Whose Body? is the name of a Lord Peter Wimsey mystery and therefore by definition one of my favorite books. Interestingly, our current jaunt in the USA has raised this question in a number of ways.
Before we get to the bodies, let me explain where we are in said jaunt. We flew from Madrid to New York on June 5-6. The flight was fine, especially since we were in business class on Norwegian. New York’s not my favorite city, even for an overnight stop; if I got to choose, I’d keep Broadway, the Strand Bookstore, a couple of museums and historic landmarks, and a bagel shop. The rest I’d treat as I used to threaten the kids: package it up and mail it to Australia without a return address. But I’m not sure either if UPS would cooperate or the Australians deserve the Yankees. So NYC is safe for the time being.
Suffice it to say that I was especially glad to reach Cleveland the next day. Mostly, of course, this was because we got to see our dear kids, Jane and JJ. We had scrumptious pizza with Jane the night we arrived. The next evening we were privileged to attend the graduation ceremony marking Jane’s completion of her residency. Trigger warning for parental bragging here: Jane received the most awards in her oby/gyn residency class and was praised to the skies by the doctors who’d worked with her. We sat with several of those doctors during dinner, and when they weren’t talking about Jane they pretty much were talking about women’s bodies. This makes sense, of course, at a table including several oby/gyns.
I’d say that much of the discussion was Greek to me, although one suspects it was in fact Latin. But I did understand the most of the discussion of access to contraception – more accurately, the lack thereof. We all know that I think information about and access to contraception is critical, so we won’t belabor (small pun) that issue. Instead, the discussion struck me as focused exclusively on women’s bodies, so I asked Jane later if contraceptives for men, other than condoms, were available. She told me that to her knowledge not much activity in that field was taking place; in fact, a 2016 study on a male hormonal contraceptive was dropped after participants complained of side effects including mood swings and acne. Insert eye roll here. Granted, a couple of the guys in the study had deep mood swings, but after 30+ fertile years I’d see your mood swings and raise you seven pimples. Duh. In all fairness, research is ongoing, but the vast majority of the burden will be laid on women’s bodies rather than men’s for the foreseeable future.
I’ve also been thinking about women’s bodies just by dint of the traveling process. A couple of years ago, I realized in an airport that while walking in concourses, I’d pull in my arms and shoulders to let men pass. The men involved seemed uninterested in or oblivious to the possibility that they might pull in for me. That galvanizing moment, I decided that I wasn’t tucking in for guys any more (exceptions are made for the infirm). Since then, I have had lots of bruised upper arms and dirty looks from guys who glare at me for not getting the memo that it was my duty to get smaller so that they could walk around being unimpededly big. In my head, I’m saying “No tuck, you f***,” which makes the bruised arms worth it. I don’t care about the glares.
So that’s armed combat. The other part of traveling involving women’s bodies is – wait for it – all the women in the audience say it together- MAN SPREADING. The following example took place at a ballpark, not on a plane, but you get the idea. Mark, JJ, and I went to an Indians/Yankees game. The Indians won, which made the evening extra lovely. But after we had taken our seats, a man and a woman sat down next to me. Apparently reliving his glory days at the plate, the guy immediately adopts a batting stance in his seat. His leg is therefore trying to take about half of my leg space. My leg guards second base and refuses to move. He gives me a dirty look, and I respond with my best blank face (think a Parisian when someone says “Howdy, ban joor, and ooh-la-la!”). He nudges his wife, and they actually move down a row! Mark and I share an eye roll at that strategic retreat and repeat the process when the rightful owners of those seats evicted the offended couple. They return to their original seats, but this time she sits next to me. Wow. Honestly, if your crown jewels require extra leg room, put your money where your penis is and buy a two seats in coach or one first class throne. The following example didn’t take place at an airport, but you get the idea.
So I’m very aware right now in our travels of women’s bodies, my body, and the ownership thereof. But lest you think I can’t stand to be touched, I’ll leave you with an encounter that took place on Tuesday. Mark and I were waiting for a tram to ride to a Twins game, and we were about the only folks on the platform. A guy with a blindingly yellow T-shirt and sunglasses lenses to match and, in that Minnesota party city, loads of Mardi Gras beads, yells at me (in a friendly voice), “Hey, Girl!” Trust me, that was an upper case G. He rambles over, high on life and perhaps a few other things, and chats at us. Riley – he introduced himself three times, so I’m clear on the name – told us about his mother, his recent release from prison, someone’s car wreck on the way to bingo, and the fact that he’s 49 years old. We nodded and murmured a lot. As our tram approached, Riley declared that we were angels and gave me a sweet kiss on the cheek before ambling off to find any other celestial beings who might be headed to see Martín Perez pitch. And I didn’t mind one bit, not even a little.