I was wearing nothing but socks, a thong, and a Spider-Man mask. My focus intensified directly on that back door. I saw it in my sight, but just barely… running, running, running, SMASH! The back door was locked. Panic arose—my raw skin frosted by the air-conditioned convenience store. I went to spin myself around, but my legs and the floor were in the midst of a harsh disagreement. I heard lots of yelling…but my thoughts were yelling louder.
“You don’t have the balls to streak.”
“There’s no way you’ll streak.”
“You? Streaking? Yeah right.”
My socks were too slippery. My bare body hit the ground with a clamorous thump. “I’M CALLING THE POLICE,” I heard, but my beating heart drowned the sounds of the shouts out. I quickly regained my balance and ran towards the front door, as if being chased by a pack of ferocious dogs. Finally, I made it outside and the brisk September air sent shivers up and down my naked body. It was terrifying, but strangely liberating. The escape car was waiting for me and I dove head first into safety’s open arms… or so I thought.
“So… I think you know why you’re here,” the police officer insisted, as he narrowed his eyes. I thought back to the night of the annual senior scavenger hunt—the night I showed my fanny to the world.
“My dad told me not to tell you anything,” I whimpered. I looked around at the principal’s office, a place I’ve been numerous times, but never under such circumstances. It almost looked different from a guilty girl’s perspective.
“Well, we already know you were the one to streak Quick Check, so you might as well cooperate so we can get through this as fast and painless as possible,” he boomed.
That was it. They knew it was me. There was nothing else I could do. I sat still, feeling trapped.
“I’m sorry!” I wailed. “I have never done anything like this before in my life! I have never even gotten detention!”
“Yeah, I didn’t think you were The Serial Streaker or anything,” the policeman replied with a smug smile. Everyone in the room erupted with laughter. I stared back, suddenly expressionless. I really wasn’t in the mood.
“Now, I want you to think about what you’ve done, and after class ends, we’re going to have to take you down to the station, so go ahead and call a parent to meet you there. We’ll be going over some paperwork and discussing what happens next. Unfortunately, you committed two misdemeanors, Katie, and that is not something we can ignore.” I nodded back hypnotically.
As I walked back to class to gather my things, his judgmental voice was running laps throughout my mind: “Now I want to think about what you’ve done.”
I felt dizzy. What did I do? I didn’t hurt anybody. As far as I’m concerned, I simply participated in a yearly conducted prank.
I did what he asked and thought back to that night…
“Katie you’re a hero!” My team exclaimed. I felt euphoric, as if I was walking on air. All eight teams that participated in the scavenger hunt were gathered at my neighbor, Brandon Miller’s, house. My team had the most points, giving us the win, and it was all anyone could talk about. I remember sitting back in a LZ Boy recliner, enjoying a cold beverage while different team members came up to congratulate me. A smile was stapled to my face. I felt like I was flying until a friend from across the room approached.
“I didn’t think you’d do it, to be honest.”, he said sadistically.
“How come?” I asked casually between sips.
“I don’t know; you’re a girl.” He shrugged. This comment struck me like a dagger. I put my drink back in the cup holder and tried to brush it off, but still, it was difficult to ignore the sting.
Later that night, I laid in bed, my body numb, the events of the evening still buzzing fresh in my memory. I was about to drift off to sleep, when my cellphone shrieked, harshly bringing me back to reality.
“Hello?” I answered, groggily.
“Katie, where have you been? I have been trying to reach you all night.” It was my boyfriend at the time.
“Sorry, I fell asleep… but you wouldn’t believe what happened tonight! I streaked, I actually did it!” I exclaimed. In a hushed tone, careful not to wake my sleeping parents, I went into a spiel, unfolding the events of my exhilarating evening. After, there was a long pause.
Finally, he replied: “You’ve got to be kidding me, Katie. You streaked?” Oh no, he seemed angry. “Why in the world would you do that? Do you know how many people probably saw you… naked? You should be ashamed of yourself.” He spat. My stomach dropped to my knees. I clenched the phone tighter, not in any mood for this conversation.
“What do you mean?” I replied innocently. “I told you I wanted to do it, and besides, you did it last year. Why can you streak and I can’t?”
“Well I didn’t think you’d actually do it! Plus, it’s different! You’re a girl! Only I can see you that way!” His narcissistic voice left a rancid taste in my mouth. I apologized profusely and then finally was able to escape to bed.
My seventeen-year-old self reflected those comments and the shrugs and the “sorrys”. Today, I can’t help but get angry. After being in college and educating myself on feminism and women’s rights, I am enraged that I had reacted so passively. Why was my body viewed as more indecent than my male counterparts? Why did people, even friends and loved ones, have a harsher reaction simply because of my gender? If a man streaks a convenience store, there should be the same amount of consequences, socially and legally, for a woman. According to Huffington Post, in less progressive places like Louisiana, a woman exposing her nipples can carry a sentence of up to three years in jail and a $2,500 fine. Why is everybody so scared of the nipple? Why are we still debating equal rights in 2017?
Eventually, questions were asked, a confession was made, and a court date was settled. I was also grounded for two months. No car, no going out with friends, nothing. I am from a small town in upstate New York with a population of about 5,000 people. Here, everybody knows everybody. There is little to no crime and pretty much nothing to do except eat pizza, go to the park, and talk about the people you know. All I could do was wade in my own stupidity. After my “incident”, I began to notice that I was being treated a bit differently. One afternoon as I was gathering my things to leave earth science class, I was surprised when my teacher pulled me aside to stay an additional couple of minutes.
“Is it true?” She asked with wide eyes. I remember her looking like a puppy that had gotten left out in the rain. I sighed. I knew exactly what she was referring to.
“Okay, give it to me straight. Does everybody hate me now? I mean, how did you even know?” I inquired.
“No sweetie… well… “ She paused, like she was making sure to choose her words carefully. “I heard about it from the teacher’s lounge.”
“What are they saying?” I casually asked. I remember trying to appear bored, but truthfully, I was hanging on to every word she said. I mean, I knew other faculty members were giving me disapproving nods in the hallway for a reason.
“They are mostly just like, what? Katie Feinberg? No way! They’re a bit disappointed. No one can believe it was actually you.” she replied. Her artificial smile was giving me a toothache.
“Can you believe Katie Feinberg would have the nerve to show her face here?”
“I know, she should be ashamed after what she did.”
“I heard the police took her out of the school in handcuffs…” “Oh… I heard that too…”
It happened to be soccer season at the time of the “incident”, and the soccer moms loved gossiping about how I had gotten arrested at the school for such a “heinous crime.” I remember wishing I could have put my life in fast forward. I was first ashamed, then infuriated. I couldn’t fathom how a silly prank had spiraled into such a provocative scandal. Year after year “Streak Quick Check” was on the scavenger hunt list and year after year boys would put socks over their “Johnsons” and run wildly through the convenience store. No questions asked. No explanations given. No judgmental glares. So why was it that my excursion became the talk of the town? Why did the police feel so strongly that they needed to physically pull me out of class to take me down to the station?
I couldn’t help but daydream about what it was like to be a boy after streaking Quick Check for the senior scavenger hunt. Perhaps upon entering school, I would have been greeted by my peers with a long line of dap ups and chest bumps. Perhaps those who never paid any mind to the annual scavenger hunt would address me as if it was any other day. They’d ask how my weekend was, which I would reply “fine.” It would only be my coy smile that would suggest the truth of my scandalous experiences. I would then mosey on home at the end of the day and reward myself with maybe an ice pop or a long nap for a job well done. No police encounters, gossiping parents, or snide comments? Sounds like a dream!
My charges would get dropped in court as long as I stayed out of trouble for six months. Everyone slowly began to forget about the student government golden child who got caught naked in a Spider-Man mask. Despite my humiliation, I have no regrets. This experience has given me perspective about how important it is to be active in the fight for equal rights. It is also a fun factoid about myself to share at cocktail parties. Due to this tremendous backlash, my senior year of high school would be the last year the traditional scavenger hunt was conducted. I guess you can say that despite all odds, Katie Feinberg went out with a thundering thump.
Katie Feinberg is a junior Media Arts & Design major at James Madison University who could potentially be found showing off her “crazy legs” on the dance floor, soaking in the bubble bath, or maybe even sitting cozily somewhere with her head in a good book.