I’m just going to take liberties at being verbose and opinionated and talk like I know everything for a bit, okay?
The other week I was having a fat, hot day. The heat was moist and I had been eating chips all day the day before at work. Someone had been having one of those days and wanted to eat the feelings it was leaving them with. Being the compatriot colleague I pride myself as being, I obviously couldn’t let this person devour those chips entirely alone. “Here, let me help you,” I offered, hand on shoulder, other hand in bag.
So ya, my fat, hot day. I had on this ratty t-shirt and my cheap, almost Lulu yoga pants that were dusted ass and knees with soil from yard work we’d been doing. I was out getting cream and a planter. I exited the plaza and my person met the face of a biker sitting on some masonry. Normally, when I feel decent and cool (cool as in the opposite of hot; not as in ‘dude’) I would be more aware of myself and how I might appear in public and that’s because I would have paid attention to the little details. On this day I was feeling happily invisible and dirty until… I got the whistle.
And, I know, you’re probably like “Okay sister, now h’what makes you think he was whistling at you? You in your filthy-ass fake Lulus and grungy t-shirt” ‘snap, snap, snap’
Listen, a lady 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 like this (read in slow motion):
Doot do do, I’m walking out of a plaza. Man, this planter is heavy! Shit, I’m going to have to open the heavy glass door with my knee. Harumph, it’s open. Okay, now I have to dash out before it closes on me and my heavy planter.
Doot do do.. walking out… Oh, there’s a dog tied to Starbucks’ patio fence drinking water, he’s so cute! And, there’s an old man putting money in the meter. Doot do do, taking a few more steps… That man’s wearing chaps, ah, there’s his Harley. Doot d… we’ve made eye contact. Glance away. Glance again. Close-mouth polite smile from me. Oh okay, now he’s smirking and nodding. Does he have to watch me while he lights his cigarette? Doot do do, I’m wearing dirty pants and a ratty t-shirt, he’ll notice sooner or later. Okay, he’s still watching me. Okay, he’s just going to be a watcher, what can I do? Doot do do, I’m passing him now. Yep, still watching. Right foot, left foot, right foot, left foot… my peripheral tells me he’s still watching… right foot, left… I’m fully past him now and I can feel his eyes burning right into my… shudder… Okay right foot, left foot, “fweeeet ffeeewwww.” Gah! He just whistled! Keep walking, doot do do.
Now hear this: I am also very comfortable admitting the times that I thought I was receiving a whistle only to turn around and see an old lady whistling for her shih-tzu to come. But, nevertheless, consider it like this: You’re sitting somewhere, say at DQ, in a library, or in your car at a red light. You don’t gotta be a lady 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. N’est pas? It’s the same sort of thing. It’s just that maybe a lady’s sense of this is a bit more attuned.
Here’s an important message that should be stressed:
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. There was more of a driving force or more of a hunger, maybe. And, the mating dance began.
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 classes, and all marital statuses. Making the transition from teenager 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. Don’t even get me started on what the media has done to young people…
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 vs 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 have 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 innocent.
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 some men this can leave them feeling quite under-appreciated and even used. Unfortunately, this 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 looking like a cold fish.
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. She looks like she was built to tantalise men. But, why is she rebuffing your advances? Why is she so callous and indifferent? She looks like she wants the attention. 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. Well, okay, there’s that plus a bit of my own judgmental analysis.
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 young man!
Now, don’t get me wrong. I know this is all part of the game of life. 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 flirting movement. 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 shitty deal. I guess if anything is to come out of this post (other than an obvious nap!) 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 (oh, and animals, too) as we do playing a silly game of cat and mouse with each other 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.