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Many of you have probably seen the BBC News article floating around this week about a restaurant in New York (Nello is the name if you’re curious) that told a woman she couldn’t sit at the bar alone as the owner was wanting to, and I quote, “crackdown on hookers.”
How considerate. *eye roll*
But it brought attention to the much bigger picture of the stigmas placed around a woman who, by choice, wants to do something alone.
Whether that be traveling, eating, or simply existing — why does society still feel like women are these feeble and incapable creatures, waiting on a man to save us?
The male savior complex in the hetero world is sickening, and it feeds into the narrative that women who navigate this world alone, are incomplete.
As I spoke on the phone with the BBC reporter, I shared a handful of stories from the past three years of times I was singled out in a restaurant or public setting, with the assumption that I was soliciting my services to men or waiting on a customer for the night.
The first time I was asked how much I charged was in Spain. First Barcelona, and then Sevilla. And it crippled me for weeks. It made me cover up even more — though I already dressed on the conservative side.
It made me reconsider my walking routes, making sure I was in bigger and public settings where other tourists frequent.
It made me question whether I was acting or dressing in a way a sex worker did.
Side note: I also want to say that while prostitution is considered “the oldest job in the world” and is a form of work some people have chosen, I have to also check my privilege in the fact that all I’m fighting is an assumption. There are some women trapped in this profession who either have no other option, have been sex trafficked from their native land, or are being controlled by a pimp, who likely holds their passports hostage too.
I mentioned in the BBC article that Rome was my worst experience because of the number of times it happened, and how I felt like nothing more than a sex object to locals, even in broad daylight.We know there are a thriving number of men who see women as nothing more than a vagina on legs, to be frank. Click To Tweet
But just in waiting on the night bus in Rome, as my accommodation wasn’t accessible by the metro, there would be car after car slowing down, some waving 20 euros at me, making kissing sounds, and motioning me to get in their car.
I didn’t understand how the bus sign I was clearly standing under, couldn’t protect me as an everyday tourist/person just trying to get home.
It wasn’t until I finally boarded the bus, that we drove a few minutes down the road, and I started to see an African woman every few hundred feet, claiming a spot with a couple cars pulled over.
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Another time in Prague, I was walking on a sidewalk, and a man and woman were walking my direction. I don’t force eye contact with people, but it was my first day there, so I smiled and did little nods of greeting to those who crossed my path.
And that’s when I saw her grab her husband/boyfriend’s head with both hands on his cheeks and force his face to look another direction.
As if my mere existence would’ve caused immediate ejaculation — it was pathetic. As we got in arm’s distance of each other, she eyed me up and down like filth.
I was again, reminded that me being solo, and specifically of African descent (Nigerian parents), caused immediate assumptions and judgments about what I was doing in the Czech Republic and/or how I could afford to be there.
Not more than a few hours later, a couple of truck drivers slowed down their car, undressed me with their eyes, and asked if I wanted to get inside. My answer resembled the following:
He tried to woo me with the line that I would “never have to work again” preying on my weak mind and desire to be saved from this “big, baaaad, sceh-wee, wullld!”
And this leads to my plea — to all women. At least once a month, please get dressed up and take yourself out to eat.
The amount of times waiters have to stutter as they repeat, “TABLE FOR ONE???” in confusion when I walk into an establishment filled with couples,
Tinder dates doomed for failure, and oversprayed cologne? Way too many to count.
But they better confirm once more just to be sure! “SO JUST ONE?” And I usually respond with my fake concern:
“OH! IS THAT A PROBLEM?”
“I HOPE THAT’S OKAY WITH YOU!”
“YES, PLEASE. ONLY IF IT’S NOT A CRIME!”
Because it’s not so much the idea that a woman can be beautiful, intelligent, and confident in her skin, it’s the stigma we place around that — assuming she’s in constant pursuit of a man to help fund it.
Believe me when I say there is nothing more empowering than taking yourself out to eat and spending those moments surrounded by your own fulfilling company.
The other day I ordered a bottle of champagne — no reason, nothing to celebrate, I just wanted it. The bartender asked how many glasses to bring. I told him, “JUST ONE, PLEASE.”
He cocked his neck back in surprise, and carried on. Again, confused by the idea that I dare spoil myself in the way I choose.
Why work so hard if we don’t take time to enjoy and reward ourselves along the way?
I eat alone 90% of the time while traveling, again, BY CHOICE, because I value my alone time, I cherish my own company, and I know that each time I do, I stir the sh*t out of these archaic gender norms and assumptions of my solo existence.
Fill that restaurant with 10 bad@$% women all dining solo and start to normalize the fact that we, too, can exist confidently and independently — by choice.