If you knew what goes on in my head you would need a shower to wash it off and a padded room to calm down in. Sometimes I surprise myself with the shear amount of terror I still have coursing through my veins.
A person I don’t know askes me where I got my “Hollywood teeth”, and my spine prickles with anxiety. Bullshit. My teeth look just like the next persons, so take what you’re offering elsewhere.
Then I second guess that initial response. Telling myself it’s all in my head. Jenn, he’s just being kind. Shake that shit off your aura and buck up.
Expect at the same time there are four other men staring at me, all of which are not usually in the same room at the same time as me for starters. Plus, I am usually not alone. But today I feel alone. And today my skin is crawling and all I want to do is get up and leave.
That’s not true.
I don’t want to leave. I want the fear to go away. I want to believe that I’m okay. That no matter what comes, I’m fine. I am safe. Nothing is going to happen. No one wants anything from me that I am obligated to give them.
Instead, someone I don’t know touches my back with their whole hand to get my attention and asks me if I’m going to bring my “perfect teeth into the other room” with them. I want to scream.
That feeling of fight or flight kicks in, but instead of either of those choices, I hide. I smile, laugh, and hide quietly. Typing this, my lips are pursed, my body is rigid. My fingers are so loud on the keyboard.
The thing is, I think these are dominoes. Each little stare, or touch, or inappropriate comment throughout the day or week adds up. And on a day when my load is already quite unusually heavy, the last thing I have time, effort or energy for is teaching folks to keep their hands to themselves.
Even as I read through this I hear the anger in it, I can assure you that it is pure fear. Fear of what? I don’t know yet exactly. But that fear runs through to my core.