On a beautiful fall day in 2000, I was walking down Newbury Street, a way chichi haute couture shopping street in downtown Boston. I was an aspiring dancer at the time, and I’d had a day of auditions scheduled with various modern dance troupes, so there had been a lot of changing in and out of outfits throughout the day.
As I strolled down the street in the late-afternoon sunshine, I notice that lots of guys seem to be checking me out. I was like, Whoa, this is fun. I guess I must be looking extra-fine today. Even the women were giving me once-overs. I even turned some heads! I concluded the reason for my glow was all the confidence I was exuding. I had a good feeling about performing well at most of my auditions so far. Anyway, who knew why I was the belle of Newbury Street? I just knew I liked it.
Eight blocks later, I arrived at my last audition in front of a building with lots of windows; in fact the exterior was mostly glass.
As I glance at my reflection, something caught my eye. I paused and turned slightly. I saw something on my shoulder. It looked like a white and red epaulet, which was odd because epaulets did not figure anywhere into my outfit, which consisted of a tight black top and a black form-fitting calf-length skirt that swirled out at the hem.
I took a step closer to the wall of windows, and I gasped. WTF is that?!
My used menstrual pad — Kotex, to be exact — was stuck to my left shoulder, one end blithely flapping up and down in the wind, waving hello to everyone I passed on the street.
In horror and embarrassment, I peeled it off, rolled it up and stuffed it in my bag. A couple of people stared and quickly turned away. I suddenly remembered all the passersby who saw my accidental accessory. First of all, all those guys who said nothing, then all the women who walked by who also said nothing. I even started to wonder if I had worn the pad (in this nontraditional location) during one of the auditions.
As I caught my breath and tried to calm my shit down before this final audition I had arrived for, I started thinking about the casual cruelty of those who don’t go the least bit out of their way to help another person. Had I been guilty of this as well at some time in my life? No doubt about it. I remembered a phenomenon called “the bystander effect,” which is term typically applied to scenarios when people witness a crime and do nothing about it. Of course what had happened to me wasn't a crime, but still, why hadn’t anyone stepped up to tell me what the hell I had sticking to my shoulder, for block after block after block?
I resolved at that moment to always reach out if I came across someone who needed any help that I was capable of giving — a vow I’ve kept until this day.
And that last audition? Nailed it.