To my conservative mother, anything above my knees was too short, so she was never very helpful. I spent my 20s staring into a mirror before a date trying on clothes looking for the perfect balance of sexy and slutty. I’d usually send a pic to a friend for confirmation.
“Yes, it’s slutty, but not BAD slutty.”
By 30, I figured out where my line was. A dress could be tight, but not short. A shirt could be low cut, as long as it had sleeves. I found my own version of “slutty, but not BAD slutty.” And I kind of loved that word. It made me feel Beyoncé strong.
I’m not the only one. Feminists have been waging an assault to take back the words since the 1980s. I thought we were winning the war. I really did.
Until last Wednesday. I put on my tightest dress, my brightest lipstick and heels and walked through Portland without fear. I got a few stares and fielded compliments from a mixed crowd. I felt amazing.
I kicked off my shoes and celebrated the small feminist win with a Jack and ginger beer. When I realized I didn’t have any more mixer, I threw on my yoga pants and puffy coat and headed back out to Rosemont Market for provisions.
As soon as I walked out my door, I heard it. “SLUT!” Immediately I pulled my coat around my shoulders, stared at the ground and shuffled off. My whole body drooped into a posture that hides my curves and makes me invisible. I know it well, because like most women, I’ve been practicing it all my life.
I thought that I knew the line, but I don’t. Clearly. Even now writing about it, I can feel myself fuming. My mind spins with all of the things I’d like to say to him, and I try to wrap my head around the impossible reasons a man would go out of his way to say that to a person in shlubby yoga pants. I wasted my entire night writing angry blog posts about the genesis of the word “slut” and how the line between sexy and slutty doesn’t exist.
And it’s that feeling that is so crippling. Not the fact that he made me feel diminutive and desexualized, or even that he used a word that I loved against me.
It’s the fact that he turned my mind away from my creative work, away from the business I’m trying to build and the friends I need to catch up with. He stole three hours of my life I will never get back. I can forgive a man for being ignorant and cruel, but not for wasting my time.