…probably not backwards, though, although I would certainly give it a try, if required. Let me explain.
This morning, on my way from the train to my office, a man hollered at me. This is not so strange. Men holler at women all the time, and we all just sort of ignore it. It’s part of the social contract in cities: Dudes yell gross things, we ignore them, and everyone goes about his or her day. Most of the time, it doesn’t even bother me. This is somewhat shameful, but part of me sort of figures that a time will come when no one will say anything and maybe I’ll miss it. (I know, I know, awful, etc.)
There are a lot of different opening salvos, as far as street hollering goes. A guy who lived around the corner from me on the Lower East Side years ago used to start with, “Hey shorty, what’s your name?” I also used to get many offers for free bodyguard services, which I think we can all agree is thoughtful. And then, of course, we have the ever popular hiss, which sounds like an angry noise but is supposed to indicate approval. “Hey mama,” is also a classic. (“Hey girl” is also acceptable.)
This particular dude, this morning, went with, “Hi!” A tried and true approach, but somewhat confusing because I was nearly at my office, and I thought it might be a coworker, so I turned to see who was talking and made eye contact. Well.
You never make eye contact with a street yeller.
Two things become immediately apparent: 1) I did not know this gentleman, who weighed about 350 pounds and was at least 6′ 2″, and 2) he rarely had much luck getting ladies to look him in the eye post-holler. OK, also 3) he was very excited about it.
“HELLO THERE, MISS!” he said. He was in a stairwell, where he’d clearly been holding up a wall for some of the morning. I was on the sidewalk, tottering by on my heels.
“Murmble,” I said, and continued walking, somewhat more briskly, toward the avenue.
“HEY. HI! HEY, MISS.”
I didn’t look back, but it was clear that his voice was not as far behind me as it should be. Ladies who walk in the city are pros at echolocation.
“MISS! GIRL! GIRL!”
Wow, there’s no faster way to my heart than that. And also, now I was definitely sure I heard footfalls speeding up behind me. I broke into a run.
“WAIT A SECOND! HEY! …ARE YOU MARRIED?”
If it weren’t for the terror, I might have started laughing. Am I married? Because, if I weren’t married, we would definitely work something out? Fortunately, by this time, I was at the Starbucks on the corner. I slammed into the store. He didn’t follow. No one in the Starbucks noticed my sweaty face and frantic eyes. I ordered a Trenta Iced Green Tea and commented on the weather to the lady next to me in line.
“It’s going to get hotter before the week is out,” she said.
But hopefully, I won’t be doing much running. Especially in the shoes I have on today, which are three-inches wedges and not approved for urban combat.
Image via The Clara Bow Archive.