My friend says, “I’ve been practicing not giving way, claiming my space,” bumping shoulders with men in suits who stride down the middle of the sidewalk, secure in the respect due their masculinity, and it works for her, but I don’t have her fortitude. Handsy men have left me hesitant, reticent in large crowds, hypervigilant, stomach clench, body flinch, flop sweat, head full of silent sidewalk rage and vulnerability.
I prefer to ride the strong, steady wake of an icebreaker, bright red doubled steel hull of calm, easy confidence to lead me down a crowded sidewalk, subway platform, through a crowded room. I prefer a white man — five-foot-nine, good shoulders — for my shield.
Any cishet-presenting able male body will do, and many women, too. Couples clasping hands cut a wider wake, and a pair of bros abreast are an even broader barrier before me. But nothing eases my agoraphobic anxieties, nothing barges icebreaker-straight and secure through a crowded sidewalk like the upright, squared-shoulder striding confidence of even
a mediocre white man
by Maryah Converse
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