We Should All Be Queen

As an introverted full-time freelance writer, you can probably garner a pretty accurate idea about how often I get out of my sweat pants and out into public space. (Hint: it’s almost never.) It’s not that I don’t want to get out into the world and interact with all kinds of interesting and beautiful people — it’s just that… well, yeah. I don’t want to. To be honest, weeding through all the lechers, the feral teenagers and the openly racist Trump supporters just sounds like so much work. I don’t particularly love the concept.

Recently, though, I was forced out of my burrow when I spent a week in Atlantic Canada before I had to make my way back to the American Midwest, thereby forcing me to navigate three different airports over 10 hours of travel. I purchased the cursory $84 airport banana, ate tiny packets of peanuts and weaved my way through throngs of people – entitled, distracted, oblivious.  Just before I boarded one of my flights, I was called up to the check-in gate so an agent could check my passport. I happily obliged, and gasped with delight when I realized this particular agent’s nametag said Queen on it. She was tall, she was beyond beautiful, and she emanated confidence. “Is your name actually Queen??” As it happened, it really was. I fawned.

We talked for a couple minutes before I was free to go, so I meandered over to a row of empty seats with my giant parka and my wheeled suitcase, dreamily repeating this regal woman’s magnificent name in my head.

I wasn’t sitting down, but all the same, I couldn’t help but feel perplexed when Generic Male came up from behind me, sideswiped me, and plunked his suitcase and giant backpack on the chair I was standing not six inches away from.

Um, am I visible, I thought? Hi there, my good man. Look; I know I’m in my mid-30s and my unwashed grey hair is in an unkempt top knot and I have a zit on my chin that’s roughly the size of an actual pea and it’s all scabby because I made that rookie mistake of picking at it; and I know I’ve got blotchy skin and crow’s feet; and I’m well aware that I’m not 5’10” and that my jeans are kind of bunched up under my saggy bum; and I know that I’m sweaty from lugging all my stuff through the airport at light speed in order to make it through security and customs before catching my connection, but, you know, I’m here. And I’m also alive..? And worthy..?

But no matter, I decided. I rolled my eyes, said nothing whatsoever because I’m non-confrontational and wont to be that way, and spitefully moved a perfunctory five feet away so that I no longer had to host this guy inside my tiny quadrant of space.

I eventually boarded my flight, and I realized the very thing I had so hoped would not be so: that I would spend the flight seated next to Generic Male v2.0. He was a big, muscular white guy in his early 40s, sporting a baseball cap, a tight-fitting Lycra shirt and faded jeans. Tucked into the seat back in front of him was a drink that had the words CORE POWER blasted all over it, and he was smirking at his phone while he texted a handful of different people in his contacts. And before we even took off, I made a colossal error: I laughed accidentally when he made a completely off-taste sex joke.

Let me repeat that: the guy made a sex joke. Then he laughed about it, made eye contact with me, and I laughed. (WHY did I laugh?? Because I hadn’t registered the joke until this exchange had passed; I looked over and saw a guy chuckling and looking at me, so I instinctively laughed alongside him. It wasn’t my finest autopilot moment.)

So something about that exchange must’ve made the guy feel comfortable — not as though he didn’t already — because he spent the duration of the flight taking up all of the room we shared. He usurped the armrest, pounded his CORE POWER drink, inhaled a burrito he’d brought onboard, and manspreaded his legs so far open that I had to effectively let my body spill out into the aisle just so that we weren’t touching.

There aren’t enough words in the dictionary to adequately describe my feelings toward this person. I loathed this guy. I’d been up since 5 a.m., and he was the second person in the span of half an hour to make me feel as though I essentially didn’t exist, save for being an excellent audience for his vulgar joke. (Whoops.)

There are days and weeks at a time when I can’t find my proverbial ass-kicking panties; and that day, on that plane, I didn’t have mine on. I couldn’t find it in myself to assert myself, to ram this guy’s limbs back onto his own side of our shared space, or to even give him any hint of body language that affirmed my personhood. And I’m Canadian, for the record — so I’m unapologetically apologetic — and I’m female, so I don’t always walk around with that you-can’t-hurt-me strut, because sometimes it looks more like a you-can-absolutely-hurt-me-but-please-I’m-begging-you-don’t march.

I spend so much of my day, of my thought process, and of my writing preaching the message that we women need to feel as empowered, as beautiful and as capable as we inherently are. But loving and revering ourselves does not in itself mean we’re necessarily positive or affirmed daily. It’s a battle, and we aren’t always winning. There are great swaths of time when we’ve got our metaphorical pencil skirts and stiletto heels on, and there are expanses of time in which we’re meandering around in flannel pajamas, heaving great sighs of despair while we search fruitlessly for some form of meaning or purpose upon this planet.

Being female is hard work; it can be fun as hell; it can be empowering, emotional and beautiful, and it can be downright terrifying, exhausting and defeating. It’s often all of these things at the same time.

But I met a woman named Queen that morning. She had no profound effect on my day, and played no great role in my story, except for this small bit of irony: she was Queen. Her name was such, and she was simply so. And she sparked a knowing within me — a basic concept of particular importance, as I navigated my morning of bullshit: she reminded me that I am also Queen — that we are Queen. We are Queen when we’re feeling valued and empowered, and we are Queen when we’re not.

So I will take my charge and conjure up my inner Queen as I am able; and even when I cannot find Her within me, I will remember that I am not nothing; that I am worthy of an arm rest and at least four inches of personal space, and that that’s not asking for too much. My personhood shouldn’t have to be fought for, but every now and again it is; and so fight I will, because it’s required of me — and of you, too, you Queen. So let’s stand up, reaffix our jeweled crowns to our heads and kick just as much or as little ass as we feel we can, shall we? We’ve got this.