8:15 AM I walk up Columbia Road and take note of four men sitting on the stoop and smoking. They are about 5 yards away. They haven’t noticed me yet, but they will. I gauge the odds of their verbally harassing me to be about 2 to1 if I walk past them. (This is something women learn to do early in life – assess the potential threat level of any male in our immediate surroundings.) I decide to cross the street. They notice. They aren’t interested enough to get up and follow me, but they amuse themselves by shouting at me from the stoop. hey mama, where you goin’ in such a hurry. why don’t you come back and join us. show me that pretty smile. Several people on the sidewalk glance back and forth between us, but then quickly look away.
8:25 AM I slide into a seat on the green line heading downtown. A half dozen empty sets of seats, but a man sits down next to me anyway. His leg presses up against mine. I move away. It’s a metro car – the seats aren’t large; maybe I’m imagining it. I feel his leg press against mine again, this time with a little pressure. I don’t want to call attention to myself by asking him if I can pretty please get up. I tell myself I’m just imagining it, but I know I’m not. His leg is still pressing against mine. At Mount Vernon Square, I mutter an ‘excuse me’ and quickly push my way out to the platform. It’s 10 minutes ‘til the next train will come. I’m going to be late to work.
12:44 PM: I walk into the conference room. My boss is seated with three lobbyists – all middle-aged white men. One shakes my hand and immediately shortens my name to a familiar and infantilizing Abby instead of Abigail. I correct him, but flush as he smiles patronizingly at my correction. Another laughs when he shakes my hand next, saying “well, Abigail, you certainly look very professional today. Thanks for joining us.” Black suit, heels, matching pearl jewelry and my hair in a bun. I want to ask him whether it’s the fact that I’m young or female that makes him so surprised to see that I know how to dress myself, but my boss frowns at me. I keep my mouth shut.
3:15 PM I’m starving, the measly salad I had at lunch doing absolutely nothing to satisfy my considerable appetite. Those strong, smiling, healthy women in commercials always seem to have a secret stash of delicious and mouth-watering celery sticks hidden in their desks, but I’ve only got Doritos. Summer is less than a few months away, and I realize there is no way I will fit into my swimsuit from last year, or even the year before. I curse my slowing metabolism and fattening thighs.
5:15 PM I check my online dating messaging inbox to find 4 new emails. Two are short descriptions of what sorts of violations these men would like to commit against me and my body. Feminists should be taught their place. One simply leaves a few compliments about my physical attributes and then asks me if I’m at all interested in just having some fun. The last has a standard greeting and some boring sentences about his job. I consider writing back, even though I’m not interested, because his message has managed to neither objectify nor scare me. This is unusual. I think that he deserves a reply, maybe even a date at some point. I feel sad when I realize how low my standards have gotten. But it is what it is. I write back.
7:10 PM I stand on the metro, holding onto a pole for balance while I’m crushed between commuters, most of whom are taller or just bigger than I am. I glance up and see a man unabashedly staring down my blouse. He sees me see him and winks. I try to turn away from him entirely, but the train is too crowded and people give me annoyed looks as I move around too much.
9:45 PM I finish drinks with friends and walk down 14th Street, turning down Columbia Road before I remember that it’s dark out and that’s not a good idea. I look like an idiot to the other people on the street, but I retrace my steps and go back up, turning down Harvard this time instead. I’m not sure yet whether having a school on that block makes it safer or not, but it feels like it might be, so I take that route after dark. I don’t know whether feeling safer is the same thing as being safer.
11:00 PM I obsessively check that the windows are all locked so that a man can’t break into my apartment in the middle of the night. I know I’ve probably just watched too many episodes of Law & Order: SVU, but I figure better safe than sorry. I’m up the stairs and about to crawl into bed when I realize I didn’t check if the front door was bolted. I’m exhausted, but I go back downstairs to make sure anyway. Otherwise I won’t be able to sleep. The door is locked. I go back upstairs.
11:05 PM I say a few quick prayers for those whose lives are far worse than mine, turn out the lights, and go to sleep.
12:01 AM The beep of a text message on my phone wakes me. It’s from a guy I’ve been out with twice. He says he hopes I’ve had a good day. Then he tells me to send him a naked picture of myself. Smiley emoticon. I mentally note to block his phone number and email tomorrow morning.
It was a good day. Tomorrow will be another one.