Monday, June 15, 2009

Make My Day - Honk, Hoot & Holler

Saturday, I was in the city running an errand when something unexpected happened - a truck honked at me. I was confused. I was heading back to my car on the sidewalk, I certainly wasn't in the truck's way. So I looked up to the driver questioningly and he and his scruffy-faced buddy in the passenger seat grinned and waved.

Oh, I realized, flushing with embarrassment and a little pleasure, they were honking at me. It had been a while.

The first time I elicited a honk was over 30 years ago. I was 13 and it was summertime in Milford, Michigan. I was wearing cut-off shorts, walking home from a friend's house on the gravel shoulder of a rural two-lane highway. Over the course of a half mile, five or six cars honked or at me that day and by the time I turned off to my neighborhood street, I felt forever changed. Strange men were noticing me; I wasn't just a girl anymore. I felt unsettled, a little ashamed, and unfamiliarly powerful.

That initiation was followed by years of whistles, beeps and "woo-woos" - I pretty much came to take them for granted. Young women get attention, that's the way it is. Sometimes it's a compliment; more often it's a form of harassment. But we learn to deal with it. We cross to the other side of the street when passing a construction site, we don't make eye contact in intersections. And eventually, as we push strollers and hold the hands of our toddlers, the guys stop paying so much attention. Which is a relief.

And a bit of a disappointment too.

I don't want to be insulted or humiliated, but I also don't want to be considered entirely out of the game. Now that I'm in my 40s, it's sort of fun to be the recipient of the occasional beep of the horn or wolf whistle. So I say go ahead - honk, hoot, and holler at me. It'll make my day.

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