I was walking home in the warm sunshine today, a bag of groceries in each hand, minding my own business. I walked past a young behatted, skinny-jeaned fellow loitering outside a store, who told me "Hey, I like your pel-ance." To support his point, he held his hands up as if clutching imaginary grocery bags, and shimmied his hips slightly side to side. He had an accent of unidentifiable origins, and I continued on with a vague smile, not having any idea what he had just said. "Is cute," he insisted. "Thanks," I said, wondering if that was the correct response, as I still wasn't completely sure he wasn't making fun of me. I continued on, puzzling over this. He likes my...plants? No, not plants. My...pants? That didn't quite make sense. I was wearing jeans, and while yeah, I suppose they're cute, they're certainly nothing special. He likes my...prance? And suddenly I knew I had hit on the answer. It would explain his suggestive imitation of my walk, grocery bags, hip swing and all.
Somewhat bemused and a bit perplexed, I thought back to an afternoon a few days ago, another sunshiney day like this one, when I was walking to Whole Foods to meet my friend Canaan. Minding my own business as usual, I was walking on the sidewalk when a shiny black pickup truck full of assholes slowed down going the opposite direction. They loudly hurled liscivious suggestions at me, as I made use of my dark sunglasses and studiously ignored them. They took advantage of a red light to continue to spout their most explicit and far-fetched desires, the kind of male chauvinst verbage which would have made any mother within earshot clap her hands tightly against her offspring's head in horror. They speculated as to my preferred sexual position, settling on one and insisting, loudly, that I liked it, didn't I? As proof, the driver, as the chosen emissary of the group, probably due to his location closest to the window, shouted, "You like it! I can tell by the way you walk!" Having had just about enough at this point, I turned my head and faced him, and uttered a choice phrase of my own. And while I said it just a shade softer than normal conversational volume, the succinctness and ubiquitous nature of this particular expression renders it highly lip readable, even across two lanes of traffic. Which unfortunately just seemed to encourage him, as they all appeared utterly delighted by my recent attentions, however negatively intentioned. At that point, however, the light turned green, and they were gone, presumably continuing their roving construction worker routine. I breathed a sigh of relief and spotted Canaan walking towards me about half a block away. "Hey!" she greeted me. "These guys just-"
"I know!" I said. "Me too!"
And so we were able to work through our mutual trauma together, before settling in for an evening of pasta, Boggle, and Thursday night t.v. But still though, the asshole's knowing glance and his confident statement, "I can tell by the way you walk," stuck in my head. How do I walk? And how does that say anything about what I like in bed? And honestly, I myself didn't even know if I did or didn't like what he said, as it's been so long at this point that I can quite confidently say I can't remember. But my walk...what was it about my walk?
And then I thought back several years to 2001 and the semester I spent abroad in France. Our study abroad group was made up of thirteen students, all girls. Eight of us were good friends and hung out together regularly, and in the four intensive months we spent together there, we formed a closeness that would normally take at least a year to cultivate in the "real world." One of our favorite things to do was to analyze each other's quirks, pointing them out and pinning them up for the general amusement of all. The New Englanders, for example, delighted in mocking my mid-Atlantic "accent," provoking me by saying, "Hey Rachel, say boots! say...room!" and breaking out into guffaws, confident in their own accent superiority. As I was the lone Marylander in a sea of four New Englanders and three Southerners, I was forced to submit to their good-natured ribbing due to lack of anyone else to back me up. I was unaware that I would later move to the heart of New England, where I am happy to say that in five years, no one has yet made fun of my accent. In any case, accents as a source of entertainment, while unfortunately never losing their appeal for some, were at some point replaced with a detailed analysis of each person's particular walk. Anne Marie, we decided, walked with purpose. Leading with her forehead, arms pumping at her sides, wherever she went she was a woman on a mission. "What about me?" I asked. Ann, perhaps the most perceptive and sensitive member of our group, and thus designated analyzer of walks, studied me thoughtfully. "Hmm," she said, with her finger pressed against her mouth. "You walk...You walk like walking's fun."
And so I continued my walk home today, smiling a little, thinking, you know what? It is fun. And while I may occasionally freeze up on a dance floor, for the moment I am quite satisified with my new self-appointed title: Queen of Prance.