On my run this morning, a man gave me his unsolicited opinion about my body. I was slowly running East. He was slowly walking West. We shared the same sidewalk, in fact we nearly brushed shoulders, and when we did, I could feel the creep of his weight slide into the space between us. He leaned closer, and in a deep voice said:

“Sweaty women.”

I didn’t look back. I kept running, pretending that tiny fraction of a moment was nothing more than…what exactly? What was that about?

Sadly, women experience this quite often, and it wasn’t the first time a man on the street has decided to insert his physicality — a gaze, a deep whisper, a soft whistle — into my personal space, a space occupied most obviously by my body, and more subtly by my own feelings about myself, which of course, live in my head.

This ejaculation of the mouth was a profane trespass across common ground. My instinct was to shout a response, perhaps a Fuck you or Have a nice day or Fuck off or Have a good one. What is most disturbing is not trying to rationalize why one might say this, but what has taken the brave effort of trying to understand what exactly he had in mind when he said sweaty women. Was he disgusted? Repulsed? Turned on? Girl, Imma make you sweat.

Suddenly, I am one step away from either blindsided violence or a sexual encounter, or both. My mind rationalized the experience as uncomfortable, but ultimately harmless. Nothing actually happened. Or did it? What is this power and influence men have with their words, especially when they are un-called for, unwarranted, and yet somehow, still accepted by a silence that stumbles over logical reasoning and stillborn articulation. How am I the one who becomes arrested, bailed out by another thought that instantaneously takes me as far away as possible. Until it happens again.

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