Woolf on the Streets

This is a blessing of the face mask. I have finally become a lot more comfortable in public, and have successfully been able to resist the urge to only observe myself. Hiding behind it, I focus now on others and the spaces they occupy. These others are almost always men, and during some opportune moments, women.

It is easier to observe what is so common, so out there always. Men occupy the center in the large back seats of buses, they sit with their legs crossed- right ankle on left knee. They loudly proclaim business decisions, casual musings on the state, and evening plans on phone calls- allowing their voice to occupy more space than I find women occupying physically. Women choose to cram themselves into small spaces, their eyes focusing first into little screens and then at the roads and their buildings, trained eyes that don’t stop for any detours. But we must pardon my rogue eyes, for they- though once trained are now in the process of un-training.

I find that women occupy more space in men’s eyes than in the physical realm. At first, I would try my best, through ample shirt tuggings, buttonings, and layering, to prevent this kind of occupancy. I watched in awe, from my tiny little pocket, how men occupy the physical so boldly, and then allowed for a moment for self observation to mull over my inability to even begin approaching this space without thinking it over five times, without calculating the risks- the potential for embarrassment.

But then I spoke to Virginia Woolf, and she told me, through ‘A room of One’s Own’ how I must occupy more space- physically.

She told me how years ago, a woman would need to think five times, and calculate the risks- the potential for embarrassment, before she picked up a pen- the only activity that today I find myself doing with no extra thought or effort, even in public. She told me with brilliant humor, about the discomfort with which their writing occupied space- that made possible the comfort with which my writing occupies space today.

And so, thinking of all this from my corner seat, I stretched my legs out a little further, I read a funny article and laughed out a little louder, I crossed my legs- left ankle on right knee until it hurt, and played the music on my headphones loud enough to block out his unimpressive evening plans.

Most importantly I tried to steady my eyes. Raising them. Readying them to shoot back relentlessly when reluctant male eyes bounce back up from my cleavage.