Do we owe men prettiness if we’re going outside?
by Jesse Loren
At my recent lupus check-up, I decided to wear my favorite cowboy boots. Not stiletto heals with bangles, just real shit-kicking cowboy boots and a dress. My big hope was that the nurse would ask me to remove my Ariat Legend boots to be weighed and the scale would go down instead of up. I’ve been really working for it.
These boots are what I put on to check the chickens in the rain, check the beehives, do chores that are dirty, and get stuff done. I slip them on when I need moral support too. After my check-up, I had to deal with the IRS and needed all the confidence I could muster.
Ahead of me in line was a very talkative, stocky man. After making coy jokes with the secretary, he sat to the left of the receptionist, and once I checked in and sat down, he could not contain himself.
Some people need containing.
He leaned forward and said, “Did you break those boots in or did they come that way?”
I immediately took offense.
I knew there could be a bit of mud between the heel and the ball. So what.
Did he mean that they were dirty?
Did he mean they were ugly?
Did he mean that they look broken in but I look too lazy to have actually broken them in myself?
Is he speaking some thinly-veiled male-code for non-approval of my clothing?
Do I owe him prettiness if I am to be outside?
Suddenly I felt like my presence itself was too large and I had to become smaller, lesser. I felt… almost dirty.
In some countries men act as if they are owed piousness, and a woman who seems impious is scorned or pinched. In this situation, I was being scolded for owing him prettiness, and it was his self-appointed duty to remind me.
If I could have a do-over, it would go like this:
Man: “Did you break those boots in, or did they come that way?”
Me: “I can shove my foot up your ass like the last guy that asked stupid questions and you can tell me if you think they are broken in.”
What I don’t know is what world the guy lives in that makes him confident enough to ask a loaded, sexist question and think that as a stranger, my life should be an object of his derision.
The nurse called me in time to escape his conversation. She let me take my boots off for the weighing, after which I weighed four less pounds.