Stop Calling Me 'Baby'

“Beautiful lips.”

The words drift past you along with the crowd of people on the busy downtown Santiago street. It takes you a moment, but because the words are in English and they are almost whispered in your ear, you realize the comment is directed at you.

Flattered, you turn to see where the words came from, thinking in your 15-year-old mind that this could be the start of your brief, but exciting, Chilean romance.

You begin to mouth “gracias,” as has become habit in your one week in the country, but mid-response, you realize the “compliment” came from a man in his 40s. Hair slicked back, wearing a crisp, white button-down shirt and business slacks, he stares at you with intense and suggestive eyes as he walks in the opposite direction.

After catching his eye, your stomach turns. “Was it a compliment?” You think. “Should I be flattered?” You turn to catch up with your parents walking several steps in front of you. They didn’t hear the man.

For a moment, you wonder how you should feel. At 15, you’re big-lipped and wiry, and the shape of your face and body haven’t caught up with your distinct features. “Beautiful lips” feels, at first, validating, that you’re growing into your awkward proportions as you exit puberty. But you also feel dirty, like you did something wrong by acknowledging a man nearly 30 years your senior with your parents only a few feet away.

Finish the story at the Baltimore City Paper website