Sarah Kasbeer | Longreads | November 2018 | 15 minutes (3,867 words)
His brown eyes trailed over my body in an exaggerated way. If it had occurred at work, it could have been considered sexual harassment. But at the bar, and uninhibited, I felt the rush of being seen.
At 22, I was lonely and working in a restaurant. Nic was a server I had a crush on who’d hardly ever spoken to me until we bumped into each other on a random night off. He walked into a Chicago dive bar where I happened to be getting drunk with a friend. I approached him from behind to order myself another round.
“Corona — with a lemon,” I said to the bartender. Somehow I’d gotten the impression that this was the sophisticated European way to drink cheap beer. I left a dollar and change on the bar before forcing my lemon wedge into the bottle, ready to make my move.
“Hi Nic,” I said to the half-moon formed by the adjustable snaps on the back of his hat. The half-moon turned. Nic set his Heineken down before slowly looking me up and down. He seemed to still be processing my identity.
Perhaps it was my off-duty attire that threw him. During shifts behind the restaurant bar, I was forced to wear black button-up shirts and dress pants, my shoulder-length hair in a ponytail. That evening, I had donned a dive-bar appropriate denim and pink tank top combo. My long bangs were swept to one side, my light hair down.
“Sa-rah,” he finally answered, his mouth widening into a smile. The slow, deliberate way he lingered over both syllables of my name made it seem as if he knew something about me that I didn’t, or at least not yet.
Instead of being offended by the once-over, I was awash in a familiar response: pleasure mixed with shame. Sexual objectification can trigger conflicting impulses. On the one hand, I wanted to be treated with respect. On the other hand, I wanted to be wanted. Getting laid was the easiest way to prove my desirability, even if the feeling only lasted a few fleeting hours.