Friday, July 25, 2008

Men and Women, Mostly Young

Today I watched to confirm my observations, at Café D (I will scrupulously avoid names of places and people, including), where I visit every day for an espresso. The (young) men opened the door for the (young) women. Nothing has changed. I watched one woman sitting in a chair near the door. He watched as a young fellow came from the coffee bar, both hands holding items bought there. He opened the door with his foot. She watched. Her chair prevented the door from opening fully. He squeezed through. The place was filled, as usual. The loud voices were women's voices. Where were the boisterous, aggressive males? The men occupied their space at a table, alert to help someone plug in a computer, move a chair. Three women had spread out, each using two tables. These were American women. The women serving at the coffee bar are European. They are feminine. They work hard. They flirt with the male customers. They are subjects. They enjoy being looked at. The American women sit, horrified to think of themselves as objects to be looked at, reading about the objectification of women by men. They are insulted by the glance a man gives them. And so the men have learned not to look, not to flirt. The women's hair is long, designed to appear casual. It occupies space around them. They seem not to know where their bodies are in space. Nothing has changed. The men--what are they writing about, sketching? Inhibited from looking at the women by the politics of feminism, they no longer initiate conversation. The women? Not a word spoken to a man. They talk to each other. How does this differ from a back yard, talking over laundry hung out to dry? He must open the door for me. (Am I too weak?) He must start the conversation. (How dare he impose himself on me? This is aggressiveness. Call the "safe space" guards.) How do they feel? Independent? Autonomous? Are they lonely? OK. Perhaps (she thinks) I'll look at him. He has dark hair, a two-day growth of beard, strong eyes. His legs are drawn up, knees touching the table holding his computer. He looks like a hawk. Wing-span, low-rise jeans, a heavy belt. There's that hint of vascularity on his upper arm, his forearm. Shall I (she wonders) look at him? He looks a bit like MP, the French actor. Lean, no: gaunt. Serious. Reflective. Beautiful. Yes. (She thinks: What if I were to say something to him? What if I were to say: You have beautiful eyes. You look like a hawk hovering over your *** [computer].) No. She will NEVER say that. Why? This is how nothing has changed.

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