At first, there is silence. Several performers stand like statues on the stage, waiting for the first beat of music to signal the start of their dance. As their breath quickens from nerves, they might be tempted to look out into the crowd, where their friends would normally be cheering them on. However, this year is different — there is no cheering crowd.
Women are consistently looked at when it comes to sex and love. If we say something about love, it is analyzed under a microscope. If we don’t, we are asked what’s on the horizon for our love life and why we don’t have a romantic partner. If we show our bodies or dress provocatively, we are shunned. For a woman, it’ll always be about sex and love, and I’m sick of it.
A click of the remote brought the booming voices of reporters from the television right to my living room. Slowly, members of my family made their way to the television too — a flash of stone cold reality we were usually able to escape from in our isolated Indiana home. Wide-eyed and almost mesmerized by what was happening, we stood in awe as Americans congregated and broke into the United States Capitol building with weapons, waved flags, intimidated police officers, sat in representatives’ seats and treated the sacred building as if it were their territory to destroy.
As I am writing this, it is my birthday — Oct. 26 — my favorite day of the entire year. When the calendar hits October, I look at this day in anticipation. Every year, everyone I know gives me their best wishes, I put on my best outfit and strut myself all the way to a high-quality fast food restaurant because I deserve it. I allow myself to have a little too much ice cream, sleep in later than necessary and not do a single thing on my to-do list all day.
I’m standing at the podium. The bright light shining down on my face to illuminate the stage feels comparable to a criminal interrogation. I can’t see the town hall members, but I can feel their eyes judging me. They sit in their seats, waiting impatiently for the opportunity to blaze me with their concerns, fears and judgements about who I am and the life ahead of me. I am vulnerable — like the feeling in your gut when you answer a question wrong in class or when a person in your friend group gives you that look of judgment after you say something personal. I am standing up at that podium like I am naked, have forgotten to shave all of my body hair and am the only one without clothes on. That kind of vulnerability.
As an undecided student, heading face first into my first year of college, I have realized one thing: I care about what people around me think. That goes for the adults who’ve encouraged me, the peers who’ve gotten to know me, the strangers who may eventually know me and everyone in between.