“Men are very few indeed; half-men few, and I’d be content if humanity finished with them… But no, it sinks even lower, to the pigmies who’re like children trying to be grown-ups, monkeys going through the motions of their elders… Then down even lower we go, to the arse-crawlers who’re legion… And, finally, to the quackers; they ought to just exist, like ducks in a pond: their lives have no more point or meaning.
Leonardo Sciascia, The day of the owl”
I don’t know what to wear today. Skirt no, I’m taking the bus and I’ll have to walk by that café. Every single morning they scan me top to bottom. They stink of alcohol with their swollen and red faces. I can see them from far, they check every girl passing by: blonds, short, ginger, brunettes, skinny, tall, fat, young and old. They screen each single woman. Some are old enough to be my grandfather. Yet when you pass by their necks automatically turn around together with their heads, their spiteful little eyes, their sneers of appreciation, an eyebrow up and their disgusting breath.
Mario De Biasi, “Italians turn around”, 1954
So, no skirt. I could wear trousers but it wouldn’t change much, it’s just a psychological thing because as soon as you walk by they turn around and look at your arse anyway. As if I were the only person with an arse in the world. As if your arse were the only arse they ever saw in their lives, as if I were an animal kept in a cage in a zoo for their amusement. As if I were a dummy in a window. An object rather than the body of a person. A quarter of beef rather than a human being.
I get off the bus and while crossing the street I can hear a car whizzing by behind me and someone shouting Nice pussy!!!!!
Followed by a long and meaningful honk.
I instinctively give him the finger. The driver sees it and slams on the brakes. He puts his car into reverse, drives back, almost hits a scooter, pulls to the side, gets off the car and starts chasing me shouting that nobody gives him the finger, that how did I dare and that he will kick my arse, fucking bitch. His face is red and he is about to get me when I manage to enter a bank where a security guard comes to my rescue. He threatens to call the police and the crazy guy leaves. I’m in shock, my arms and legs shake. The guard takes me to the bar and offers me some breakfast. He is kind and asks if I knew that guy, what did I do (me?) to trigger that reaction.
Eh, don’t take it like that, you never know who you are dealing with, it’s not like he hurt you, it was just a compliment.
That’s it! I insist and pay for both and leave while he implies that I’m being ungrateful.
Not a good start of the day.
Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m too nervous. Maybe I overreacted. Maybe I should have let it go. I should have ignored him.
I call the lift and get distracted playing with my phone. After a bit, a man arrives and points out that the lift has not been called.
Ops. It happens. I joke.
Eh, yes, we all know it: you women live in your own world. You are distracted. You can’t multitask.
I start thinking that I am on a candid camera. I look around, where are the cameras?
I enter the office, at last. I start working. News of the day: today the boss’ wife and HR director (and?) comes for an inspection.
Fancy going for a coffee? Yes, but I’d rather eat fruit. I had far too many coffees today. I’ll wash a peach and join you.
Lunch time, a colleague opens her lunch box and its smell fills the air.
Another colleague notices the smell of potatoes.
How is it possible that women have to watch whatever they say? The situation really gets on my nerves.
Ehhhhhh, but if you say it after going to the toilet… (one of them says)
And maybe your hands are still wet (says another one laughing)
I look at them, from far, and I see them for what they really are.
They’re small and pathetic, brought up by parents and teachers who were unable to control their smallness, their animal instincts and their ignorance. While they snigger and laugh looking even more pathetic, we have to be the grown-ups. We have to understand them, we don’t have to bug them nor argue because it’s just a joke.
It’s a joke. A joke about our arses and boobs, about our vaginas. Still, it’s just a joke. It’s not like they are raping us, it’s not like they are hitting us. No, they joke and the joke is on our skin. Them with their saggy balls, their sceptre, their small willies with which they measure everything, even people’s dignity.
I hope all these pigmies have daughters who’ll teach them to respect their bodies without which they would be a mere tadpole; a stupid and useless seed with no soil.
By Cristina Monasteri
(The facts and events described here are fictional. Some are.)
Translator Francesca Colantuoni