How a Hopeless Romantic Objectifies Men


Shared by New York Cliche.

I notice a man standing on corner of 145th and Broadway waiting for the light to change.

“He’s cute,” is my thought, and I smile at my grand accomplishment.

“You noticed a cute guy!” my inner cheerleader unpacks her pom-pons “I’m so proud of you! This is a great step! Maybe now that the weather has chilled and the cold (and cuddle) season is just around the corner, you’re ready to come out of dating hibernation!”


We stand at the cross walk together, this stranger and I, standing side by side. I’m basking in the vague fluttering of attraction that has long lain dormant. He’s completely unaware of my existence. I gotta say, I rather liked it that way. So far, so safe.

The man turns his head. No, not to look at me, to survey the traffic. I notice something tucked behind his ear. I barely manage to stop myself from flinching. Ugh, a cigarette! Yeck. Well that’s unattractive. Then I think, wouldn’t it be great if everyone kept their dirty habits tucked behind their ears? A badge announcing them to all the world? Warning signs on our heads and if you can’t handle it, you should just stay away.

The cigarette now a red light on my feelings, the actual traffic light changes to green. I cross the street, heading toward the downtown train. So does The Smoker and everyone else crossing the street. A mass of people all moving together, rushing down narrow stairs, packing ourselves into a subway car. Just like cigarettes pack into cigarette packs. The Smoker and I board the same crowded car. He is so close to me, I can’t help but take a second look. That’s when I realize the object tucked behind his ear was not in fact a cigarette. It is a pen.

BAM! The traffic light of mediocre metaphor changes from red to green. Attraction resurfaces along with the twinkle of intrigue. Who puts pens behind their ears? Is he even aware he tucked a pen back there? He has the look of a bookish, absentminded romantic. The pen magnifies that impression exponentially. If I’m too afraid to talk to him, that is how he will always remain, frozen in my memory. Not The Smoker but The Pen Guy.

Perhaps The Pen Guy is a writer. Perhaps he always keeps pens behind his ears, must have one accessible at all times. Perhaps he’s a poet who scribbles lightning bolts of inspiration when ever and where ever they strike. Perhaps he’s a playwright scribing a one act that takes place in a subway car, starring two shy strangers each pretending the other doesn’t exist.

Forget the reality! Forget that the butt of the pen features the iconic design of the American flag. A pen almost certainly picked up for free. Probably from a bank, where he just hurriedly endorsed several checks. Probably from his parents. No! I shove those sane thoughts from my mind. The Pen Guy is an architect and he’s designing a new wing for Gracie Mansion!

I stood on that crowded subway, grasping the pole and projecting fantasy after fantasy on this poor, unassuming man who couldn’t have been more oblivious. How easily I could have started conversation, the pen was a perfect lead in. But I didn’t want The Pen Guy to be real, a real person with an actual name. Let alone actual flaws and hopes, heartbeats and heartaches. Yep, you guessed it- the last guy who was real broke my heart

I’m not ready for real quite yet.

All I want right now is to use men, as my play things. No, not in the way that sounds. Not sexually. I just want men to be this silly, fun game to play on the subway or sidewalk. Turn men into objects I can fantasize and write about excessively, all from a safe distance. This, ladies and gentlemen, is how a hopeless romantic living in the heart of Manhattan objectifies gentlemen.

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