I see you’ve noticed me as I [pick one of: walk down the street/dance with my friends at a club/sit by myself on the bus home/other everyday activity]. I can see you sizing me up: six inch heels, tiny little miniskirt, low-cut shirt, red lipstick. It’s like I’m screaming for your attention, right? Me being here at this time in this place is an open invitation. I am here for you to notice, and you’ve noticed me. Right now, you’re about to let me know that [pick one of: I look good/you want to have sex with me/I need to smile more/guys don’t even like all that stuff, so why am I bothering?/other]. You’re picking your words as your eyes travel up and down my body, valuing me, ascribing me worth.
Except, well…here’s the thing. None of this is for you.
I love these six inch heels. I love how tall I feel when I put them on. I love the way they make me walk – back straight, shoulders squared, ready to take on the world. I love that they’re comfy enough to dance in for hours when my friends and I want a night out on the town together at the end of a long week. I love how they make me feel more confident, more ready for whatever challenges I might face today. These shoes are my foundation. They are for me. They are not for you.
I love this skirt. I bought this skirt on sale (!!!) at an outlet store. I kissed my boyfriend for the first time in this skirt. I’ve stayed out until 4AM with my girlfriends in this skirt. It’s cute and comfy and when I tell my friends it only cost me $15, they all sigh with envy. This skirt makes me feel feminine. This colour, this print, are expressions of my personal style. I put on this skirt and look in the mirror and know that I look like the person I really am on the inside. This skirt makes me feel like me. This skirt is part of my self-expression. It is for me. It is not for you.
I love this shirt. It’s emblazoned with the emblem of a [pick one of: comic/book series/television show/movie franchise/other] that you think I probably know nothing about, but that doesn’t matter to me, because I know what I love and I don’t need you to validate my interests. I love the fit – it’s like a second skin, and the soft cotton is so comfy and breathable I feel like I’m wearing nothing at all. Tucked into my favourite skirt, this shirt is a statement – a little glimpse into my world. This shirt is a declaration of love for something that matters to me. I wore this shirt to a midnight film premiere once. I’ve collapsed into bed in this shirt after a long day and fallen asleep in it. Once, I spilled ketchup on it and worried that I’d never get the stain out. This shirt is an ode to my life. It is for me. It is not for you.
I love this bright red lipstick. I once spent an hour in a department store searching for this exact red – bright but not too bright, not too matte or too glossy, a red that makes me smile when I wear it. I apply it to my lips in the morning and smile into the mirror and love the way it makes me look and feel. This is the red I wore to my very first job interview, and it gave me the confidence not to stammer through my answers. I ended up getting the job. This is the red I wore the day after I broke up with my first boyfriend, when I needed to remind myself that I was loved and loveable and didn’t need anyone else to tell me those things in order for them to be true. I carry this red with me everywhere. On my bad days, it helps me smile; on my good days, it makes my smile brighter. This bright red lipstick is part of the mask I wear that helps me take on the world even when I don’t think I’m capable. It is for me. It is not for you.
You think I have done these things to make you notice me. You think my value is in your notice, in whether or not you like what you see as your eyes dwell on me, [pick one of: walking/dancing/reading/listening to music] without any regard for what a stranger might think of things I’ve only done for myself. Because you see, that’s the secret: none of this is for you. These shoes, these clothes, this lipstick, my existence – this is all for me. I am an autonomous being with wants and needs and desires independent of yours. I don’t exist for anyone but myself.
So feel free to stare (though please know that you’re not being as subtle as you think), but don’t bother with that comment, because I don’t want or need to hear it. I don’t care what you think of this t-shirt. I don’t care if you think this lipstick is too red and I need to tone it down. I don’t care that you think this skirt is too short or these heels are too high. I don’t care about what you think, because I do not exist for you. I am a living being with experiences and stories and thoughts and feelings which you will never know, because they are mine. My life is mine. My body is mine. My existence, in this time and in this place, is mine.
None of this is for you.