We had a few laughs and a little while later he handed it back.
Then some random middle-aged man came up to me and said, "Give him back the bow - he looks much cuter in it than you. No offence, hahaha!"
Naturally, I smiled. I do that when I'm nervous. Then I told him to fuck off. I do that when I'm not happy. And then, because he thought I was joking, I ignored him until he went away.
The conversation in our group was a bit stunted by that rude and awkward encounter, but it started to flow again. More jokes, more shots, more silly stories.
But I wanted to take the bow off.
I couldn't WAIT until I could take the bow off.
In fact, the only reason I didn't reach up and pulling it off right away was anger. Anger that some fucking random douche in a bar thought he could a) tell me what to do, b) insult me in front of my friends and c) make me feel like shit because...?
Because I let my mood - nay, my entire self esteem - be dictated by the whims of a random stranger.
Because it's normal for someone like me to feel completely collapsed by a smidgen of negative attention from someone like that.
Because he thought he - as a male or a white guy or king of the universe or whatever - believed he had the right to dictate how I should look.
Because every single day, society tells me that I'm worthless unless someone thinks I'm pretty.
And what the fuck is up with that?
I don't think I'm really under the thrall of mass media. I roll my eyes when big media posts a picture of a woman existing, and declares that she's flaunting or bravely baring her body. Like every moment of a woman's life is spent trying to project her hotness to the general public.
Like the idea that a woman might just fucking BE instead of obsessing about how she looks is inconceivable.
But clearly, some of those messages stick like splinters in my subconscious. From Seventeen to CNN, every institution tells me: 'To justify your existence, you must be beautiful."
It's also something that bothers me about the fat positive* movement. Of course, as a fat girl I appreciate the acceptance and understanding that fat positivity brings. BUT it bothers me that so much fat positive stuff boils down to "Look - fat girls can be beautiful! Fat girls can be sexy! ALL THESE MEN approve of plus-size women! Yaaaay!" No. Not yay. Boo.
Boo for "but at least SOMEONE thinks you're pretty" being the bottom line.
Boo for that raw inner nerve that's still struck by a random man being rude to me. That tiny belief that if only I were beautiful, I'd be safe.
That nerve that's still there even though I know I am smart, talented, and loved. Even though I know in my head that I am a valuable human being who has a right to exist - no matter what I look like.
Confession: I thought about ending this post with a picture of me in the offending big-bow alice band. It's tempting to end on a note of "But that guy was wrong, I DID look totally cute!"
But I won't.
I don't have to prove to anybody that I'm pretty.
I don't have to care.
I don't have to give my power away.
And I'm going to keep telling myself that, until that raw nerve is healed up by my self respect.
*Obviously this is only a single facet of the fat positive movement - and I do think it's important as a whole. I just think the "don't worry - fat girls can be pretty too!" thing is misguided.