Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Cat Calls: Flattery in Creepiness...or Something

I'm torn by something.

When I get cat called or whistled at on the street, I know I should be a little bit wary, and I am.  But my first feeling when I hear random strangers making sexy noises at me is flattery.  I know it's weird, because usually the offenders are somewhat senile homeless people or otherwise creepy men who I really shouldn't be mixed up with, but I can't help it-- who doesn't like to be told they're attractive?  I realize that that sounds incredibly sad and desperate, but it's not.  This is a weird thought to try and articulate in writing, but I'll give it a try.

I remember when I turned 13, my parents paid for me to go and visit my sister, A, in New York City and for us to go see a show on Broadway.  At the time, I had little to no exposure to the world of men who felt it wasn't inappropriate to make public their feelings about a complete stranger's body.  I noticed that A got a number of cat calls and men saying things like, "ooh, girl, you so fine," and things like that.  At first, I felt super threatened on A's behalf, but I soon realized that she didn't mind so much.  I mean, she wasn't inviting it or anything like that at all, but she seemed kind of pleased with herself whenever a guy took notice of her.

Get it?
From then on, as I started growing up, I began to realize that it's actually fine to be kind of flattered about things like that, so long as you're not an idiot about it.  When I was living in Boston, I got the most exposure to that kind of thing that I ever had (Maine isn't exactly a giant haven for that crowd).  At first, it was weird to have so many people right around where I lived calling out and whistling to my friends and me, but we got used to it and it sort of became part of what being in Boston meant.  We liked to joke around after a while.  Someone would come back from a walk outside and say, "watch it if you go to CVS-- the homeless guys over there are in major harassment mode today."

My time in Boston has taught me valuable skills in how to handle those types of situations.  I find that it's ok to feel good about them if you aren't really showing that you feel good about it, because then people will think it's ok to maybe do something that isn't so appreciable...I find it best to ignore it and smile on the inside.

There are some times when it's not just a whistle or kissy noises.  Sometimes it's a little harder to just ignore.  The other day, I was at the library reading a script for my friend.  A guy came and sat down across the table from me and started listening to music on some sort of MP3 player.  After a while, he just looked at me and said, "Hi!"  Now, I suppose some people could just ignore this, but it was so direct, and I have a hard time just ignoring that kind of thing.  So I just said "hi" back and kept reading.  He started talking to me about age and how old he felt (he had asked me how old I was-- I lied, but I don't think it really mattered- this guy didn't seem dangerous, necessarily, just...what's the word...pushy?).  He told me about how he was 30 years old and already had gray hairs.  I assured him that I had met younger people with gray hair.  He kept saying things, and I would smile and nod and go back to my reading.  Eventually, he got up to leave, said it was nice to meet me, and told me I had nice feet.  He told me that it reflected well on me that I took care of my feet, and he told me to keep taking care of my feet.

Ok- so it was bizarre.  But COME ON.  If I can handle myself, why not be kind to a creepy stranger?

...I feel like I'm trying to validate myself right now...I don't know why it matters.

It's interesting to see the way different people deal with these things.  Sometimes I'm impressed, and then sometimes I just think, "wow...that girl's such a dumbass."  One time, I was waiting for the T (subway) with a friend of mine, K, from Emerson, and a very clearly mentally challenged older man shuffled up to K and said, "will you go on a date with me?"  I was a little freaked out, because at the time, I still wasn't used to this kind of behavior, but K smoothly (and mercifully apologetically) replied, "I'm sorry; I have a boyfriend," and the guy just walked away.  I don't even think she had a boyfriend at the time.  That response just came really easily for her.  I was impressed.

Another time, a different friend of mine, H, was drunk.  A group of us decided to go for some late night pizza.  H came along and started flirting with some guys outside the pizza place.  Now, it was very clear to us (mainly because we were sober) that these were not guys you wanted to flirt with, particularly at 2 o'clock in the morning in the middle of Boston.  The guy she was flirting with kept grabbing her ass and saying, "come 'ere, baby..." and H didn't seem to mind or sense that the situation wasn't a good one.  Eventually our strong, male friend took H away from the guy and we went back to the dorm with our pizza.  Granted, she was drunk, but I couldn't help but think that if I'd been in a similarly substance-induced situation, I wouldn't have been quite so irresponsible...

Anyway, I'm not really sure what the purpose of this post was except perhaps to make the point that it's ok to be flattered by creepy strangers' behavior as long as you aren't stupid.


  1. interesting dilemma. I think you articulate it quite well. And congratulations on the fine care taken with your feet.

  2. I think once you spend time in South America, any BIT of cat calling that used to be flattering becomes very much not so. It is clearly too automatic and disgusting