an open letter to the dude on the subway

Dear dude on the subway three Thursday nights ago,

It was 10 o’clock on the night before Halloween, and the first night of Halloweekend.  Halloween is one of my favourite times of the year; you get to be whoever and whatever you want, be as sexy or silly or weird as you want, and nobody will say anything about it.

Or so I thought.

Myself and three friends had just spent hours getting ready to go out in Toronto, making sure our costumes and make-up and hair were perfect.  We were a mixed-up crew: Red Riding Hood, a cat (who I will henceforth refer to as “Kitty”), Hermione Granger, and myself.  I’d spent hours on my cape for my Harry Potter Hufflepuff costume, breaking two sewing machine needles and stabbing myself multiple times in the process, before turning it over to my 14-year-old sister, who constructed the thing in a matter of minutes (thanks, Hannah).  I’d handmade a wand out of a wooden dowel and hot glue and a wand-holder to go with it.  I’d meticulously done my make-up (in Hufflepuff black and yellow, of course), curled my hair and tied it up in a schoolgirl-esque ribbon, and put on my favourite lipstick.  Basically, I felt pretty awesome.

Feelin' cute.
Feelin’ cute.

There we were, sitting on the subway on the way to the bar, minding our own business.  You were across the way, a man with a broken leg, sitting by yourself.  Suddenly, you looked over at us, appraised us, and opened your mouth to speak, slurring your words slightly:

“All right, ladies.  Let me tell you.”

You pointed at Red Riding Hood.  “You’re the prettiest.”

You pointed at Kitty.  “You have the best costume.”

You turned your attention to us Harry Potter characters and considered a moment.  You pointed at me.  “Out of the two of you, you have the better costume, but you’re wearing too much make-up for your costume, and,” you said, pointing at Hermione, “you’re prettier.”

For a moment, we just sat there, wide-eyed and slack-jawed, shocked.  When I found my voice, I retorted angrily, “Excuse me, who the fuck do you think you are?”

Holding up a hand, you replied, “Oh, it’s okay, I’m gay.  I can say these things.”

Oh, hell no.

We all started shouting at you, furious.  We were attracting some stares now, but we didn’t care.  You, Sir Asshole, King of the Assholes, had to go down.  Honestly, I was seeing so much red at this point, that the entire incident is almost something of a blur; but, the general thesis of our reply was something like, “Go fuck yourself.”

You then asked us a ridiculous question.  “Are you bitches from London or Waterloo?”

Neither, we told you.  We live here.

“Yeah, for what, like the past two years?  Get the fuck out of Toronto.”

Even though we were lying and only one of us actually currently lives in Toronto, I seriously fail to see how our hometown holds any relevance whatsoever.  Do you mean to tell me that native Torontonian girls would have said, “Oh wow, thank you kind stranger for your input!  It is so very valuable and will inform all of our beauty decisions and help us to gauge our personal worth in the future!”  Somehow, I highly doubt it.

I had completely lost it on you at this point, shouting and swearing at you, telling you that you were a horrible person and continuing to impress upon you how much I wanted you to go fuck yourself.

“Excuse me,” you interjected, “I don’t remember asking for your opinion.”

OH.  I’M SORRY.  I TOTALLY FORGOT THAT WE ASKED FOR YOURS.

I decided I was done talking to you, and with one final “Go fuck yourself,” I got up and walked to the other end of the car, the others following soon after.  You, being a drunk piss baby, continued to huff and puff about how we should “get the fuck out of Toronto” and how I was a “dumb ugly bitch.”  Thankfully, we were getting off at the next stop, and without looking back, we strutted out the doors and on our way.

Look, dude.  There is so much wrong with that entire scenario that I could probably write a 500-page novel about it.  Instead, I will try to summarize into two main points.

Firstly, the fact that you felt that, for some reason, being gay meant that you had the right to unsolicitedly judge this group of girls you didn’t even know.

No.

I have a question for you: What the flying fuck makes you think that just because you are not potentially interested in having sex with us, you therefore have the right to say this shit?

Once, when I was in grade 9 or 10, a couple of (presumably straight) male upperclassmen decided to stand by one of the stairwell doors between periods, holding them open.  Every time a girl passed through, they would rate her on a scale of 1-10.  Thankfully, they were eventually stopped when a teacher passed by and reamed them out.  I’m sure you will agree that that was horribly objectifying and rude.

That is pretty much equivalent to what you did to us.  Are you telling me that had those dudes been gay, it would have been totally A-OK?  For some reason, it seems to be a common theme with gay guys that they think they have a right to women’s bodies that is not afforded to straight guys, because this “right” is not sexual in nature.  I don’t know if it’s because you feel that the system has been so unfair to you that you think the normal rules of polite society no longer apply, or what, but that is really not how it works.

You, a white gay dude, basically have every aspect of white male privilege afforded to you, except for one.  It is clear that you were still indoctrinated with the same misogynistic mindset as your straight brothers.  But, as a gay man, you can apparently pass off your disgustingly misogynistic views as being a Sassy Gay Man!  Everyone loves a Sassy Gay Man, after all.  And look, I understand; I’m sure you face homophobia in your life.  I’m not trying to diminish any hardships you may have experienced because of your sexuality.  But that does not mean that you get to inflict more hardships upon others.

Secondly, why the hell did you think that ranking us was an okay thing to do?  It’s like, purely by existing, we were entered into this “Who’s Hotter” contest, judged by you.  I’m about to get real personal here, so hold on tight.

Going out that night, next to all of my gorgeous friends, I felt like some kind of giant fat-faced troll (Asians in general are afflicted with round-faced-ness, you see).  I was already thinking to myself, I am the least good-looking out of these girls.  It’s something I always kind of feel, if I’m being honest.  I know I said up there that I felt awesome, and I did, but…less awesome than I thought the other girls looked.  And let me tell you, when you hear someone vocalize what you are already secretly thinking to yourself, it fucking hurts.  Even coming from some random drunk asshat.

Feelin' like a fat-faced troll who was also towering above everyone and therefore stood on a lower stair for this picture.
Feelin’ like a fat-faced troll who was also towering above everyone and therefore stood on a lower stair for this picture.

Now, I know it says right at the top of my page, “life gets messy, no need to cry about it,” but I have to confess: I cried.  As soon as we got to the club, I went to the bathroom and bawled my eyes out on Red Riding Hood’s shoulder.  You know how they say that a girl can get a million compliments and forget about them immediately, but one negative comment, and it sticks with her forever?  Yeah.  No matter what my friends said to console me, no matter how many times they told me how beautiful I was and how amazing I looked, I kept hearing your stupid, drunk, mindless comments.

It’s almost like there was a voice inside my head telling me, All the others were just lying because they didn’t want to hurt your feelings.  This guy is being objective.  This guy is telling the truth.  And you didn’t even start calling me “ugly” until I started swearing at you.  But, you compared me to my friends, and I came in last.  To me, that basically translated to, “You are the ugly friend.” A secret thought I have harboured for years.  Always the target of wingmen, always the second choice or the consolation prize, always tossed aside for a better and more attractive model.  And as much as I preach how important it is to see yourself outside the terms of how others view you, in practice, it is extremely fucking hard sometimes.  It’s three weeks later, and I’m still hearing your stupid drunk voice.  It’s not that I’m out to please men or find a dude, certainly not (I wrote a whole rant about that); it just sucks when you see all your friends getting drinks bought for them and flirting with cute guys while you stand by yourself.  I mean, it’s possible that cute guys don’t talk to me because I am horribly awkward and laugh at my own jokes way too much for anyone to consider interacting with me, but that’s besides the point.  Basically, your comments confirmed my insecurities.

Girls are already conditioned to compete with each other, to think of themselves in comparison to their peers.  And as Chimamanda Adichie puts it, “We raise girls to see each other as competitors, not for jobs or accomplishments … but for the attention of men.”  (You may recognize that quote from Beyonce’s song ***Flawless.)  For girls, the entire world is basically a “Who’s Hotter” contest.  Girls are continually told that the majority of their worth is determined by their attractiveness.  You didn’t even know us, and you felt the need to judge us based on our looks.  Thanks so much, dude, for affirming my complete and utter disgust for society.

I suppose one nice thing came out of your asshattery.  As I was crying in the bathroom, two girls I’d never met came and asked what was wrong.  They were incredibly sweet and we hung out with them intermittently throughout the night.  So, Layla from York and friend (whose name I am sorry to say I don’t remember), thank you for helping to pick my confidence up a bit after it had been stomped on.  Seriously though, nine times out of ten, girls in the bathroom at clubs are probably the nicest people you will ever meet.  Girls supporting other girls makes me so, so happy.  I’m so glad we can break away from how society has conditioned us to think, and think for ourselves.

Anyway, Drunk Dude, and anyone who may behave like you in the future, I urge you to think before you speak.  And being drunk isn’t an excuse.  What might just be some random, forgettable comment to you, might leave lingering scars on the targets of those comments.

And, let me tell you; you were drunk and alone on the subway at 10pm on a Thursday with a broken leg.  Clearly, something has gone wrong in your life. So, who’s the real dumb ugly bitch?

Sincerely,

Sam Kim, the (definitely not) dumb ugly bitch

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