Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Sexxxy Lady

The reviews are in! The short hair is hit, especially with the lady who begs for change outside the Walgreens at Jackson and State. "Nice and easy to care for, isn't it?" She pointed at her own nearly shaved pate. "Oh, and I tried to tell you this morning when you were comin' off the train, but you was wearing headphones, that those are great shoes." She's right, they are great shoes.

That reminds me: Yesterday, as I was walking out of Reckless Records on Madison, I heard a hissing sound. It was coming out of a man leaning against the wall of a store a few doors down, and was directed at me. For those who have never experienced Chicago-style street harassment, this pneumatic sound is the lazy man's version of a wolf whistle. I always wondered: does that ever work? Does a woman ever stop and say "You know, I like the way you hiss."

It's the first hiss directed at me in quite some time. Street harassers, much like salon salesmen, prefer younger targets. When I was in my 20s, summertime was an ordeal of street harassment. As I waited at any Lakeview bus stop, wearing a slutty pair of khakis and a loose golf shirt, men drove by not only hissing, but shouting and making kissy sounds. I received compliments(?) about my appearance, for example: "You got some big-ass calves there, girl!" Or, my favorite mixed message: "Nice legs, bitch!" There were also many rhetorical questions, one of the printable being "Can I suck on your toes?"

Then there's the scary shit, where you are pretty sure you're going to get raped. One night, some creep ran after me down deserted Damen Avenue, his feet hitting the pavement heavily. I spun around, full of enough adrenaline to lift an SUV. Panting, he came near me. "I just wanted to catch up with you and tell you that you're beautiful." I screamed that he was lucky I didn't have a gun. "F***in' C**t! You think you're too good for me!!!" But, he did retreat. Safe at home, I poured myself three shots of bourbon with shaking hands.

But dear readers, do not think I entirely shun appreciative comments from random dudes, especially if they are hilarious. Some of the nicest compliments I have received were from older, usually indigent-looking men. In most cases, these were African-American men, and I only mention that because of the kind of playful, southern-gentlemanly quality of this particular brand of street macking.

One day in Lincoln Park, wearing a new outfit and sunglasses which I thought made me look very chic, I encountered a homeless man. I say he was homeless because he was a little dirty, and was picking up cigarette butts and inspecting them, just like a bum out of Central Casting. As I walked down Webster, intoxicated by my own coolness, he took notice and stood up. He faced me, arms akimbo, as if preparing for a confrontation. I stopped, alarmed at what was about to happen. Then he said, smiling, "Well, Helloooo, Miss Total Sophistication." After I stopped laughing, I continued down the street, this time like a normal person.

Another day, I wore a new purple beret. As I waited to cross the street, what looked like a heap of rags near the corner building suddenly stirred. "I loves the chapeau," he said, before sinking back into his Wild Irish Rose induced slumber.

These men are my heroes. They may own nothing, and may be loved or valued by no one, but still, they got game. I think Oscar Wilde said it best: "We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars."

6 comments:

Llalan said...

I, too, take great joy in the homeless man's appreciation. The area of Boston in which I live is known for its density of chatty, observant, and, I must say, quite style-conscious homeless men. On several occasions they have brought up my mood by remarking on the "good-lookin' lady" walking past; in fact, I have been known to make detours past particular park benches in the square on days I felt especially slovenly, just to make non-threatening, satisfying eye-contact. Three cheers for men who know a good thing when they see it...and aren't afraid to say so politely.

The Fifty Foot Blogger said...

llalan-Believe or not, I have been macked in Cambridge. It was a white guy with a heavy southie accent, and he wasn't very original. He said "Hey, red."

Louise said...

I was in NY a few years ago and experienced the ready wit of one knight of the road. One evening I was carrying a pizza in a box held with string. I hadn't noticed that the box had up-ended itself until this homeless man remarked "eugh, cheese all down one side".
Construction workers are no longer allowed to whistle their appreciation on UK building sites. I used to really hate all the catcalls when I was younger. British men are terrified of making comments to women in case they are accused of being sexist - and as they usually are in the "nice pair of baps darlin" genre its hardly surprising.

I was introduced to the actor John Hurt a few years ago in LA. I was wearing a rather fine cloche hat. My friend introduced me as her friend from England. John Hurt replied "well in that hat dear you could hardly be anything else"! I think thats what we call a backhanded compliment.

The Fifty Foot Blogger said...

Louise,
I do believe you are my official six degrees of separation from every famous person on the planet. As to Mr. Hurt...bitter queen! I'm sure the hat was lovely.

Daniel said...

You're a great writer, and I am glad you seem to be doing so well, which really makes me happy.

I keep thoughts for you.

The Fifty Foot Blogger said...

Thanks on both counts, Daniel.