She walks home in the dark, eyes watering in air so frigid it nips at her nose and cheeks. She sniffles from the sheer cold and snuggles lower into her coat. She cherishes the pain in her toes and her fingers because it reminds her that she’s alive. When she turns the key to her apartment, a blast of warm air welcomes her into her own shoe box sized closet of safety. He was so kind, she thinks to herself. Kind. But bland. She’s back in her head. He offers a nice wine, he buys the dinner. She enjoys his slight pretentious nature. She cherishes the way his chin turns up just slightly when he swirls his glass of Arneis and gives an affirming nod to the Sommelier. She thinks he talks too much. He asks a question with the motive of answering it himself, pressed with the need to impress. She smiles like she’s been trained, and her mind is a whirlwind of analysis. She assumes he acts how he does because of his upbringing. She imagines his parents, a conservative duo with their only son a shining pride and joy in their life. She also imagines the tightness of the tie his father must be wearing. It’s tied to a perfect little knot by his little wife who keeps making his dinners and shining his shoes. And the clink of their glasses brings her back to the reality in front of her. He’s nice. Nice, but bland. There is nothing expressly wrong with him, though, so the wine brings her back to his apartment and up the five-flight walk-up and into his bedroom. And the wine makes the thoughts in her head become words in her mouth and she’s simply got to say something. So she asks about his bed table books, and whether he liked Kafka, and he mumbles something about how they’re decorative, anyway, and as his clothes come off she thinks that his shirt jacket must have cost more than she pays for her apartment. So she slips off her dress. And he’s sweet, but inattentive and she thinks, well, he’s not bad. Not bad, but bland. So she puts on her gloves and her hat and she leaves him asleep in his room. And she sneaks down the stairs, and she waits for a bus, lights flashing from every direction in the bustle of the city that never sleeps. She watches the cars that zoom by in an effort get somewhere. Somewhere that must be more important than the corner on which she waits, for the same creaky bus that will take her to the same shoe-box sized place. The humble four walls she calls her home. And she thinks, this is safe. Safe, but bland.
Tonight was one of those nights that the city sparkled. The streets were mine, and New York became one giant castle. It was the kind of night where anything was possible. My initial spark of interest in New York was rekindled. What had I been missing these past few months? Possibility. I had taken away New York’s credibility, sworn that it wasn’t good for anything, and told it that nothing was possible. I forgot that in this city, everything is possible. Because in one second, I went from comforting a friend to being interrupted by two strangers. They happened to be Italian, and I happened to speak Italian. There I was, in the middle of the street, speaking Italian to two perfect strangers. I left with two new friends.
After I granted the power of possibility back to New York, I realized that life was much more ambiguous than it ever was before. We live in the grey area. Sometimes I hate how crowded it is; how many people live here. And then I love it, because I can control my anonymity. I love the beautiful nature of anonymity. The choices we make with the power to disappear are what make us realize what we truly fear.
Tonight, I also learned to never underestimate the power of a good girl’s night with wine. Lots of wine.
It was a sunny New York winter day. The kind that almost felt like it was still fall.
I was in a coffee shop, reading a novel. Romantic, right?
But then I saw him. His sparkling blue eyes met mine and I knew we were meant to be.
I shyly glanced away, but when I looked back up, his gaze met mine yet again.
I couldn’t bear it. I looked again, and I knew. It was love at first sight.
He met my eyes and his face lit up. This was a real smile.
It was almost as if he read my mind. I glanced away and so did he.
When he walked out of that coffee shop, I knew I would never see him again.
Such is the tragic state of love in New York City.
Earlier today I was talking with one of my co-workers about this phenomenon known as “No Shave November” or even “Movember”, which are kind of not really the same thing. Now, if you’re unfamiliar with the concept, no-shave November was founded as a way to raise awareness and funds for cancer. The philosophy is that by embracing our hair, which cancer patients usually lose due to chemotherapy and radiation treatments, we both raise awareness for the cause, and ideally donate whatever money we don’t spend on grooming products to help support cancer research and treatment. Movember, more specifically, raises awareness of men’s health issues including prostate cancer. Same concept, same month, but No Shave November includes women! Or does it?
See, my male co-worker was surprised to find that I intended to participate in No-Shave November, and more specifically, that I had in the past. He inquired as to whether women were even “allowed” to do that. Now, I’m a relatively quiet feminist. I’m one of those “lower case” feminists, you know? The one that thinks that feminism, like all rational, human-rights related issues, should be a conversation, not a single-sided argument. But when he asked me, I almost scoffed, and not intentionally! Why would it be so absurd for a woman to stop shaving for a month, if it’s so socially acceptable for men to be unshaven? To further the gap between what society considers a normal “gender conforming” behavioral pattern to look like, there are men who think that women should be (and generally are) sleek, slender, smoothly shaven human beings. And there are women who actually are sleek, slender, smoothly shaven. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that! I get it. Hair bothers some people. And for the most part, people are generally “OK” with leg hair. But anything else? Absurd.
My thoughts are this. Beards are in style. Armpit hair on women, for whatever reason, is not. But in New York City? Is it truly this absurd to see a woman with armpit hair?
I have three standard questions about No-Shave November that I’d like to address. They have all been asked of me, and are repeatedly asked of me every November for the past three years.
1. “Can girls even do that?”
Well, yes, we can and do refrain from shaving. Don’t we get to raise awareness about cancer too?
2. What if your significant other doesn’t like you with hair?”
I have two thoughts on this. First, I’m not dating my significant other because they like my smoothly shaven legs. I like to think that they’re fond of my personality, or that they even like the way I look sometimes. Maybe I’m fun to be around, you know. ‘Cause I’m a person and all that. And second, if the existence of body hair on my body is really that difficult for my significant other to handle, I shave. Because, a relationship is more important to me than a silly month of hairiness.
3. “But why?”
And this is why I’m writing this post. Why? Simply because you’re still asking me this question. If I were a man, who respectfully decided to refrain from shaving for the month of November, the conversation would be entirely different. Let’s take the idea of Movember for example. Men not shaving to raise awareness for men’s health issues. Great. Sometimes men grow mustaches because they look good, too. My opinion? Women not shaving their armpits to make a statement is going to raise a lot more awareness than a group of men growing facial hair. That’s relatively commonplace. Especially if you live in Bushwick.
Here’s to the remainder of the month. To all you hairy creatures, cheers.
I fall out of love with New York City daily. It’s a process. When I first moved to New York, I enjoyed what may have been a normal, glamorous honeymoon phase. We were lovers for a while. We flirted, we bantered. New York captured my thoughts, evoked my imagination, and stole my heart. But now, it takes each new day for New York to win me back. And without fail, it succeeds each day. Yet somehow I know that the day I wake up and can’t seem to love New York anymore is the inevitable day when I may just leave.
But each day I’m a little more thankful that today is not that day.