You know who looks great when running? Claire Underwood.
This is because Robin Wright (so help you god if you ever add “Penn” to her name again, as one of my missions in life is to remind everyone how terrible Sean Penn is—also Mark Wahlberg, but that’s not as relevant right now) is willowy, gorgeous, and has a team of people behind her to make her look like running is about being dewy and pink-cheeked, not sweat-stained, smelly, and absolutely miserable.
You know who doesn’t look great when running? Me. Also, almost everyone in the world who runs.
One morning as I was walking to my usual starting point for my run, I crossed paths with a man who was smiling way too widely for 8:00, but whatever. I already had my headphones in, so when he said something to me, I had to stop, remove them, and ask him to repeat it.
His smile widened. “It’s just great you are jogging! You’re really doing something good! You should start jogging!”
Normally, I’d just shake my head and keep moving, but you know what? No, today I’m not going to legitimize this behavior. I held my ground and I gave him the coldest look of derision I could muster. It was a face I once used to scare off a previous guy I was dating (“Sometimes you give me these looks and I think you really actually … hate … me?”). It’s my Resting Bitch Face with a touch of “burdened by years of pretending I care what you say because otherwise you’ll get pissy that no one’s listening to you”.
With the same smile on his face, he said, “Okay, sorry sorry!”, clearly to placate the volatile young woman he came across on his morning constitutional, not because he was actually sorry that he interrupted me with some meaningless platitudes.
If you’re an innocent man of the world, you might wonder why I can’t just accept a compliment.* Sure, it’s just kind of annoying that someone would stop you while you’re clearly on your way to something, but it’s not like he insulted you.
So let me be clear: unless you are Lelisa Desisa, I don’t need your approval when I’m running. Unless you’re my boss, I don’t need your approval when I’m working. Unless you’re motherfucking Mother Earth, I don’t need your approval for my womanhood. I don’t need, I don’t want, and I don’t care.
Five minutes later at a zebra crossing, an old man glanced over at me and nodded. In approval.
Two days later on another run, a man on a tram stared at me as I waited to cross the street. He made kissy faces at me through the window.
I have been honked at by cars a not insignificant number of times. Considering I am virtually unrecognizable when I’m running (hair back, glasses off, shape obscured, usually without make-up) and how few of my friends here regularly drive, there was no way this could ever be someone I know.
How about this: unless you’re caught in the middle of a freak dog fight (true story), just don’t bother me when I’m running. I’m not running for you. I’m running from you and your baseless assumption that I should listen to you or accept your power-laden “compliment”.
For those who wonder what about my running outfit would spark such consistent and annoying behavior, I present to you my normal running “look”, in all its discount, mismatched glory:
You know what cost the most out of all of this? My shoes (Mizuno Inspire). The (fleece-lined!) leggings and the jacket are from TJ Maxx, each under $20. The shirt I’m wearing under the jacket is a hand-me-down from my running guru, Nicole. The sports bra was a cheap Kohls purchase years ago (small-breast privilege, I know it).
*This is not a compliment. Here’s how to give a compliment to a woman: walk up to her (don’t sneak up to her and just grab one of her limbs) and say, “Excuse me, sorry to interrupt you, but I wanted to let you know that I find _____ attractive.” (Feel free to fill in the _____ with something of substance, like “your clever puns!” or “your discussion of nyje particles in Albanian!” or “your obvious possession of a PhD!”)