I had a hickey and was completed ashamed. Let's just start there.
I'm a 32-year-old woman who had to walk around with a "love bite" on her neck and I dreaded going outside. Never mind that I've lived with the love of my life for the past two years, or that I'm a grown-ass woman, but that hickey (the first I've had in about a decade) completely did me in.
I spotted it whilst going through my morning routine. After rinsing off a layer of cream exfoliate, treating my neck the same as I do my face just like my mother taught me, I noticed a persistent smudge of dirt about two inches below my chin. Irritated, I rubbed at it harshly, realizing with growing horror that this wasn't my momma's dirt.
A hickey? For serious?
The last (and first) time I got a hickey was sophomore year in college and I didn't even notice it until one of my childhood friend's older cousin pointed at my neck and laughed, "Someone's having a good time at school." I remember feeling embarrassed for two reasons: 1. I'd just met this cousin and 2. he was an older man. It was uncomfortable and weird and most importantly it made me feel grodie.
But that was more than a decade ago. I'm not a 19-year-old "almost virgin" fumbling her way through her first sexual awakening anymore.
The first thing I did after discovering my latest love bruise was get out the concealer. It was practically an involuntary impulse. Sure, in theory, I'm sex-having woman of the 2010s, but does everyone have to know about it?
My cover was blown by a kind-looking stranger later that day.
"Hey baby girl," he said as I walked past, confident the hickey was camouflaged. "I see that mark on your neck.”
And with that throwaway sentence, he reduced me to something smaller than I was. Immediately I became furious -- with my boyfriend. How could he have been so careless? To put me in such a compromising public position. I was wearing my nighttime activities on my neck and instead of feeling proud of that -- or in control of it -- I felt like I needed to hide it. The tension between my modern enlightenment versus societal brainwashing was more than I could explain via text. So I just typed, "What the fuck?"
Later that night I explain him how that random man made me feel like an object, how a complete stranger ruined my entire day with a simple (and yes, sexist) observation. And, also, how it was all my boyfriend’s fault.
He took everything in quietly, absorbing my mad ranting like a champ. Once I was out of breath, he looked up at me and said, “I’m sorry.” What he was sorry for I doubt he even knew, but it made me feel better, less invisible, which is ironic since the whole row started because of something someone saw.