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hey, pretty lady, what's cookin?!
nausea.
by heather m. millen
8.29.05
pop culture

Looking good!
Shake it, baby!
You are lookin hot today, mama!

And of course, the classic, You got big titties!

Really? Your perception is astounding.

This is my day, people. And while some women can probably relate, men often have no idea how NORMAL it is to hear catcalls being SCREAMED AT YOU from complete strangers.

I've been doing my research. I live in a city and I walk, on average, an hour a day. Sometimes several. But just in one 5-day week of walking to and from work, I was addressed by catcalls on 19 occasions. Including one instance that was more of a serenade than a catcall. Essentially, I'm rounding the corner to my office and I begin to hear the familiar whispers of a construction crew member to his buddies. "Look at that one, she's hot." This, apparently, moved the man on the scaffolding above to turn my way, salute and sing God Bless America. Two points for originality, I suppose.

But to cite construction workers as the sole offenders is both cliché and inaccurate. On a particularly heavy catcalling day (I wore a dress to work), as I walked to my next meeting at an office downtown, nearly exhausted from the ridiculousness of it all, I passed by the police station. This made me smile, because police stations make me feel safe. Then, from the driver's seat of a parked cop cruiser, I hear, "I liiiiiike it!"

It happens on street corners, public parks, grocery stores, Dunkin Donuts and, apparently, even police stations. It's verbal and vagrant and a tad bit unsettling. But more than anything, it's EXPECTED, which is the most nauseating aspect.

Think about it boys, if a man walks up and starts screaming nonsense at you for no obvious reason, that person would be deemed "weird" and you would run away. Or at least walk briskly. If I ran from all the inappropriate gestures that came my way, I'd be set up for the Iron Man competition.

And I just don't get it. What is the point? Before you answer, one time recently, a man standing on his front stoop yelled some trite "Hot Damn!" or similar comment and I responded as I often do - I kept walking. Under no circumstance did I turn my head in any direction. My neck became an object unable to pivot or turn in any fashion. I was suddenly obscenely fascinated with street signs, maybe he'll think I didn't hear. Then the - and it should be mentioned - rather frighteningly large man followed up with a sternly barked demand, "Hey, you thank somebody when they pay you a compliment!!"

I said "Thank you" and tried to shield the fear in my eyes. He said "You're welcome." I ran like hell.

So what is the point? I'm simply passing by. Clearly you're not taking the first step to a meaningful and long relationship. Nor will I most likely ever see you again. Your vocalized appreciation for the way my ass wiggles really is getting you nowhere. What gives? Is this fun for you? Okay, perhaps I could see that. Speaking without recourse is a rather fun notion that people usually abandon due to things like ettiquette and good taste.

Catcalling must be the singular most accepted form of speaking your mind no matter how inappropriate that thought is. Sometimes when there are old people hobbling along their way and holding me up behind them on the sidewalk, I want to scream "Hey, grannie... Move your ass or just die and get it over with." But do I? No, because that would be an inappropriate thing to say to anyone, let alone a stranger.

And if I saw you in public and you were wearing the world's most fashionably-challenged ensemble, chances are I wouldn't walk up and comment on it or vomit on your shoes in protest. In fact, I'd probably just make painfully obvious faces at my distaste and snicker about you to my friends. But to point it out would be rude. And I don't really see why unsolicited comments on my mammilla are any different.

I would love to see, just for one day, the tables turned. Women whooping it up to men walking by... "Hey baby, big cock!" I know that you say you wouldn't mind, but I believe you would find it a bit unsettling.

Or even better, what if a MAN were to say that to another man. Because really one aspect of this male/female conundrum is that the woman is often (physically speaking anyway) the weaker sex. And verbal explosions, no matter how "complimentary," can be a tad bit uneasy to a lady walking down the street by herself.

But maybe that's what catcalling is... man's last rite from the caveman era to speak his mind and establish his position as the superior being:

I see woman. Woman belong to man. I say whatever want to woman. "Hey woman... you got big titties."


ABOUT HEATHER M. MILLEN

Heather has a penchant for drama, both personally and professionally. She secretly wishes people spoke in song and wholeheartedly believes that everyone deserves a standing ovation now and again. She finds it appalling that people reserve champagne only for special occasions, when champagne is clearly best on a Tuesday, while riding the subway, accompanying a slice of kick-ass pizza.

more about heather m. millen

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COMMENTS

dan gonzalez
8.29.05 @ 12:44a

I'm with you, sister, and thanks for speaking out.

It's not your fault that you have a great rack, awesome rails, and sweet side-pipes to boot. And it's not my fault that I have an unusually firm, enormously large cock. We just can't help our respective hotness, can we? Give us a fucking break!

People are so shallow, like the bitches on 'Sex and the City', so whenever I swing by, I just box them out. I figure, I'm probably the best thing that happened to them during another presumably shitty day, one in which they spend the majority of their time trying to boost their own battered egos and make it all seem worthwhile, so I just grin an bear it, most of the time.

Sometimes, if they're hot, I call their bluff and just whip it on out. Why not, I love to see their Marty Feldman eyes when they see the thing. You ever try that? Really shuts them up.

tracey kelley
8.29.05 @ 11:34a

Nice flasher technique, Gonz! Works like a charm, I'll bet!

The only way to find out how men will react, Heather, is to try some of the comments you're talking about.

My guess? Based on assorted bachelorette party hijinx? Most men with souls become very uncomfortable when objectified by a mass of women.

You're right, though: the best thing to do is just keep walking. Turn around and say something, and they get off on that even more.

sandra thompson
8.29.05 @ 6:52p

I got into a long discussion with a male friend of mine on this subject once a few years ago and he actually said he was being complimentary when he did this, and thought it was a "good thing" for the women. I told him it was not just annoying it was often actually frightening, and that I personally never felt "complimented" in these situations. He was dumbfounded. He chose to think I was paranoid or chicken or any number of uncomplimentary things rather than face the fact that catcalling is a stupid, obnoxious thing to do. I'm just happy that not all men think like this and the "good" ones wouldn't dream of doing such a thing, but there's damned few of them left!!!

[edited]

lisa r
8.29.05 @ 7:34p

I agree with Tracey--what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

What amazes me is that if it was the men's wives or girlfriends on the receiving end of the catcalls they'd be halfway over the construction fence in order to pound the offensive individual's face into the ground.

For those male individuals who engage in this sort of behavior, a word to the wise. There are lots of women out there who are fed up, and who are also exercising in whole new ways--like learning kickboxing. Keep harassing them, and you're likely to push the wrong woman's button some day. She might just take care of your testosterone overload permanently.

Heather, I admire your restraint. Knowing me, I'd have told that big buffalo that when someone offers me a compliment I say thank you, but when someone sexually harasses me I don't. And that's what catcalling is--it isn't complimentary, it doesn't make a woman's self esteem improve, and it doesn't make her feel attractive. It makes her feel degraded, used, nothing more than a sexual object--and as Heather illustrated---most often threatened.

Knock it off, guys.

dan gonzalez
8.29.05 @ 10:44p

like learning kickboxing

Mmm, hot chicks kickboxing. I'd like to see Red fight Heather, and then have Trace jump in...

Seriously, I had an instructive conversation with a bartender tonight. Interestingly enough, it was at the Jacksonville Landing Hooters (against my will, of course, just dodging a vicious rainstorm) and this cute latino Lisa was tending bar. She was about 5' even at best, size nothing, but with VERY large breasts. (I had her on a natural 38 DD, just didn't get that plastic vibe.) Really unique, pneumatic build. Anyway, we're just shooting the shit, and she's talking about her writing and her aborted career as a para-legal. She said she quit because she didn't like the office. I asked what went wrong, and she said "I have a hard time finding clothes. Everything looks tight on me. I tried, but I couldn't look professional." I asked if the guys gave her a hard time and she said 'no, I was probably the cutest thing in that office and they were nice to me. But these other FEMALES (she emphasized it) wouldn't give me a break. It was hell, and I never fit in". I said "That's a shame. It seems too hard to just play the cards you're dealt, you know? It's not your fault you're hotter than everybody else."

Seriously, that's about verbatim. Odd convo to have on the day this column ran, you know? But how stacked do you have to be to actually annoy other passive-aggressive females into workplace hostility? I left feeling like that girl believed she was somehow societally doomed to Hooters, and that it was a shame because she should be free to thrive at whatever her 'real' thing is.

[edited]

lisa r
8.30.05 @ 7:08a

As long as Heather and Tracey refrain from snide comments about NCSU, they're safe.

I sympathize with the poor woman. Apparently the women she worked with either have never had trouble finding clothes to fit (in which case they're probably walking sticks) or they were flat-chested and jealous.

Working at Hooters where she'll be ogled by men is hardly a solution, though.

jael mchenry
8.30.05 @ 8:45a

Oh, yeah, Heather, I hear ya.

Some of my favorites:

"You got fries to go with that shake?" (yes, really!)

"Hey! Hey! Hey!" (ad nauseum)

"Numbah Twellllllve! Numbah Twelllllllve!" (I was wearing a shirt with '12' on the back)

What I especially don't get is the ones who shout from a moving car. Like I'm going to run to catch up and then hop in, driven mad by their virility?

mike julianelle
8.30.05 @ 9:21a

I understand this is an issue for women, but honestly, so long as the incident has passed and Heather is safe and sound, I'm kinda flattered when she tells me about all the "compliments" she gets on the street. Alarmed a bit, sure, but like I said, she's safe and sound, and all mine baby! And Iiiiiiiiii LIKE it!

jael mchenry
8.30.05 @ 9:26a

On one hand, I see where you're coming from. On the other hand, I've gotten catcalled while sweaty and fugly in a huge, shapeless sweatshirt, so I don't necessarily think this is a thing that only happens to shapely, gorgeous women (such as your lovely girlfriend.)

heather millen
8.30.05 @ 10:16a

Yeah, I don't necessarily think it's a compliment either. I've been leaving the gym and received these gestures, sweaty and smelly, my hair all afro-ed out from sweating. It makes you want to say, "Really. Get serious. Now?"

As for the Hooters girl, I think it's ridiculous to think of yourself as "confined" to that job because of the office environment. As the kind man in Dunkin' Donuts was quick to site, I have a rather similar chest situation and manage to wear clothes to work every day without harrassment from my coworkers. Sure, I think some shirts are a little more restrictive on me-- such as the one I wore yesterday and upon noticing said to Mike, "My boobs look huge in this" to which he replied "Your boobs look huge in everything."

Perhaps it was the way the girl HELD herself in the office, not just what she wore.

tracey kelley
8.30.05 @ 10:39a

It's never a compliment to be hollered at by strangers. It does not add to my personal validation.



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