I don’t know if it’s part of the depression or just how I am (is depression an inextricable part of me?) but I have a hard time getting out into the world sometimes. Cumulative fear of people, risk, judgement, making mistakes. But I managed to get out into the world today and it was sweet.
Part of my discomfort is because my clothes aren’t right for this part of the world. I look too informal and too sexualized. Women cover up pretty well here, long skirts, pants, little to no cleavage. I come walking down the street and peoples faces freeze a little. They are not prepared for the boobage that is me. I had to fight this out in my head. My first reaction was screw them, I can dress how I want. Defiance. This was my mindset for a long time growing up as well. Then I swung away from that, I was feeling strange and miserable, and I wanted to camouflage. I considered buying skinny jeans and a blousey thing. But, but I don’t look good in skinny jeans. Or blousey things. So I decided that it wasn’t just unreasonable and childish for me to not want to wear those things. And then I started thinking about hijab and how I think about my body. I do dress for men on the street. I wish that I didn’t feel like I need that validation, but if I go through my day and no one admires me, I’m disappointed. Is hijab to protect men from lusting after women (which is bullshit. we all know it’s bullshit) or to protect women from relying on shallow praise from strangers?
I fought back against the skinny jean blend-with-the-herd desire and now I am the proud owner of BELLBOTTOMS, purchased with many fumbling hand gestures and timid smiles and talking to no less than five people, two of whom spoke English. There was an old lady in the thrift store, straight out of central casting. Headscarf, housecoat to her ankles, face like a nice prune. She was trying to buy a nightgown, I think one that gave her arms lots of room. She talked very rapidly to me, general commentary on the process. I’m pretty sure she realized I didn’t speak Lithuanian, but that didn’t seem to matter. The shopgirl and I helped her off with her housecoat (she was wearing a sunflower dress under it) and pulled the nightgown over her head. She was dissatisfied. She said something, and then she poked me in both breasts, in a friendly yet businesslike way, and then I left in a state of mild shock.
Cut to one block later. I smiled at a passerby, an older man, and said Labas. Labas is hi. He labased me back. I carried on and was waiting for the light to change and he sidled up next to me, saying, “You know enneh monnomins?”
“Monnomins, you know enneh monnomins here?”
“I’m sorry, I can’t-”
“OH, monuments! Ah, no, sorry, I just got here.”
“You wan dringaber?”
“I’m sorry, I don’t understand.”
“Aber, you want dringaber?”
“YAIS, you wan dringaber?”
“I don’t drink, sorry.” (massive lightning strike type lie)
I walked on.
Things change so quickly here. In other cities, neighbourhoods shift from block to block, but here it’s all mixed together. Beautiful fancy hotels covered in graffiti, upwardly mobile parents leading their pink children down plywood, jerry-rigged stairways, stray cats lounging in fields next to supermarkets. I turned down a street and suddenly I was in a bad neighbourhood. For two blocks. It looked Soviet, poor, grim. That’s where I saw the beautiful prostitute, with legs like icicles in spike heels and a long jaw. I smiled at her and I think she did not expect that, because it took her a long time to smile back. When she did, it was very kind. A block down from her, a man stood under a grey archway staring down the street like sailors stare at the sea, with a tiny golden brown terrier tucked thoughtlessly under his left arm.
Then I was out, back into Old Town, which has tourist money and primary colours and where the sun shines more brightly. It really does. Odd.