I had lots of expectations for senior year. Back in my youth, I’d heard upperclassmen describe it as a golden era, a time of bucket lists and day-seizing and buying wine legally. I’d imagined I would spend it hosting terribly grown-up dinner parties, reading philosophy in the bath and swanning about campus wearing something glamorous.
It seems I was wrong. So far, my senior year has confusingly turned out to be, of all things, a hotbed of casual sexism.
Cut to Friday night, late August. I’m zipping down Chapel Street in heels. As always, I’m horribly late, but is that going to stop me from checking myself out in the Rite Aid windows? I’m all dressed up, and Avril Lavigne circa 2001 is telling me how fly I look. I am, in fact, feeling pretty fly. That is, until the homeless man on the corner turns and yells at me, “Too tall! Go home!”
Take it from me: Nothing shakes the old confidence quite like being called an eyesore by a man wearing an empty sriracha box for a hat. I complained to another tall friend about the injustice of this. “You think that’s bad?” she asked. “One time in Chicago, someone said the same thing to me. Then he spat on me.” Charming.
Now, I am a head above many ladies; I’ll give the nice man that. But I don’t think that means that I should have to stay home. This isn’t the Dark Ages; I feel like in 2014, being 5’10” isn’t some deformity you have to hide in a cloister. Particularly given that 5’10” is the height of the average U.S. male. Somehow, I find it hard to believe that Mr. Sriracha stands on the corner of Chapel and Temple flipping off every average American man that passes.
I wouldn’t mind this brush with casual sexism so much if it were an isolated incident. But it’s not. I moved off campus this year, and my new landlord must have put me on some sort of local misogyny Tinder. The minute my lease began off campus, seemingly every benevolent sexist in the Greater New Haven area has swiped right on my doorstep.
When I moved in, I found that one of the neighbors had left me a cream pie on my back stairs — which should have been all the warning I needed. Taped to the pie box was a note that began with “Sweetie” and offered me $150 — on the condition that I spend it only on, and I quote, “lubricants or toys for me and Kamil.” The note was signed, alarmingly, “Dad.” I still don’t know who Dad and Kamil are, but I immediately regretted asking my mother to help me decipher the handwriting.
Soon after came the real struggles. My landlord is notorious for leasing apartments that fall apart around you and not deigning to fix them. Sure enough, for the first week of classes, I had to choose between having my bedroom lights permanently on and killing power to my entire apartment. I called my landlord several times to explain politely that using a circuit breaker as a light switch wasn’t ideal. No dice.
So, eventually, I toddled down to their offices for a serious chat. I had thought that chat would be between a dispatcher and me, but it was actually between a dispatcher and my chest. Then, when I called again the next day, the man answering the phone told me that he remembered me: “the pretty English girl.” Dude, I was wearing PJs, was sweating profusely and had circles under my eyes the size of a pumpkin because my lights won’t turn off when it’s time to sleep. The same man then told me he would send me an electrician, “But only because English girls are my favorite kinds of girls.” Thank you, good sir, for giving me access to a service you are legally obliged to provide, on the condition that you can describe me as a sexual object! No, really, you really shouldn’t have.
I think the kicker came later that day, when my electrician, a gentleman missing four teeth, asked me to let him know personally if I ever needed a light bulb changed, because, as he reliably informed me, girls can’t do that for themselves.
Which brings us to the million-dollar question of my senior year. How many SWUGs does it take to change a light? Evidently, fewer than there are sexists in New Haven, reaching for your bulbs.
Contact Eleanor Michotte at firstname.lastname@example.org .