12 September 2009

What Are They Seeing?

More rain today. Still, I took two long walks. The first took me to Roosevelt Island, where there's a post office that's open until 3 pm on Saturday. I mailed a package to Abby, who underwent her operation a few days after mine and inspires me with her grace under circumstances far more difficult than mine. Mike, who usually works Saturdays at that post office, said that it was the first package to Montana he's seen in a long time. He also commented on the fact that he hadn't seen me in a long time. "I've been away," I said. After that, the post office manager called him away to perform some back-room task or another, so he couldn't ask me to elaborate.

Roosevelt Island also hosts a farmer's market every Saturday morning. I'd shopped in it almost every week for about three or four years leading up to my surgery. It's more expensive than the supermarkets in the area (though not the Gristede's on Roosevelt Island) or even the greengrocers, but their produce is so much fresher and therefore tastier. At this time of year, most of what's sold there is grown upstate, in Pennsylvania or in South Jersey: all within a radius of about three or four hours' drive from the city.

Plus, the people who work it--some of them are actual farmers, others are Mennonites who live in a mission in East Elmhurst, just up the runway from LaGuardia Airport--know me. And they all commented on my absence. "We missed you," said Brad, one of the farmers who, with his gaunt but kind face and beard, looks the part. "We thought maybe you'd moved away."

"No, I just kind of slipped out of town."

"I'm glad you're back. Are you still teaching at the college?"

"Yes. In fact, I went back last week."

"Good. I know you're a fine teacher."

You heard it here: Farmers have a way with the ladies! ;-)

The fact that they're so friendly and their fruits and vegetables are so tasty are ample reasons to shop there. But there's an even better reason: It reminds me of what I loved so much about the markets in France and Italy. Because the farmers at Roosevelt Island know me, they tip me off as to which fruits or vegetables are best that week. As a result, I bought some nice red plums and some very sweet (and beautiful!) concord grapes, among other things.

The difference between this market and its French and Italian counterparts is that at the ones on the other side of the ocean, you don't pick the fruits or vegetables yourself. Instead, you ask the merchant for the fruits or vegetables you want, and he (almost all of them are men) picks it for you. When I first encountered their way of doing things, I feared that I might get spoiled fruit. However, that never happened to me: The merchant picks something that's ready to eat that day, unless you ask him to pick otherwise. As Europeans have traditionally purchased fresh produce every day, the way these merchants do business makes sense.

Anyway, I had planned to buy only a couple of items, as I still can carry only so much. However, so much looked so good that I filled up my tote bag. I realized that while I probably could have done the walk--about a mile--with that full bag in hand, it probably wouldn't have been the best thing to do. So I stood at the foot of the bridge back to Queens, where I figured I could get a cab.

I saw one of those yellow cars making the turn toward the bridge entrance. I hailed it, but a black Lincoln Town Car with Taxi and Limousine Commission plates turned in front of it. Although I wasn't happy with the driver's move, I got into the Town Car, as it and the cab were blocking traffic behind them.

The driver's conversation and demeanor turned from pleasant to obsequious. Then, he asked "Where are you from?" and I asked the same from him. "Moan-ray-al"--the Quebecois French pronunciation of Montreal--was his reply. To which I responded, "Vraiement?"

Indeed, he hailed from that city. I don't know it well, but he spoke of it in enough detail to convince me. Then he started to ask about my personal life, including this: "Comment vivez-tu? Seul?" In other words, did I live alone?

He's the third male stranger in the past week to ask whether he could meet with me again, "au cafe." Now, I like what I see in the mirror, but I know I'm not beautiful or a sexpot. And, having been home for the past two months, my skin is rather pasty and what I wore today is what I threw on this morning, which is what I threw on yesterday. And I wore no makeup besides some lipstick. So, what was he seeing? What were those other men seeing?

As irrational as this seems, I started to wonder whether they know that I've just had my operation. I mean, I am happy, and maybe I am as radiant and glowing as people have said. But I haven't made any effort to be noticed: I actually want to wait before I get involved in a relationship. For one thing, I probably still need to heal a bit more before I can engage in sex safely. For another, I am still learning a lot of new things about myself, and I feel it's more important to focus on those developments than to give myself over to someone. And, well, I simply don't feel lonely. In fact, I now feel more integrated--which is also to say free of alienation--than I have ever felt in my life. I don't feel that I need to have a boyfriend (or girlfriend, for that matter) to feel connected to other people or in touch with my own body and spirit.

Finally, as confident as I feel, I still need nurturance right now. Most men who are looking for a sexual relationship are not going to give that. In fact, I had the feeling that the driver I saw today, as well as other men I've met, want their women to cater to them and at the same time make them feel as if they are in control. I simply don't have the resources--or, perhaps, simply the desire--to engage in a game like that.

I hope this doesn't sound like man-bashing. Eventually--possibly soon--the time will be right for me. That time just happens not to be now.

Could that be the reason why men are trying to get dates with me? After all, don't we want what we can't have?

For now, I'm happy to take walks, have lunches and barbecues with friends, read, write and learn about the person I'm becoming and the life on which I've embarked.


Gunnar Berg said...

I followed the thread from the VO blog and found you here. Good luck on your journey. Courage.

Justine Nicholas Valinotti said...

Thank you for the good wishes. As you can imagine, I'm spending a lot of time looking at the Velo Orange blog as well as other bike-related websites. I won't be able to ride for at least another month!

Feel free to steer others toward my blog!