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This is material cut from my memoir in progress, Six Years in Slovenia.
Brestanica. I arrive at the train station later than I wanted, I meant to get up earlier. The waiting room was full and she was in it. I greeted the room with “dan” but no one greeted me in return. Whenever this happens, I can assure myself that I have kept my side of the social contract and that they are being the rude ones. It was as if she was ashamed to acknowledge my acquaintance in front of the other people. She would have greeted me if she had been alone. Maybe the sunglasses are a factor, but it is so stupid to pretend someone isn’t human because you cannot see their eyes.
This is material I have cut from my memoir-in-progress, Six Years In Slovenia.
I go to Brežice in the slush (I am there at noon, but it seems mystery girl no longer takes this train) go to the library until I am driven out by computer class at 5 pm.
I walk to the train station and mystery girl is not there yet. Another woman comes in, I greet her. She goes out and comes in again, I greet her again, not recognizing her. She asks me something in Slovene; I have to ask her to speak English. She asks me in English, do I have something to read? I have to tell her no.
Then she asks me all kinds of questions about myself and I have to answer them. This takes a while and during it, some other people come in and mystery girl is one of them; I greet her, but I don’t think she hears.
This is material I have cut from my memoir, Six Years in Slovenia.
Today is December 18, 2009 and I am sitting behind the mystery girl on the seven o’clock train from Brežice.
I did not greet her when I came in the čakalnica; somehow it was too full of people and awkward.
She glances behind her. I have the feeling she is looking at me. I am awful in my creosote-stained coat and greasy hair; I don’t want to be social. Her hair is long and part of it has escaped the banana clip it’s in. She is trying to fix it without a mirror using only the window’s reflection.
I smell like woodsmoke. It’s not unpleasant, just peculiar and strong.
It is bitterly cold. So cold. At home the house is freezing even with all radiators ablaze. So cold I have a permanent ice cream headache. Krško. Brestanica is the next stop. I have the feeling I won’t be solving any mysteries tonight either.
Some girl in tight pants who was groping her boyfriend at Brežice gets off the train with us. For a little while there are three of us walking up the dark road. I am annoyed at the in-love girl and her flashy black fake-alligator bag. But she steps off to wait for someone and it’s just the two of us again.
She is so far ahead of me that I can hardly see her. I lose sight of her among the trees.
She doesn’t wait at the corner. I think she has turned off somewhere. But then I see her again, a little blur among the distant trees. I am so far behind that I see her all the way up the street before I turn off in my direction. I see the blue Christmas lights – then I turn off my way. I feel bad for not greeting her; I should have.
Today is January 15, 2010.
I am at the train station in Brestanica at noon. I expected the girl to be here, but she isn’t. There is only ten minutes to the train. Now I wonder if she will still come back on the 7 o’clock train from Brežice as usual; I wonder where she is and why her schedule has changed. I am disappointed. I had been looking forward to this and now it has not come to pass. I feel sort of abandoned, although that is absurd. An old lady comes in, I say “dober dan” to her. “Krško povratna,” she says to the stationmaster in a strong clear voice and collects her ticket. Men, clad in a fluorescent yellow-green safety vests, mill about outside; they work for the railway. The logs I see being cut are loaded onto train cars and taken elsewhere.
Five minutes to the train. I still have faint hopes of her coming. Someone squeaks open the door and I look up but it is not her. I am too surprised to greet the newcomer. It is not my nature to greet random strangers but Slavs find this unfriendly. Greeting them, however, opens the possibility that they will chat to you – Slovenes are chatty, particularly the women – then will come the awkward moment when one must confess one’s ignorance of the language and ask whether the querent speaks English instead, which is usually not the case, so the attempt at conversation dies out in an awkward silence and we both feel rejected.
Just arrived at station, five minutes to train. She is there, I see her wavy head through door of the čakalnica but I don’t go in. For some reason I want to keep avoiding, don’t want awkward conversation. But I will try to greet her tonight.
They announce the train; it’s on the first track, not the second. I walk back to the čakalnica and she is coming out. She sees me and as I walk toward her, greets me with “čer” which throws me off a little but as I was still debating where and when to greet her, but I reply the same and we scramble to get on the train. She is not sitting anywhere near me. I like to sit in the down car, she seems to like sitting in the upper seats. I don’t know if she is in this car or not – we are still sitting in Brežice. Now a whistle blows outside and we are away. She and I are the only people who get on at Brežice.
Slovenian words: čakalnica: waiting room dober dan: greeting povratna: return ticket čer: a short version of ‘good evening’
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This is material I have cut from my memoir-in-progress, Six Years In Slovenia.
I am at the Brestanica train station with 15 minutes to spare before the train to Brežice comes. She is actually here. I thought it was her when I came in, but I had my sunglasses on so it was impossible to be sure. Then I went out to the WC, when I came back I looked and it was her.
So here I am, sitting in my usual spot, ten minutes to the train, sitting here with her, but it’s impossible to say anything, it would be awkward, I don’t really know how I feel about her. I am repelled by my own traits in another, and ashamed of this fact. She sniffs, but doesn’t sound so congested as previously; she is wearing tights and skirt and the same boots and the same jacket. I feel like avoiding her, but not entirely.
Brežice train station, 7:12 pm. She is here, standing somewhat farther away. She keeps dabbing at her face; I wonder if she is crying or just wiping her nose. I wonder what little drama will play out on the train.
This is material cut from my memoir-in-progress, Six Years in Slovenia.
Today is still Friday, November 20, 2009, and I am at the Brežice train station where she has just walked around the corner as I took out my journal to write. I hear her sniffing slightly and the scrape of her boots. She is standing about ten yards distant from me.
Conductor: train will be ten minutes late.
She is wearing an A-line skirt. I don’t know what to do, nothing probably, I feel like an idiot even now. She only takes the seven o’clock train on Fridays from Brežice. She did not go the same route as I did or I would have seen her.
When you actually meet someone in the flesh everything that you have been imagining about them seems absurd.
I googled “What it’s like to be an unattractive woman” in the hope of finding other women like myself to befriend, and among the results was this article by Tracy Moore called “Will Women Ever Have the Freedom to be Ugly?”
It begins on a promising note, as Moore describes her personal experiences of being called ugly and pointing out that if beauty were not expected of women, it would free up a lot of our time, resources and energy.
But then Moore goes on to say:
Second, what do I mean by ugly? Like all things subjective, it’s arguable to infinity. I think when women are called ugly, they are not actually ugly — they are simply noncompliant. They are not willing to spend the time, money and energy it takes to live up to a cultural beauty standard that says skin tones must be evened out, eyes must be enhanced, cheek bones accented, weight managed, desirability advertised, and so on. (Remember, pretty is a skill set.)
Some of us cannot be pretty no matter how compliant we try to be. Spackling makeup on an ugly face will not turn it into a pretty one. Moore seems to be one of those idealists who think there is no such thing as an ugly woman, but the real world tells us otherwise.
Sometimes I really think one of the most radical things a woman can do is simply not brush her fucking hair.
There are many more radical things a woman can do than not brush her hair. For example, she could recognize that she is a member of an oppressed class, and work together with other members of the same oppressed class to dismantle the system that oppresses her.
Reddit is a cesspool of misogyny, but this thread is worth reading: Do Unattractive Women Really Feel Completely Ignored/Invisible?.
“You’re not unattractive!” “You’re not even that fat!” “Someone finds you beautiful!” “Beauty is subjective” OH MY GOD FUCK RIGHT OFF.
Just accept that the world is a mean place sometimes. You telling me my struggles don’t exist makes me feel more invisible. Like you can’t even comprehend the life unattractive people lead so you have to blow smoke up my arse to make yourself feel better? It’s not like people are flinging shit in my face but can we please accept the fact that not being attractive impacts my actions and the actions of others? — commenter sehrah
OMG, THIS THIS THIS.
And my own related piece, Feminists Are Ugly.
So readers, if any of you are conventionally unattractive, I want to be your friend.