#859: Two Women

December 6th, 2017

Last night, I met a woman.

She was short, with either vintage style or a winter coat and hat — at a certain temperature, the indicators of “retro” and “just very warm” start to blur. But on a chill, dark train platform at Belmont, frantic rivulets of bleached orange hair crept at odd angles from under a jaunty cap.

And she held before her a cluster of dowel rods.

Last week, I met a woman.

This meeting was also train-related, but not the chill calm of strangers waiting on a platform. This one was part of the clustered and cramped afternoon commute with a nauseating, nauseated crowd of exhausion clutching bars and straps as the car heaved back forth back forth.

This woman glowered in, looked around and heaved into an inward-facing seat. She had jet-black hair and was clearly having a bad day. I should have known better.

“Excuse me?” I said.

The woman with the orange hair turned in third-nervous, third-expectant, third-confused-who-is-this-guy way. It was the look of a woman who didn’t know if she was about to be propositioned or told she dropped her wallet.

“May I ask about the dowel rods?”

She smiled and told me about stripping.

As the commuter train heaved and each new stop pushed us standers farther back in the car, I found myself in front of the woman with the jet-black hair and blue dress.

It was an odd blue dress, almost like a long T-shirt hanging over fashionably ratty tight jeans with the knees torn in a cool way. From her shoulders up the dress was black and, I noticed, decorated with a few yellow dots along the collar.

Oh my god, she was wearing a Starfleet uniform.

The dowels were to construct a Christmas tree. The woman with the orange hair would come out as the tree, peel off her branches one by one and, once bare before the crowd, decorate herself with ornaments.

Stripping isn’t quite accurate, but it got you to keep reading.

She was dressed in a uniform from the 1990s TV show “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” the show I waited all week to watch when I was a kid. I had books about the show — both novelizations and faux technical manuals. I had models of the starship they flew in and follow the main cast’s respective Twitter feeds to this day.

Specifically, she was wearing the uniform of Counselor Deanna Troi, the half-Betazoid, half-human ship therapist on the NCC-1701-D under the command of Captain Jean-Luc Picard played by Greek-British actress Marina Sirtis and man do I love that show! Blog post! 1,001 story, in the bank!

“Excuse me?” I asked.

She was a performer for a troupe called PS Burlesque, which I was charmed to find later means Proud and Safe. It’s a feminist comedy group of dancers celebrating all body types.

“Excuse me?”

We had a few seconds chat on the logistics of turning the dowels into a curved frame, like an 1800s hoop skirt. The train came and I wished her well with her engineering endeavor. We were both smiling as we stepped aboard separate cars.

“Hello?”

“I have headphones on!” Troi finally snapped.

She did. I had seen them. In my weird excitement to confirm a Trekkie, it hadn’t registered they were telling the world she didn’t want to be bothered.

“Sorry. Star Trek?”

“Yes,” she said.

“Apologies for bothering you.”

And I didn’t look at her or say another word to her for the rest of the ride, other than a gesundheit when at one point she sneezed. I felt awkward and guilty. I caught a glimpse of her as I left the car. It looked like she felt that way too.

Each incident was likely under a minute — I didn’t time. Each on its own was forgettable in a town where nudie dancers hoist dowels and commuters dress as Starfleet on a semi-regular basis.

Each time a random attractive woman was approached by a man of unknown intent. He’s a nice man, you and I know. But he is still a random man approaching random women to ask about things that are none of his business. On a probability basis, the odds lean to “creep” more than “blogger.”

I had been staring at the dark-haired woman’s chest. It was to wonder why there were little yellow dots (rank insignia for the United Federation of Planets, naturally), but I had been staring. And at moments maybe my gaze had drifted a little lower than I want to admit right now.

The mood of the moment is figuring how men should treat women. It’s about men figuring that line between convivial and sordid, between finding common ground and manufacturing a come-on.

I have no instructions. The point is for men to learn where women set the line and abide by it. We’re not the ones who set it.

But if you can glean your own lesson from this, I can offer two anecdotes. One where I made a dowel-hoisting woman with rivulets of orange hair feel good about the work she does. And another where I made a black-haired Trekkie feel bad about being who she is.

Read about a cyclist’s green leg

Read about a lucky goose

Editor’s note: The original last sentence was “And another where I made a black-haired Trekkie feel bad just for existing.” It was edited to clarify the original intent.

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