We are walking past the Ferry building, San Francisco. He tries to stop us, “Hello Ladies! I am only talking to stylish people today.”
We ignore him and she turns to me angrily. “What did he say?”
“I’m only talking to stylish people..”
A lady, wearing his same green shirt shouts out to us. “Was he bugging you ladies? I’m sorry! This will only take a minute of your time…”
Her face is still flared. “Maybe they should teach him not to hit on people he is trying to sell things to!”
“He’s not hitting on us. It’s a script.” I reply.
She is not buying it.
“He was hitting on us. It may be a script. But he only said that to us because we are young and pretty.”
Young and pretty. Young and pretty.
I look at her. Yes, yes, her. But when I catch my own reflection in the dark glass of buildings along the Embarcadero, it’s harder for me to agree with that statement. I wish I had not worn this silly pinstripe romper. I reflectively pull my stomach in, try to stand straight. The view is not much improved.
At her home, I change in the bathroom after my shower, stare at my bra in the mirror. It seems too small to me. It leaves little claw marks across me. But I’m okay with this view. And I wish I was all body love and positive, but its always so much easier when its other people’s bodies were are talking about. You go sister, rock that crop top. I’ll just cut up this tee shirt too short and not wear it outside of these doors. I walked out the bathroom towards her room and lay on her bed, my body warm, my legs tired.
She walks in with a towel on and checks her phone. She is in no rush to get dressed. And when she does, she sheds her towel lightly and fully. I have seen her body many times. We are best friends, there is no strangeness in our changing together. But still, I am in aware of how completely and without hesitation, she is willing to stand in her own skin, completely comfortable. I try to emulate her, in shifts, but I am still too uncomfortable to be fully unclothed for seconds in front of any person but my own.
Young. And Pretty.
Another night. It is not warm here. I traveled by train to get here and we are walking across the wet grass. Our cheeks are flushed, our voices are raised the sort of octave produced by freedom and heady giggles. She is wearing a short skirt, maroon. The sort of skirt you shouldn’t bend in and watch your twirls, darling, we might catch sight of your underwear (The cotton and little lace sort, she never wears thongs. This is a point we agree on.) Not that she would mind too much. She is not easily embarrassed.
The lights of the campus are warm. Our breath comes out in little clouds. We speak in the tones of our youth, feminist terms interspersed with the names of boys, literature, twinges of gossip. We compare our collected experiences and scribbled first semester notes. Names and people we do and don’t know bounce back and forth. I say “I mean, she’s just one of those people is pretty and knows it.”
She turns to me and speaks without missing a beat. “Well, I know I’m pretty. But I’m not obnoxious about it.”
I blink, I feel a kick inside me. Young and Pretty. Are we allowed to know we are pretty, much less claim it? Isn’t that against everything..what? I don’t know. I’ve never known. But isn’t one supposed to be in constant questioning about one’s body, one’s face? There should never be any answers, no real affirmation. That’s how they keep us tame.
I know I’m young and pretty.”
It reminds of another time. Another time turning to another friend, the sort of friend you walk down the street with and boys stare. But you know its never at you. “You know you’re gorgeous, right?” I ask. I expect her to rebut this, to be shocked by such an accusation. But she isn’t. She isn’t at all. “I mean, I’m not stupid. I know I have a decent face.” How can you know this? How can you state this with such utter confidence?
Young and Pretty.
Back in her room now, she stands in a pink bra, lace like icing. “Isn’t it cute.” she squeals, half on jest, but in pride, the sort of pride only young women share between each other in relation to underwear and little skirts and sun hats.
And it is. It is very, very cute. I look at her. Her body is soft and gentle. Her face is familiar, little freckles playing against the bride of her nose. Even from her, I recognize the scent of her hair, gently scented shampoo.
“Aren’t I pretty”
“Yes, yes you are.”
And if only I could learn to see myself, through the eyes you see yourself through.
If only I could learn to see myself through the eyes you see me through.
If only I could learn to see myself through the eyes I see you.
Young and Pretty. Young and Pretty.