On Attracting Attention; or, Understanding Some Key Differences

Today, I’ve been thinking about the difference between attention and unwanted attention. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about these things in relation to appearance, and what happens to everyone any time they enter a public space. That is, whenever an individual goes outside of their own private space, they are going to notice other people and other people are going to notice them, for a wide range of reasons. This “noticing” is neither inherently good no inherently bad. It’s good if someone notices you in time to avoid hitting you with their vehicle. It’s bad if someone notices you with the intent to steal your vehicle. However, the act of noticing in and of itself is neither good nor bad unless or until it serves a purpose.

For example, today I have been specifically considering a pair of galaxy-print leggings I own. I love these leggings. They are one of my favorite things to wear- comfortable, cute, and relatively unique. I wear them because I like them, and that’s all. However, while I do not wear these leggings with the intention of attracting attention, I am aware of the fact that these leggings are attention-attracting. OF COURSE THEY ARE THEY’RE AWESOME. I would pay a little attention if I saw them out somewhere, too, because they’re something I like. I know when I wear them somewhere, it wouldn’t be unusual for at least one person to look at them or say something about them to me.

Normally, the noticing is relatively harmless, or even nice. “Hey, cool pants!” or something similar is pretty common, from both men and women, strangers and friends alike. That’s usually totally fine; there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m the type of person where if I see someone wearing something I think is cool, or walking a dog I think is adorable, or something similar, I will probably give them a similar compliment: “Hey I like your shoes/coat/scarf/adorable pug puppy.” I say these things not because I think the other individual owns or wears these things for anybody else but themselves, and not because I think I have the right to validate them or anything like that. I say them because I want to genuinely pay someone a compliment, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Therefore, when someone pays me a similar, genuine compliment, I can take it as such. Were I to assume every comment that came to me because of someone noticing something about me was malicious, I would drive myself crazy. Not every compliment has an ulterior motive- no, not even if that person is male! Unfortunately, one of the repercussions of living in a rape culture means that men are usually looked at as threats, and just like women shouldn’t have to feel threatened everywhere they go, men should not be seen as threatening everywhere they go.

BUT. Of course there’s a great big BUT. Sometimes, comments, compliments, or noticing can be unwelcome, can be threatening. Let’s return to the example of my exceedingly awesome space pants. I have worn these out with friends several times. Most recently, I wore them at my favorite pub when we were out for my roommate’s birthday. We were playing billiards and having a lovely time celebrating. At some point in the evening, a passing individual remarked on my leggings. I was neither super surprised (as discussed, I am aware that they tend to attract attention. I wear them anyway because I like wearing them for myself) nor offended, because it did seem like a genuine compliment, and that was all. No further comments or dialogue with this individual. They said “nice pants,” I said, “hey, thanks,” end of conversation. BUT.

Like I said earlier, there’s a difference between attention and unwanted attention. The above example of noticing was not threatening, appeared genuine, and was therefore not unwelcome. However, I also have examples of unwanted attention; attention that is inappropriate, lewd, or threatening, and therefore unwelcome. On a different occasion, I wore these leggings while I was downtown with some friends. I left the establishment we were at to step outside and take a rather serious, important phone call. While I was outside on the phone, a man walked past, whistled, and shouted over his shoulder, “Hey those pants are hot!” When I didn’t respond, both because I was on the phone and because his attention was offensive, I heard him call out to me again, “Hey, bitch, I was just complimenting you!”

SIGH. Hopefully, you can see the differences I’m getting at. The above example was unwelcome and inappropriate because it was not genuine, respectful, or nonthreatening. It was crude and offensive. This is the type of attention you hear people complain about. Particularly, you probably hear women complain about this, because we receive more of this harassment than men. And yes, this qualifies as harassment. Again, there is a difference between a genuine compliment (attention) and sexual harassment (unwanted, inappropriate, threatening attention).

Now, there are a lot of people out there who would say something to me like, “Well if you didn’t want the attention you shouldn’t wear attention-attracting clothing” and to this I say: Anytime I wear anything- space leggings included- I see dozens and sometimes hundreds of people who don’t do or say anything. Sometimes people are genuinely nice to me. Sometimes, an individual will harass me. Since the majority of people don’t say or do anything, how is it  then my fault that one (or even multiple) individual(s) said or did something inappropriate or threatening? Answer: It’s not. It is not my fault if someone else cannot control their behavior.

And this is what I’ve been thinking about lately. My space pants are not to blame. I am not to blame. Individuals are responsible for their own behavior, period full stop.

On Having a Psychological Disorder, Part 2; or, I Shouldn’t Have to Justify Being Sick

I’m going to be really honest,  you guys. Things suck right now. I am not in a good place. You know that old MCR song “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)”? That’s me in a song right now.

Everything hurts. I feel confined in my own skin. I’ve been getting overwhelmed really easily by things that shouldn’t be overwhelming. I picked up a few groceries today and I felt overwhelmed by the lady at the checkout counter asking me if I had a Kroger card. I felt suffocated. Everything was/is too close. Too loud. I can’t sleep. Eating makes me feel nauseated. Everything makes me want to cry. I hate crying. I was looking out the window earlier today and for the briefest moment considered sitting on the ledge, just to see how I would feel then. I hurt everywhere. Everything aches. It’s hard to breathe. I feel desolate and isolated and ignored and horribly insignificant and unextraordinary and I suppose that’s because I am.

I can’t decide how I feel. One second I’m irritated and angry at someone or another and the next I want everything to be okay and I don’t want them to be angry at me for having been angry at them. I don’t trust anyone. I feel really paranoid. I’ve been second-guessing and doubting everything anyone has said to me.

I’m scared. I’m really scared. And the couple people who I interact with on a regular basis are getting impatient and annoyed with me and I can tell and I want to tell them “Fine, I just won’t come to you anymore. I would hate to inconvenience you” but on the other hand I know I need help but I don’t know how to ask for it without being a burden. And I am tired of trying to justify the way I feel or what I’m going through to everyone else. I’m sick. That’s all there is to it. I have a disorder, an illness, and I shouldn’t have to justify it to anyone. If this were anything else- food poisoning, the flu, mono, MRSA, cancer- I wouldn’t have to saying anything other than, “I’m sick.” But with a mental illness, so much time and energy is spent trying to explain or defend the legitimacy of the illness. I shouldn’t have to do that. It makes me feel even worse, even smaller, even more worthless, useless, inconveniencing.

I need something I don’t have a name for. I don’t know.

Things aren’t going well right now. That’s really all I have to say.

On HJR-6; or I’m Ashamed of My State

I was born and raised in Indiana. I love my state. I love the humid August air, the cornfields teeming with lightning bugs in the summer, the smell of smoking leaves in autumn, and yes, sometimes I even love the silence that accompanies snowfall.

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(Indiana University in the winter)

I do not love what my state legislature is currently trying to do.

Indiana is trying to alter the constitution to define marriage as being between (1) man and (1) woman, effectively outlawing any gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender marriage.

I. Do. Not. Understand.

I’ve talked about this before, but it really just doesn’t make sense to me. How is it okay to deny someone the right to marry someone they love? Even if it is against your religious, moral, intellectual, hell even grammatical beliefs, why should that matter?? How would someone else’s gay marriage negatively impact your straight marriage? The only people who have a problem with gay marriage are straight people, despite the fact that most straight marriages end in divorce! If you’re going to oppose gay marriage because you don’t believe being gay is right or whatever, really the only argument that you have is that you think it’s wrong, that you don’t like it.
You know what else people used to think was wrong, that people used to dislike? Interracial marriage. That used to be illegal as well. Think about that for a second. Your opposition to gay marriage is the same thing. You shouldn’t have the right to take away someone else’s chance for happiness, marriage, and the legal benefits of that marriage.

Here’s another analogy I’ve used before: I’m a vegetarian. I disagree with eating meat- but you don’t see me trying to make eating meat illegal, just because I don’t like it. Somebody else eating a cheeseburger in no way impacts my life, just as my decision to eat a veggie burger doesn’t impact anyone else’s life, either.

If I ever choose to get married, it’s going to be because I’ve found someone I love, who supports, encourages, and loves me, and I can do the same for them. It shouldn’t matter what that person’s anatomical sex or gender identity is, just as it shouldn’t matter what race they are, what food preferences they have, if they’re a lefty or a righty, or how they identify in terms of sexuality.

It’s ridiculous that I even have to say this. Indiana, you have no right to oppress someone’s freedom of marriage. I want to be able to continue to love and take pride in my state, but if HJR-6 passes, I won’t be able to do that anymore.

Be better, Indiana. Be better.

***If you’re interested in speaking out against HJR-6, or for more information, you can click here.