One night last week, after a formal work event in downtown, I went out with some coworkers. Since I hardly go out, I took my time contemplating my clothes, but the one unquestionable thing as part of my ensemble for a night out are my glasses. I don’t have contacts, because I love my glasses. They aren’t hipsterish glasses, these are my basic, brown-framed, I-wear-them-all-the-time-glasses. While I do take them off at times (yoga, shower, swimming, etc.), I really shouldn’t, as my prescription is for every-freaking-second usage, but since I can see pretty well with them off (before the headache kicks in), I do.
So I went out, wearing a dress that had been gifted to me, but I had never had the chance to wear, and I was feeling good. Little did I know that I was about to be served a big plate of mansplaining. My coworkers and I, along with one of my coworker’s date, chatted, laughed, drank, and danced the night away. I was in high spirits, but because I was dancing so exuberantly, I decided to take my glasses off, just in case they swung off my face and resulted in accidentally knocking someone out.
After sweating my booty off, I took a seat at a table by myself and replaced my glasses on my face. While sipping my water, my co-worker’s date approached me, a man whom I had joked a little with, talked to a bit more, and drank with, all with my coworkers, and whom I had known for at most four hours (and therefore a newly formed acquaintance). Without any preamble, he asked me if I ever wore contacts, and when I responded in the negative, he went ahead and pulled my glasses off of me, saying that I should consider contacts, as I am really very pretty without them.
His mansplaining spiel didn’t end there. He obligingly went on, where he clasped my face in between his palms, noting that my brown hair, and brown eyes are truly adorable, and how much better I look with no glasses. Being an expert in everything men, he condescendingly went on to tell me that my husband (whom he had never met) would really like it, and I should try it out, just to spice things up. Since I can only assume he was on a roll, he veered off the glasses inquiry, and went into the realms of inappropriate sexual topics, by asking me if I was normally the dominant one during sex (remember, I had only known this guy for a few hours), and he then went on to suggest a few ways that I could be less dominant, as it is a turn on to try different things.
Now, I would love to say that I took his hands off my face, and firmly told him that I love my glasses, which is exactly why I wear them. I wish I could tell you that I gave him a reminder that the way I look, with glasses or without glasses, with brown hair or purple hair, tattoo sleeves or not a trace of ink at all, is up to me. Not my husband, and certainly not him. I wish I could tell you that I told him his sexual comments were unbelievably inappropriate and unasked for, presumptive, and out of line.
But sadly, I can’t tell you that is what I did. Maybe it was because I was intoxicated, maybe it was because I found myself in an unusual circumstance, but all I can say is that I gently leaned my head away from his hands, and told him I that I don’t like things, like contacts, being near my eyes (which is true) and that I like my glasses, probably because I have had them since I was six. I didn’t even address his sexual “advice,” maybe because I was a bit stunned. Looking back on it, I wish I had been significantly more assertive, and had thought of a better response to what he apparently felt was okay to say to me.
In fact, as much as it nauseates me to think about it, and however much I really wish it weren’t true, for a little bit longer than a split second, immediately following the “you’re really very pretty without glasses,” a thought blazed through my mind, a thought which has since illuminated the fact that lifelong confident, feminist me, has been shaped by the Patriarchy more than I previously believed. I thought, Wow, I’m very pretty. Maybe I should try getting contacts again. I thought this regardless of my own very positive self-body image thoughts and behaviors, of my own self-assuredness not only physically, but emotionally and mentally, and despite that this man was nearly a stranger.
Just about as soon as I was done thinking that, the next thought to go through my head was, What the fuck? in response both to the man whose hands wore on my cheeks, and to the original thought in question.
How did he have the audacious idea that touching my face, removing my glasses, and telling me to get contacts was in anyway OK? Or how did he assume the authority of telling me that my husband would definitely like it, a man whom not only he had never met, but whom I only mentioned in the context of having a husband? And why did he think that discussing my sexuality—which I am totally open to discussing with people of all types, in a trusting environment—the way he did, was acceptable? Based off of his patronizing tone (but I sincerely believe he didn’t think he was being patronizing—which makes it worse), and his self-assured authority, I can only assume that he felt OK talking to me the way he did because he was a man. As such, he believes he possesses the authority and wisdom that only a man can possess, simply because they are men. I won’t go into how dangerous (and wrong) this thought process is, but mansplaining is an epidemic that needs to stop.