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Since I’ve moved to Harlem my encounters with men in the street have frustrated me.


I’ve been called “mamita”, “princess” and my personal fave “big girl”. Ummm..whatever happened to “Hello Miss” I hear the former more than I hear the latter.
I mean has simple decency died along with chivalry?
Look..I know I’m attractive and I knew that when I moved to Harlem this sort of attention would get more intense. But the word “boundaries” seems to be a foreign one to many folks.
One thing about Harlem men is that when they like what they see..they will tell you!!
But sometimes the manner in which they tell you that is intrusive and embarrassing. I mean damn if you’re having a moment to think to yourself..it’s really all about them, isn’t it?
FYI: I don’t need my existence validated by strange men.
Oh..and I hate the term “big girl”. I’m not ashamed of my plus size but the connotations of being labeled as “big” as a women seems to insinuate that you’re less feminine than a woman who is small. Me having a larger frame does not mean that I have a thicker skin.
Ironically enough..these encounters happen when I’m either going to or coming from my gym.
Case in point last week As I was on my way to my Spinning class I had passed by a rather portly gentleman who as I passed said “Hey big girl”
I stopped and asked “Why would you call me that… why not just say hello?”
Him: “I’m sorry..did I offend you?”
Me:  “Well yeah..because I don’t even know you like that.”
Him:  “But I’m a big guy. I don’t get offended”, he said as he patted his large belly.
Me:  “Well yeah because you’re a guy. How would you like someone to talk to your sister like that?”
Just then I swear I saw a light go off in his head. I swear!
Him: “Damn..you’re right. My sister said to me never call a woman “big girl””
Me: “Well maybe you should take her advice.”
Him: “You’re right..I’m sorry.”
Me: “My name is Myrna.”
Him: “I’m Keith.”
Me: “It’s nice meeting you Keith.”
I shook his hand and left.

Now..I’m not expecting to see Keith at any anti street harassment meetings… but that small exchange was a big triumph for me. I do hope that Keith will be able to pass on that lesson to a young man that calls a young lady out her name. For a brief moment a man that objectified me was able to see me as a human being that looked him in the eye, held her ground and was able to say…

My name is not “big girl”…it’s Myrna.

*reprinted with permission from “Meeting In The Ladies Room“*

 Ms. Orvam can be best described as a “drive by blogger” a born and raised Bronx native, she is now a proud Harlemite.  Mom to one, she’s a corporate worker bee for “It’s not TV it’s….” So while she toils away in corporate better believe that she has her eye on the prize. Follow her on Twitter @Msorvam

3 thoughts on “My Name is Not….”

  1. I’m attracted to larger-than-average women. Far from being threatened, I enjoy being able to look a woman in the eye. And while I’m not about to address any stranger of any gender in anything less than a polite manner, I like “big girls”. When I use the descriptor myself, it is with a genuine fondness. It’s not a euphemism for “overweight”; it’s not a judgment about body mass index; it’s not a pervy fetish for fat girls. It’s a warm “if some is good than more is better” kind of appreciation for the belief that beauty can come in all shapes and sizes.

    My testosterone-poisoned buddies (bless their hearts) are generally incapable of stripping away the sexual overtones and considering that it’s just my aesthetic.

    As for the women, (even the ones I think I know well), I have learned to just not try to articulate these thoughts. Our sexist/objectivist/consumerist culture has seen to it that they are seldom received in the spirit in which they’re offered.

  2. I feel your pain. May I add acknowledgement of the horrible things some men feel free to say to women who aren’t attractive? Relating to the lack of breasts and/or extremely hurtful insults regarding general looks.

    These people are unknown by and will never see the person they are insulting, but feel it is their right to express their aesthetic opinions, although none of them probably know what aesthetics is.

    A response linking the apparent size of the callers’ brain and dick to his little finger is never made for fear of violence from these men.

    It’s hurtful to be treated like an object, and to be treated as if one has no feelings.

  3. I really appreciate this article, Ms. Orvam. I’ve had a very similar experience. Once in Amsterdam a man started cat-calling me, and I just turned to him and said, “Really? I’m a human being.” And he had that same click-moment you described. I thought you summed up many of the emotions I felt in my own experience, that this man probably won’t end up at the next anti street harassment meeting, but hopefully he does think twice before calling out to strangers in such a violating way.

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