It's exhilarating when you first move here from the Midwest ("Yay! I don't have to give a shit about anybody else's needs!"), but I think eventually it's spiritually corrosive. I'm not the first to suggest that regularly feeling nothing more than annoyed at a young woman with a baby in her arms asking for money or an old man with no shoes or toes shuffling the length of the subway car begging for food can't be good for the soul. But that's another conversation.
I want to take apart this vitriol toward men who sit on the train with their legs spread, taking up 2, sometimes 3, seats.
1. A lot of it is expressed in a way meant to ridicule men’s bodies and question their masculinity: “Nobody’s balls are so big that they need to sit like that,” etc. (I’ve even said this kind of thing, so I’m addressing my criticism to me as much as anyone.) I don’t claim to know anything about the real estate requirements of women’s genitalia, but I do know that men’s are on the outside, and, no matter the ball-size, sometimes need a little room. Maybe not this much room.
2. Women are rude too. For every man with his legs spread, there’s a woman with a huge handbag poking into your ribs. (I definitely don’t want to create a boys v. girls who’s ruder contest. Again, rudeness is genderless.)
3. Though it has no gender, sometimes rudeness has to do with gender. These complaints usually come from women, and I can’t help but connect them to the strange brew of female entitlement that comes into play on the train more than any place I can think of. It’s that glare I get not infrequently from women who are obviously half my age but think I should stand and give them my seat. Because they’re female and I’m male. Not only am I a feminist, I am an old man, I’m tired, my feet hurt, and it’s a long ride home.