end of the world. I wanna be the first nigga from the hood to skydive.”

One black guy to another black guy, and I’m not sure if by “the end of the world” he meant in general or as a result of Trump’s election. In any event, another thing on his list is to rent a really fast car and drive over 200mph.

But back to skydiving – I started paying attention after this comment because I wondered, why does he think he would be the first guy from the hood to skydive? In the history of skydiving? Seems completely implausible to me. What about Lil Wayne, Rae Sremmurd, Fetty Wap… I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that a trap rapper has gone sky diving. Or even someone like Rick Ross or DJ Khaled. Turns out I didn’t need to look that far, because this man’s friend had already been sky diving. When he said that, Bucket List flipped. I can’t remember what he said exactly, but there was arm flailing, wow-ing and other expressions of amazement and enthusiasm haha. What does his surprise say about the kind of expectations he (and other people like him) have for his community? I know that as a society we’re working towards equal opportunity for all, and we like to admire the progress we’ve made in that regard, but this exchange shows us that there’s much work to be done; not just in creating opportunities, but in making pipe dreams seem entirely ordinary.


November 16th
“I have too many addictions.”

Ohh my goodness. I was sitting opposite two old women, who looked to be in their 80s. Both of them were white, and one of them seemed very prim and proper. Her hair was in a cute skim-the-shoulder bob, she was dressed conservatively in a skirt and sweater, and I noticed a wedding band. She could be anyone’s grandmother. The other woman seemed like more of a free spirit. Unlike her friend, her clothes didn’t have any grandma patterning. Her hair was a little wild and tangly, and she was missing a good many teeth. This is the woman who said she had too many addictions.

Already an odd pairing, I was shocked when I heard her declaration. What in the world could Grandma have been suggesting to Not-Your-Grandma?! And what addictions did Not-Your-Grandma have? Do they explain her lamentable lack of teeth? I’d like to think that Grandma said that she should try a sleeping pill, but that has more to do with her appearance than any context clues.

I was also surprised by how cavalier the women were with their conversation. They were speaking on the loud side, with Not-Your-Grandma the louder of the two. I could tell they were discussing personal subjects, and was trying not to listen to their conversation, but there was no missing “I have too many addictions”! I’m not one of those people that are good at discreetly observing the person your friend points out to you, so I doubt that I was at all subtle when I looked up from my book in shock (although I know I tried to be haha). This didn’t bother either of the women at all, and they continued their mysterious conversation. Maybe they’ve lived in New York so long that they’re totally comfortable having private conversations in public. Maybe their age is what made them so bold. Either way, what a thing to hear from octogenarians!

When the Male Gaze Feels Deadly

The other day  I went out for a run to the park. Just after I left my building, as I was crossing the street, a school bus passed so near behind me that I gasped out of fear. Now, I’m used to drivers cutting it close with pedestrians, and vice versa. There’s an audacity about walking and driving the streets of New York that you observe almost immediately; I quickly developed a similar attitude. There have been times when a car has come close  enough to me that I thought I could lose a toe, but even in those instances I wasn’t frightened enough to make a sound.

The driver and I made eye contact as he completed the turn. Our faces were close enough that I could see his lascivious grin and I realised he was staring at me through the entire manoeuvre. I’m sure he saw the fear on my face and heard me gasp. It did nothing to dislodge his grin. In that split second the truth of the incident became clear. That idiot had put my life at risk so that he could get a closer look at my body. I couldn’t believe it!! Some men are such pigs! Honestly!

I kept moving, and fought not to let the nasty image of his face ruin the rest of my jog. On my way back into my building though, I let myself remember what had happened and think on it a little bit. That man gave into his lustful desire to get as close to me as possible, in spite of what that meant for my own physical and emotional safety. He consciously decided to make an extremely tight turn in order to rake his eyes over my body and satisfy his lechery in the only shallow way that was possible. My own personhood, sense of safety, comfort and volition weren’t for a second considered. His actions were inconceivably selfish. I was two steps away from the opposite sidewalk, and I was afraid I was about to be knocked down!

That moment was a clear example of the inequality of the sexes in our society, and the reality women work so hard to explain: our bodies, our entire selves, are seen by many men to exist only for their enjoyment and service. We are so much more than that. We are full, complex, fierce beings just as much as men are, and demand the same respectful consideration. I’m well used to catcalling and unsettling stares, but rarely do I feel so completely objectified; so entirely at the mercy and whim of a man. It was sickening; violating.