Willow left the house today with a moist pirate ship tattoo on her forehead. She’d gotten the adhesive at a birthday party, and so J and her created a club.
“I’m in the Pirate’s club,” she insisted. I let her leave it on as we walked to the C Train in one of the first truly cold days this winter. From a distance, it looked like she a had a ringworm, but I pick my battles. I also didn’t pick a battle over the helium shiny blue ballon that she’d also taken from the party, which she was now carrying. The curled ribbon string drug its way on the sidewalks, and I imagined a trail of dog excrement, homeless pee, drug particles, and bubonic plague that it was carefully collecting and would return to our new home.
We were four blocks from our place when I received a romantic proposition from a man consumed by an army green parka and fur lined hood. He graciously extended his hand, and even bowed. “Can I get to know you?” I thanked him? As one does in these parts, and informed him that I was married because “engaged” still leaves an opening.
Willow looked at me, eyebrows furrowed. “Mommy, why did that man want to marry you?”
“You’d have to ask him.” I responded. But, it opened a stream into a river, into a waterfall of information that I wanted to bestow on her and have her understand. Some of it is part-rant, part-anecdotal, and part-caution. The lesson is that being hit on has nothing to do with me. Nothing is “complimented” or rewarded because I appear some way to a man. There is something about being a woman, even when walking briskly in the cold to the subway to buy groceries, that leaves you open to a man’s gaze and the whole thing can be inherently unfair because the only thing to do is to smile and appear flattered.
Encounters like this force me to think about how I am in the world precisely because Willow is more aware of herself. She learns more from what she sees, and less from what I say, and for that reason I’d like for the world to be at least a fair place where crazy shit does not happen. Like the fire that broke out a block away on New Years day. I asked the local news camera guy what catastrophe and brought out the media. “A fire.” So I followed the crowd and gazed onto a charred brownstone, and realized with a full body fear that we’d almost moved 2 homes down.
Oh man, if I tallied all my fears, I would always live with a low grade anxiety of just feeling exposed.
But Willow is unafraid, of men shouting in the street, of a homeless man with missing teeth jeering in her face. I haven't done anything to make her that way -- she's built brave.