Earlier this afternoon I was walking down 24th Street, feeling pretty damned cute (today is one of those days when I “know” I’m cute, and I’ve got the pep in my step and enigmatic Joda Leesa smile on my face to show it), when I approached a guy who was talking on his cell phone. He was probably in his early 50s, dressed more like he belonged in Montana than New York, with silvery hair and a mustache, not bad-looking but not good-looking enough for me to actually remember the details of his face. Anyway, I just knew he was going to have to give me the “once over” at least twice, so I ever so slightly braced myself inside while retaining a calm exterior. (By the way, it’s warm out today, and I’m wearing a quite stunning white shirt that I know looks good. I’m really full of myself today, am I not? I sound like one of the fat girls on Maury, defending herself against a jeering crowd: I look good, I know I look GOOD!) As I passed, he spun on his heel to check me out from the other angle, in that really subtle way guys do when they’re trying to pretend they’re not really the beasts that they are. When I was about two feet away, he said into his cell phone, purposely loudly enough for me to overhear, “You should see what just passed by!”
I’m not so much of a “feminist” that I get all het up when a man makes a comment on my appearance. In fact, I even kind of like it, but only if it sounds sincere and I don’t hear him saying the same thing to someone I deem unworthy just moments later. What’s worse is if I pass a group of men (particularly construction workers) and they don’t at least smile or say hello, because then I instantly think there’s something wrong with me. This happened the day I was recently in Washington Square Park. When I left the park, there must have been at least 30 construction guys on the sidewalk and in the street, and there was no way for me to get where I had to go without passing through them. Not one of them smiled or said hello or even grunted when I passed. I was devastated. And tried to convince myself that they were so astounded by my beauty that they didn’t consider me approachable and thus didn’t dare address me, and that I was so “classy” that they just couldn’t say anything untoward. Ordinarily, however, I get more than my share of obnoxious hoots and hollers, but also a lot of smiles, regular hellos, and stuff the guys probably wouldn’t mind being said to their own sisters.
So anyway, Mr. Montana’s comment this afternoon, certainly designed to garner my attention if not my affection, had quite the opposite effect. Had he only substituted the word “who” for “what”, I would have done my demure little half-turn of the head in his direction to acknowledge that I heard what he said, and allowed the coyest of girlish smiles to play upon my lips, just to let him know that I appreciated his appreciation and didn’t consider either him or his comment the least bit offensive, stupid, or asinine. And as it was, I didn’t consider his comment offensive. Just stupid and asinine.
But at least he said something.