Tuesday, July 24, 2018

on the subway / being seen

What do strangers see when they glance at me--you know, that first unthinking, social antennae assessment. I don't mean my FB profile pic of rhubarb which has finally stopped the friend requests from widowed US military personnel who obviously don't like rhubarb. And ha! if they thought my face suggested I would make a good step-mom for their adolescent kids, boy, are they wrong.

No, I mean when I get on the subway and someone offers me their seat. I appreciate that people do it, not because I need to sit at this point in time--there were times when I did--but because it's a healthy indicator of civic attitude when people are aware that someone might need a seat. I smile and sit so the person doesn't feel their gesture has been snubbed. I don't want them to stop. 

But what do they see in a swift glance that makes them offer me a seat? I walk a lot so my legs are good. I've usually got a knapsack because I do errands when I'm out walking. I'm not completely grey yet, not that hair is an indicator of anything. I know people whose hair turned grey/white in their late 20s. What about me looks frail, infirm, fragile?

Up until my mid-40s people who didn't know me as Alice addressed me as Mademoiselle, ie here in Montreal. I didn't object but I thought it was silly. Did people think they were flattering me by pretending I was younger than I was? 

Until people started calling me Madame. Here, there, and finally everywhere. I was now a mature woman.

Made sense to me but I did sorta wonder what the indicators were. Do people have instant x-ray vision for crinkly corners at the eyes and encroaching turkey skin? (Is that why so many women drape scarves around their necks as soon as they turn 30? They'll take them off damn fast once menopause hits.)

And now strangers have once again reached a consensus: when I get on the subway, I should be offered a seat.


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