Refrain from Smooshing Me Please

jeanineJeanine Gleaves, 24Long Island, NY

I had a revelation of sorts during today’s commute from hell (its always a commute from hell, the LIRR isn’t known for it’s customer satisfaction), and its not a conspiracy, it’s just a fact.

I’m always. being. smooshed. or squished, squashed, mooshed, mangled, rearranged on a physical level, however you want to imagine or define it. And you might say, “Yeah, okay Jeanine, thats commuting, deal with it and get on with your life and move already!”, I would of course kindly agree with you, but then reply quite loudly “yes, this is singularly true, but I have noticed both personally and through observation that women are being squished I would say about 70% more than men”. Woah nelly, 70%, thats not 90% so no biggie right? WRONG! (I’m just caps-ing this because I like to get in your face a little) I take this damned train 2 times a day for a total of 3+ hours of my godforsaken workday. I pay about $285 a MONTH, and by the end of it the experience makes me overall miserable while I’m conscious for it (What? I like to sleep….A LOT)

NOW TOP THAT, with the fact that this man with his widely spread legs and iPad has just readjusted me into what I like to consider the “I Have No Arms and Polite Legs” pose (elbows in stomach, shoulders rolled into your neck, legs tightly together by the force of said man. If you chance to get a window seat, body firmly squashed into said window like a dog who forgot there was a glass door. If you chance to get an aisle seat, legs forced into aisle, and stomach squished by painful plastic armrest) while he leaves his arms comfortably over the topmost of my shoulder, and scrolls through ….now, being squished isn't something that solely men do to me, of course, but I will explain further in annoyed detail to display why this is a common problem dealing with how women as solely physical creatures are viewed.

There is a strategy to finding and obtaining a seat on any public transit, but on the LIRR its a game of Chess. You must position yourself on the platform to be in a place just in front of where the train doors will be, you must be there early, you must be aggressive, you must be at a stop that is not more than 2 stops from a major hub, you must decide before boarding the train which direction (left or right) looks like there will be an available seat, and you must be swift to that seat, like muscle memory otherwise you will lose that seat. So once you obtain your prize, you must own it, since there is no chance of getting another option that entire ride.

Now if it’s a train that already has passengers, or if you were slightly late to the game, you must go through the competitive part of the game. Your queen has already been taken, what’s your next move? Well look for an available seat, with enough space to sit.

Of course, women time and again are deemed less of a threat (the ever written about motherhood perception), friendlier, and of course smaller. What people don’t realize or separate out is that A. woman can be secretly hiding a baseball bat in that huge bag that you think there might be a dog in. B. woman too can not want you near them. And C. While we may LOOK smaller because our shoulders aren’t as wide, our hips are wider than yours, and we require the same amount of space. I don't think your genetalia is so big as to say that you need to spread your legs THAT wide sir, and if it is, well I’m not sure how you’re stuffing it into those straining Dockers that still have a pizza stain on them. I too enjoy having my arms at my sides, while enjoying the freedom of a reasonable amount of expected personal space. I say reasonable because I understand after living all over NYC for the past 7 years, that personal space as you know it in the suburbs goes out the window the minute you enter public transit in the city, people will touch you, but they shouldn’t be ON you….thats rude, it’s rude in the subways, and it’s rude everywhere else. So why should I be expected to accept it coming from a man with enough life experience to know that this is rude?

There are even more problems that are rampant on the LIRR involving sexism. There’s a rampant problem with sexual harassment and abuse happening in the subway system, but who would suspect that a stranger would try to touch you on a train where you are stuck together for an hour and a half or more? I did not, but in another situation of being smooshed, I quickly discovered it happens. Under the guise of pretending to be asleep I quickly realised that the man forcing me into the window was also rubbing my arm, my waist, and leg while I was looking out the window or texting. It wasn't immediately apparent because of my winter layers, but once I did figure it out I felt trapped, I couldn't get up because there were people standing in the aisle, I couldn't move because I was being smooshed into place, and speaking up on the LIRR does little to nothing since the median age of the riders are 40+ white males with a penchant for being sexist and abso-fucking-lutely disgusting. I gave the man a glare, and completely readjusted, and said “you better fucking stop”- to which his ‘sleeping’ self responded with nothing. It stopped briefly only to start again 20 minutes later making me feel like I was utterly trapped in a jail cell of disgusting human flesh. I was screaming on the inside, the train was stuck before Jamaica (queens), and I just wanted out. The absolute ride from hell. The train was so packed the ticket personnel could not even get through, mind you this was after my first two trains were cancelled and this one had been delayed almost an hour. This man pretty much forced me into physical submission, and then took advantage of that. I took his photo , and went to the LIRR police station, to which I was immediately answered with “You have no proof so it’ll be a case of he said she said, and the burden of proof is on you”. I quickly showed them a photo of his hand on my lap, to which I got the response of, it could've been an accident. I kicked myself for not taking video, and stormed out.

That is an extreme view of how being smooshed can allow a situation to escalate if given the right circumstances, not one that will typically happen, but one that can happen. I am not saying that smooshing is something ALL men do, or that they’re doing maliciously, or even that they might be conscious of (though I hope they are conscious enough that they notice they are practically sitting on me, I am a solid object ya know). I’m saying its one of those things you realize happen more to women than men, and its one of those things it’d be nice to bring to light so I can finally sit in a seat without also becoming a seat myself.

Your StoriesErin Bagwell