Catcalling has been something of a hot topic lately, largely thanks to this video:
The video itself caused a lot of debate – not least, because of the fact that the people who made it edited out the white guys. It also got a lot of reactions. Some of them were from people relating their experiences with street harassment. Some of them were from people who hadn’t experienced it directly, sharing their shock and sympathy.
And some of them were from extremely kind and thoughtful gentlemen, who wanted to explain how silly we were all being about this.
You know what? I was convinced. Turns out, I’d been thinking about my own experiences with street harassment all wrong. Never fear, though! Thanks to some cold hard truth from Gaston’s smirk-faced older brother, I saw the light.
Now I realised that these encounters were compliments, I had to rethink them in all sorts of ways. It was about time that I gave these delightful strangers the credit that I’d so selfishly withheld.
So, without further ado, here’s a celebration of these brave old romantics – my top five catcallers!
Let’s face it, beeping your car horn at a woman as she walks may be a classic, but you need to shake things up if you want to stand out. Chicken Dippers Man certainly managed that.
My best friend and I had just left a queer-friendly arts night at my local community centre. Not many people would have deciphered our body language – engaged in conversation with each other, striding towards the car – and known that, after an evening of pro-feminist music and comedy, what we really wanted was a random and unexpected shout in the street.
But he knew. And so, as his friend drove past, he leaned out of the window and yelled “CHICKEN DIPPERS!” at us, as loudly as he could.
At the time – silly me – I thought that he wanted to startle us and force us to give him our attention. Now, I know better. I expect he thought we looked hungry, and sweetly offered a suggestion on what we might like to eat. Thank you, Chicken Dippers Man!
#4: Jolly Holiday
I don’t want to sound biased, but a lot of the best catcalls I’ve ever had have been from men in cars. Before Chicken Dippers Man, there was a delightful bloke who decided to pay me a compliment while I was walking through Bruges with my grandma.
Like Chicken Dippers Man, this gent leaned out of the window of his car as he passed. He made eye contact with me – so I knew that I was really special.
And I expect I just misunderstood the motion he made with his hand and his mouth. He was probably suggesting that hey, since I was on holiday, why not treat myself to an ice lolly?
Yes, I expect that was it. What a nice man.
#3: Save the Last Dance
You know what’s better than a compliment from one man? A compliment from a whole bunch of them. On a dark street, when you’re on your own, walking back to the bus stop from your dance class.
Smirky Gaston was right – I shouldn’t cry wolf. I mean, these guys who stared at me as they walked past, as close as they could get to me without actually touching me, sniggering to each other and commenting “Look at that skank!” – it’s not like it’s abusive or anything. They probably meant skank in a nice way, right?
And if I didn’t like it, well, I should’ve turned around and told them to shut up. On that dark empty street, on my own. What’s the worst that could have happened, after all?
#2: A Friend in Need
It’s a little unfair to call this particular guy a stranger. I know his name, and his phone number, because he insisted that I take them both. He knows my name, too, because he wouldn’t stop asking. He doesn’t know my number, but only because I gave him a fake. What a bitch I was back then, giving a guy a fake number after he’d spent so much time trying to find it out!
This guy didn’t precisely catcall, either, but he paid me the same kind of flattering attention. He’d see me on the street in the place where I used to live, and come up and ask me questions. At the time, I thought these questions were really intrusive and personal – silly me! – but now I know that actually it was really sweet of him to want to know every last thing about me, no matter whether I wanted to tell him or not.
And, even more admirably, he was persistent. Why, one time, when I saw him approach me in a café and immediately scrabbled around to leave, he didn’t quit. He told me he just wanted to be friends, and, quite rightly, chided me when I told him that I didn’t.
It’s always nice to have friends. And I’m sure he tried to make friends in the same way with people other than women in their twenties. After all, just because I never saw it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.
#1: We’ll Always Have Paris
But, no matter how grateful I am to all these men, there’s one who has a special place in my heart. After all, you never forget your first. And, to make it even more special, I got my very first catcall in the famously romantic city of Paris.
I remember the night like it was yesterday. I was walking back to the hotel, with my younger brother and, once again, my grandma. We’d had a delicious meal in a nearby restaurant, and I was sleepy and happy and excited about being in this spectacular city.
A man walking in the other direction met my eye. At the time, I thought his expression was a leer, but now I know better – it was undoubtedly a look of affection. His hand was deep in his pocket, but I’m sure he was just checking his change, or making sure he had his ticket for the Metro.
I couldn’t quite decipher what he said to me, which is a shame, because I know I’d treasure the memory. But what can I say? My French wasn’t all that great when I was nine.