“Your life is a movie, I swear,” one of my students said in a recent text conversation about post-pandemic travel, dating, and Italian men. We were discussing the bland Tinder offerings in our respective phones and how disinterested people seem to be in talking to one another. My roster has the photos of thirteen men, but I’m not compelled to “go after” or really engage any of them. This differs in every way imaginable from my fiery Tinder romances in Sicily a few years ago, oh to return to the island of amore.
I was engaging with someone, but that swipe has gone cold. I can’t say exactly why, but it may relate to the aftermath of an uncomfortable conversation when he described me as “having your shit together” and being “intimidating.” Oodles of men have called me intimidating over the years and every time they do I want to scream. Why do they tell me this? Do they think it’s a compliment? Am I supposed to somehow make myself less threatening? What are they saying about themselves with this admission?
Like the five stages of grief, I went through a series of emotional responses while processing the remark. It began with the hot flush of WTF, followed by head-shaking disappointment and the realization that whatever was transpiring amid the colourful emojis is not going to work out. The fact that he called me intimidating after I shared some good news about something I was proud of was doubly shitty. When I told him that this comment makes me feel bad about myself he apologized.
And then he disappeared, not in a “poof” ghosted kinda way, he’s just not active, no more messages. Being the emotional facilitator isn’t on my radar at the moment and so no texts have left my phone either. Abracadabra goes the maybe romance and I’m left in the emptiness. I often feel like I have to suffer for the maladaptive nature of patriarchy, which turns out to be little more than a sieve. My power passes through its tiny holes and is rarely permitted to gain traction in a meaningful way.
Living under a system where my personal achievements undermine my intimate potential is often gruelling and heart-breaking.
Bibbidi-bobbidi-boo go the tiny birds who gossip and dive bomb at the end of the driveway. Me and Elliott, my large orange tabby cat, observe them with glee during our morning trips outside. She lowkey stalks them while I quietly stand beside her holding the leash loosely in my hand. Occasionally I check to see if the other cat sees us from inside. Jhona tracks our every move, not because he wants to get out but because we are so cojoined that any separation of our trinity is tough for him. He is all heart.
Nature is a bridge, a place to get lost in while thoughts circulate and leave the building for a blessed moment or two. Watching the charged drama unfolding among these wee feathered creatures reminds me that our social lives are equally choreographed. What would they think of how we try to learn about and love one another? It would likely seem equally weird, maybe even laughable. How can a man ever really understand me? Do I need to lessen myself to reduce my struggles? Should I? Could I?
Some of the birds were leaping straight up into the air like popcorn and for some reason “Walk this way” came to mind. The gnarly, steamy beat of this song, especially The Aerosmith & Run-DMC version, has always been pretty dope in my books. I think this tune entered my brain for another reason. It sounds like the social imperatives women hear about needing to look, smell, talk, smile, even walk a certain way to conform to a singular standard that does not offend those invested in the patriarchy.
Although this song title sounds like the shit women have to contend with all the time, it actually means the opposite. “Walk this Way” was first released in September 1975 but didn’t chart as a hit until the following year. Incidentally, the band’s autobiography published by HarperCollins in 1997 is also called Walk This Way. The book is currently out of print, but I found some fascinating information about the song online.
The opening line mentions a “backstroke lover”, which refers to the main character masturbating. His father catches him and says that he will eventually experience the real thing. This glorious event happens when the guy encounters a cheerleader along with “her sister and her cousin.” The “walk this way” line is the experienced girl showing the boy where to put his finger, showing him how to walk. Although the lyrics are sexually charged, it is the girl who is in control of not only her sexual pleasure but also his.
The next part of the story is equally wild and a good reminder to ALWAYS HAVE A BACKUP. When Steven Tyler went the studio to record the song, he realized that he’d left the lyrics in a cab. His incredulous bandmates thought he was just stalling, and they got in another of their many fights. Tyler walked to the stairwell and let out a primal scream. Then he wrote new lyrics on the wall because he forgot to bring paper with him = intense. The original lyrics he left in the cab were never recovered.
From intimidation to mother nature to resisting gender inequity through rock and roll, such is the varied tapestry of this reflection. That’s how our minds work though, isn’t it? We scurry at lightening synapse speed from one topic to the next in patterns or segues that seem and often feel random. Are they? Who knows, well I’m sure someone does but I don’t want to dive that deeply. It’s July 1, a day to reflect, remember, and it also marks the beginning of my 12-month sabbatical.
All hail the onset of academic freedom xoxo