Sidewalk Couples. No.
In order to understand this special, singular strife, one must meet certain criteria. You must live in a city. The older the city, the better, as they’re prone to narrow streets. You must not own a car. Cars imply that you have a way to transport your physical body from A to B without the use of your legs, feet, or personal mobility device. And finally, you must be a single a person, one who…pardon the cliche, walks alone. I am speaking of course about Sidewalk Couples, likely unnoticed and considered harmless by most observers of society, but for the single walker trying to traverse the city streets for purposes entirely her own, they are certain peril.
Sidewalk Couples are couples of every age, gender, orientation, and quantity of luggage in tow. Their behavior is some of the most arrogant, oblivious, and dismissive that one can engage in while in a public place. I couldn’t give two hoots about couples kissing in public, carry on! It means they’re standing still or sitting on the edge of a fountain, entirely out of my way. Sidewalk Couples are the couples who walk two-abreast down the sidewalk, hands cemented together as if by witch’s curse, commanding concrete real estate as if they’re paying it rent. They have not an ounce of regard for singular walkers just trying to get their Greek yogurt home before the heat of the day turns it. They are an offensive, entitled breed and their behavior must be stopped.
They very rarely have children, as those with offspring typically resort to motor vehicles. Their nannies are the ones on the sidewalk, but those queens know how to keep things streamlined. I’ve rarely seen a nanny take up more sidewalk room than the width of her employer’s overpriced, NASA-engineered stroller. She knows what she’s doing, she’s not my concern here.
Unrelenting sidewalk handholding is a completely unnecessary behavior, this tethering together of two human beings down a sidewalk come hell or high trash can. Honestly, is one of you made of helium? Are we holding hands as a precautionary measure? Because if it’s just a display of affection, we have a problem. If there’s no more purpose to it that can be justified, if the pairs of the planet can demonstrate no logic to their behavior other than “I really like him,” this is an emergency that we need to address. Because sidewalk couples, no matter what else they do on their charming tandem walks, never, ever, EVER move.
Sidewalk Couples holding hands have a complete inability to get the bejesus out of the way. It is as if by locking phalanges they have lost all sense of goodness and propriety. They never permit any members of the public who happen to be walking in their vicinity to safely pass by. The disrespect! The unmitigated gall! Do you want to know what they’ve made me do?
I’ve had to slow my pace, biding my time until we all arrive at a street corner like a ragtag group of traveling peddlers. I’ve had to Tetris myself around them, and don’t you know the shame I’ve felt when I was the one who uttered the “excuse me.” I’ve had to duck out entirely, walking amongst the passing cars and exposing myself to potential bodily harm. I’ve climbed snowdrifts, traipsed among garbage bags, navigating myself over anything currently being enjoyed by the rats. I’ve had to pretend the very curb itself is my own personal balance beam. I have moved myself out of the way of these matching set miscreants in every way that one can be shoved aside. It’s as if Sidewalk Couples, by their actions, are informing me that the portion of the sidewalk where I belong is the square meter that surrounds trees. You know, where the dogs poo.
You’ll notice that single people give each other a wide berth. We respect each other, sticking to the outer edges, giving each other the room we need to safely and comfortably walk on whatever space is available to two people moving in opposite directions. If we move at different paces, no matter. There is always room for the faster of us to overtake the slower, without shoving that slower person into a parked side mirror or bicycle lock.
I know what you’re thinking, surely I can only be talking about couples traversing the sidewalk in the same direction as me. There’s no way a couple would be walking towards me and have the audacity to continue to partake in their double act sashay down the lane without having the courtesy to disconnect paws and let me pass. HA! You think they care? You think they see me, a single woman, as anything other than street debris? The comedy! They don’t budge one centimeter out of their way so that I don’t have to get curb water on my shoes.
It matters not, I matter not, hence my rage. It is as though, by their very act of falling in love, Sidewalk Couples have achieved an elevated life status, one that entitles them to claim as much public street square footage as they wish. To them, singles are lower life forms, entirely unworthy of courtesy and further still, an imposition upon the couple itself. Release hands? For her? Nonsense.
This arrogance and lack of regard has gone on long enough. Sidewalk Couples must be stopped. Honestly if I could make their Apple watches shock them like dog collars any time they’re being discourteous to fellow humans on the street I most certainly would. Single walkers deserve to be more than the assumed mover. I don’t want to come face to face or face to ass with a couple and know every single time that it’s me that’s going to have to shove aside, because heaven knows they won’t.
I shall take a stand. I shall take a walk. I shall become a human battering ram for all those who have been imposed upon before me. I shall give each couple I see on the sidewalk a fair opportunity to temporarily walk single-file to let me pass, if they can break themselves away from connecting to each other’s epidermis for one fraction of a moment. If they cannot, if they refuse, if they continue to look down upon me, the solo walker, and assume it is my responsibility to obey their couplehood command of any space they wish, heaven help them, for I am mighty. I shall crash into couples at their very wrists, caring not for any offense I cause, as they have never apologized to me once for making me zigzag so they they could continue in their straight line. I will push through, going on about my day, and leaving in my wake the knowledge that their love does not come with an entitlement package.
If my bulldozery offends, if they scoff, I’ll simply turn around and inform the formerly conjoined lovers that they should have moved into the street if they wanted to keep holding hands. They could have leapt over that pile of recycling to stay connected. They could have, for goodness sake, hailed a cab and held hands the entire ride. They can do anything, anything they want, other than assume that their claim to the sidewalk supersedes mine for one more day. I’ll not have it. We will all have equal claim, or there shall be consequences.
Couples, you are not better than me. Know this! Know me! Your lack of respect and courtesy shames your grandfathers. You are not special, at least no more special than every single, single person trying to get to the movies before the trailers start. Your importance doesn’t extend beyond ours, the single human beings of earth who prefer to live in cities with solid public transit options. You are not more than me, more than us.
All you are is in love, and in my way. Move.
Shani Silver is a humor essayist and podcaster based in Brooklyn who writes on Medium, a lot.