Archive for July, 2012

guys, yo, can we talk?

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

I’m just going to take liberties at being verbose and talk like I know everything for a bit, okay?

Not too long ago I was having one of those frowzy, uninspired Saturdays where I fully intended on spending all day in the pyjama shorts I went to bed in the night before. The summer heat was sticky and I was too but it didn’t matter because this Saturday was just for me to do with it as I pleased.

I needed to make a quick trip to the little garden store up the road and before leaving I briefly contemplated putting more effort into my pony tail and perhaps changing my “shorts” but my partner assured me no one would notice they were pyjamas. I decided my trip was going to be fast, and I was, after all, going to a home garden store so if my hands and legs were also powdered with dry soil from yard work, I would just blend right in with everyone else.

When I exited the store, I caught a glimpse of man with a rugged face covered with drywall powder sitting on some masonry and smoking a cigarette. Our eyes briefly met as I shimmied around a cart near him that was blocking my way. I tipped him one of those “hard at work, too” kind of nods of solidarity. Then, something about our energies changed. His eyes did this almost undetectable twitch into a kind of squint and he brought his cigarette to his lips. I continued on.


THE whistle.

I know, some of you might be all, “Okay, now what makes you think he was whistling at you? You in your ratty pony tail, your pyjamas and your dusty, dirty garden legs.”

Oh, a woman knows. Even when we’re not aware of our surroundings, we’re aware of our surroundings. And, this has really not much to do with narcissism and everything to do with how we’ve come to learn of the way we fit in among the general populous. We as in the female gender. Sometimes we’re a spectacle, even when we want to feel invisible. We’ve learned that it’s just the way it goes. To supplement this, though, is the reality that sometimes those who are in the moment of appreciating us don’t make themselves very unassuming. Sometimes it’s an all out show down. And it would go something like this:

Doot doo do, whoa, this planter is heavy! I’m going to have to use the wheelchair button to open the door … with my elbow? No, I’ll use my knee. [reposition planter while waiting for the door to open]

Doot doo do, passing through doorway… Oh, it’s so hot outside. Aw, there’s a dog tied to a bike rack drinking water, he’s so cute! There’s an elderly woman getting out of her car, I love her jacket! Doot doo do, taking a few more steps… That man must be so hot in those overalls, and look his face is covered in dust.

Doot doo d… we’ve made eye contact. Polite smile, nod. Does he have to watch me while he brings his cigarette to his lips? Okay, he’s still watching me, avert eyes. Alright, he’s just going to be a watcher, what can I do? Doot doo do, I’m passing him now. Peripheral vision tells me his head is turning. I’m fully past him now and I suddenly feel very self-conscious. Okay right foot, left foot, “fweeeet ffeeewwww.” He just whistled! Keep walking, doot doo do.

Just so you know I am very comfortable admitting the times that I thought I was receiving a whistle only to look up and see a chickadee in a tree. But, nevertheless, consider it like this: You’re sitting somewhere, say in a library, or in your car at a red light. You don’t need a sixth sense to feel like someone near you is watching you. You could be looking straight ahead at a red light and sense that someone’s looking over at you. So you look and, oh look!, they’re looking over at you. It’s not that you think you’re so marvellous and you just look for signs of validation, it’s just that you could feel it. Right? It’s the same sort of thing.

Here’s an important lesson I would like to teach:

Leering, ogling, whistling, and making strange noises at women don’t make us feel flattered in the way that you may think. And, this idea of feeling like you’ve just made a woman’s day is considerably fallacious. You see, back when our bodies were making the transition from teeny bopper into young woman; and things were growing; and our hormones were changing; and we became very aware of our presence in society; we became sexual beings. We were aware of it because we looked at young men differently. The feelings they evoked in our bodies were different from when we’d play with each other at recess years ago. Feelings became more of a hunger than a crush.

Also going on at that time was the realisation that we weren’t only drawing the attention of men our age, but also men from all ages, all races, all occupations, and all marital statuses. Making the transition from teeny-bopper (do people still use that word?) into woman introduced a whole other dimension that included a very extrusive sense of being exposed. This can get confusing because emotionally we have become young women and we are forming chemical attractions to people but what distracts from that natural evolution is that we also have to juggle with filtering out advances from men that we aren’t necessarily prepared to contend with and it feels unnatural. It can come from men our age, which we are more suited to deal with, but, it can also come from men who are our fathers’ ages and sometimes even older.

From here, women can go one of four ways: 1. we embrace and accept the attention as part of our regular existence in society where it eventually has little to no effect, 2. we use it as a major factor in determining our sense of self-worth, 3. we manufacture power and control from it, or 4. we try to escape it by becoming reticent.

A female’s introduction to womanhood can be a precarious journey in the sense that it is a real fight to discern what her personal identity really is. While the attention from men should be no more than innocent flattery, perpetual attention and affections from men can manipulate a woman’s psychology of self to the point where some women figure that this is the only way to exist in society.

It’s unbelievable when you think about it. How much of society’s treatment of us can have the greatest impact on how we view ourselves. And, I think, there really is a battle between struggles of who we believe ourselves to be versus how the rest of the world believes us to be. Which one are we going to stay truest to?

So, back to leering, ogling, whistling, and making strange noises and why it probably doesn’t have the affect you’d think it should have…

I can imagine that it must feel good to make advances toward a woman and see her blush, smile back, turn around, etc. But, what I think happens is almost like a predisposition by women to be polite and accommodating in general. So, even if the advance has made her feel uncomfortable or annoyed, it would be uncommon to see her react with any kind of combativeness. It would be hard to justify lashing out because a man is staring at us from afar. We’d look like a crazy person. You could be making her day or you could be ruining it – either way the response will likely consistently be the same.

There is an element of desensitization that, I believe, occurs just like with anything that people experience regularly in their daily lives; it loses its effect over time. So, before your glances, we may have faced glances starting from the moment we left our house that morning that by the time yours comes late in the day, for example, we may have already been acknowledged in the grocery store, on the bus, while pumping gas, or while walking down the street. For some women, this can eventually start to feel like an objectification and that can easily manifest as a feeling of vulnerability or self-consciousness even if your intention is genuine and benign.

Most women, I’d say, know of the impact they can have on men. There are some who take advantage of it and revel in the attention. They’re usually quite overt and they will dress and behave in the manner in which men have come to expect them to behave and generally make it part of their life’s purpose. They might not really care what you have to offer intellectually, what you look like, or who you are as a person. They get off on the feeling you leave them with at the end of the day: desired. And, I think, for the good, decent men out there, this can leave them feeling quite under-appreciated and even used. Unfortunately, she is probably the result of persistent attention that was likely focused strictly on her physical appearance starting right when she was transitioning into a young woman.

Other women have a solidly developed sense of self that was instituted very early on. So, they are able to take advances from men for what they are and not have them change their constitution or how they view their place in the world. These are the types of women who will likely not give you the reaction you are hoping for. They’ll walk right past you and not flinch; they’ll keep walking despite your stares and despite your noises and nudges to your friends. It’s not necessarily because you don’t meet their high standards but they could just be indifferent or they’re resenting the objectification or sexualisation of themselves and it can feel quite creepy. These women might be a little more self-aware and cerebral and, not to sound snobby, but in her eyes, over-exaggerated advances reduce you to a very base and simplistic level that doesn’t really stimulate or interest her. So then she runs the risk of coming across like a cold fish or worse yet, being told it to her face.

There’s also the woman who is a bit of both. She designs her impression management as necessary and is purposeful in her approach with the world. She is the sex kitten one day a week just because it’s fun to dress up and put on makeup. She owns her sexuality, owns the moment, and completely orchestrates the way her appearance is demonstrated. She’s confusing, though, because there she is, exuding sexuality on the dance floor. She looks like she was built to tantalise men. But, why is she rebuffing your advances? Why is she so callous and indifferent? She obviously wants the attention of men looking like that. Here’s the thing, she’s doing it for no other reason than for herself. She’s not looking for attention, although she knows she’s going to get it, it’s just not what’s driving her to look the way she does at that time. She did it because it’s fun, and it felt good.

Confusing, eh? Oh, I know.

Obviously, I’m generalising here because you could just as easily find a bit of all of this in any one person. I’m just simplifying it down to three of the most common types of reactions to these flirtations.

One thing that’s important to note is that I also know that it’s a real game-changer if there is an actual chemical response to the person who is making advances at us. But, to me there is a different type of etiquette involved there. There’s an actual dance that plays out in that circumstance that usually involves taking cues from each other. In this case, it’s more mutual. You’re getting the eye contact back. She’s sipping her drink while not taking her eyes off you. She’s clearly reciprocating your advances with some of her own. THIS is when you have the green light to continue and make your move. Now go forth, your chances are good!

Don’t get me wrong. I know that cat-calling and whistling has been going on since the early part of the 1900s. I know that women stare at men, too. I know that men change who they are based on how they’ve come to be treated by women. I know men are objectified. But, this post isn’t about that. And plus, I think the way each gender handles these advances is quite different. No matter how you cut it, women are still vulnerable members of society although I know society has come a very long way in protecting each other from this. Still though, when we walk down the street alone we can feel susceptible. When we’re trapped on a busy bus and someone is across from us unable to take their eyes off us, we can feel exposed and self-conscious. When we walk by a group of men who spare no expense at commenting loudly about parts of our bodies we feel degraded. We may not react that way, but the feeling it can leave us with is quite profound.

I don’t know what the answer is, really, even though I’ve just typed all this and sound like I know what I’m saying. I don’t apply this way of thinking to all men or all women. But, I do feel like it’s enough of an issue to at least offer a different perspective on the whole, “It’s only harmless staring.” idea. I feel badly for the men and women with genuine intentions who can’t catch a break. They’re up against pre-judgments, stereotypes, bad past experiences, and negative impressions of each other. It’s a cruddy deal. I guess if anything is to come out of this post it’s that we take a closer look at the things that motivate us, the things that are driving forces in our lives. If we could spend as much energy on not only cultivating ourselves but also looking after each other as we do on stimulating our egos then I believe the world will be a much better place for me to live in.

Just kidding. Not just me, me and you.

But, mostly me.