New York City can ruin your day when you're a semi-decent looking 20-something, hoping for a little respect on a friendless subway ride.
When you're on the train, the only thing more annoying than a delay or finding yourself on the wrong train is when this happens:
You feel someone poke you with gentle, almost awkwardly light pressure around your elbow. You look up from your book or iPod only to see a definitely awkward gawker.
"Woo! It's hot out there! Can you believe it?"
Yes, I can believe there is weather, you think?
You politely reply without fully trying to engage. "Yeah, it's hot," you say. More glib babble escapes from Gawker's mouth. Then, Gawker shifts to Creeper as he gets to his point with: "Oh, uhh, so, you're really beautiful."
You get the song and dance. In fact, it's not very original. As you're waiting for Creepshow to at least attempt to look you in the eyes, you get the imminent, "Can I take you to dinner?" Then, it comes.
No. You cannot. I have a boyfriend, which is none of your business and for all you know, I'm a psychopath, a sociopath and a serial killer. You'd probably be able to get a read on my mental status, if you talked to me for more than a minute.
You'd probably would get to know a lot about me, in fact. For example, you'd know I'm the kind of girl who hates being put on the spot by some random, sexually-deprived person that she doesn't know (who knew?). You'd also know that I don't value shallow beauty.
Beautiful? What does that even mean? I have soft features? Would my physical features mean anything if they housed a hollow heart and belligerent soul? Would I still be pretty if we went to dinner, ate food without my hands and thanked you for dinner with a loud, foul-smelling fart? Come on.
You don't fall in love with a new car and decide to buy it without checking out the interior. What's appealing on the surface doesn't make the whole.
Even if we're talking strictly about physical beauty, there's a flaw. Money can change how a person looks. Today, anyone can look pretty damn pretty after a good deal of plastic surgery, ample make-up application, costly hair appointments, expensive shopping sprees and shoes to match.
True physical beauty is found in nature. A flower is beautiful because it sprung out of the mud and just is beautiful. It's not lovely because it spent $400 on a new stem. Money doesn't look good on a flower (unless money was coming out of it -- that'd be my new favorite species). Point being, money can't create beauty -- only the illusion of it.
I want my beauty to be admired from the inside out -- where money can't cover up my flaws and where it counts.
Ten years ago, I might have had some strange sense of fulfillment by this shallow kind of male attention. Things are different now. My peers, the rest of the 20-somethings, are rising up against the idea that at this phase in our life we are still young, naive and consumed by insecurities. I don't want people to try to fill in some self-esteem void that they assume I have.
When I was a teenager, insecurity stemmed from being thrust onto the tracks of the oncoming freight train that is femininity. My life was riddled with new hormones, new curves and more questions and doubt about myself than ever before. Now, I know the deal.
Those girlish, annoying voices in my head have hushed. I control my personal worries now.
Yet, the question of whether I'm being valued correctly remains. I want to be valued as a woman, as a professional, as a human being.
How can I gain respect in this culture when some individuals only tie my value to my physical features (yeah, thanks a ton, mouth-breathing Gawker)? The assumption that women my age are the same insecure girls who might have blushed, enamored, at any compliment on our pretty eyes is insulting.
Maybe when I'm 50, vanity will mean something to me. I doubt it, though. Maybe a wrinkle would do me good.