Monday, September 10, 2012

You Mean the One That Yells A Lot? Yeah, Her.

I may have started off on the wrong foot with most of my male-type neighbors. I can't tell quite yet. But word seems to have spread, either way, and I am now rarely harrassed within a three block radius of my house.
The first several times I held my tongue (which is difficult for me to do!) while walking in our neighborhood with my sweet offspring.
"Hey baaaaabbbbbyyyyyy!"
"I love you!"
"Psssssssst! Rubia! Americana!"
I just walked on by with my head held high.

Then, one day, I snapped. And I haven't quite gone back because, quite frankly, it feels good. I keep justifying it all in my head. Somehow, certainly, I'm doing the neighborhood a favor by keeping the cat-calls in check. Perhaps, dear reader, you can help me find the kind, gentile, straight path again. I may need some kind of intervention.

A 20-something male-person came out of a local business that rents video game play by the hour. He waited until I passed (most of them do since cat-calls are apparently only suitable to shout and hiss at your backside), then yelled his line.
I whipped around, "Look," I stared him down, "I live in this community and deserve your respect. Calling out things like that at me in the street like I'm some kind of animal," then I paused for dramatic effect with a slight head bobble, "--and while I'm with my children--is totally unacceptable."
He wilted back into the hole from whence he came and I haven't seen him again. That was almost three weeks ago.

On a different block a week later, I was walking by myself to pick Zora up from school. A young man called out to me something distasteful and my tongue got ahead of me in a flash of anger.
"For the love of God, I'm the same age as your mother!" I threw a hand in the air to dismiss him.
"But I'm 25!" he whined. I burst out laughing. Really?
"Oh. You're very old," I retorted, dripping with sarcasm and he walked around a corner, out of sight.

A few days later, I walked that same block to pick up Zora. I pass a baseball stadium on the way where a bunch of older teens-early 20-somethings hang out in baseball gear all day. Waiting for that one-in-a-million chance that a scout will randomly pass by and hand them a fat check? I'm not sure. One of the boys called out, "Hey Babbbbyyyy."
I kept walking. I could hear them giggling and congratulating each other. I taught high-school for a handful of years so decided to give the poor guy this one. His everyday life didn't seem too full of awesome (any) opportunities.
Having picked up Zora, the two of us walked past again on our way home.
"Hey Babbbbyyyyy," the same teen called out. He'd taken too much.
I turned on my heel and pointed my finger at him, speaking slowly and purposefully (while nearly grinding my teeth), "To impress your friends one time is one thing, but to do that while I'm walking with my daughter is a complete lack of respect and poor upbringing.*"
The blood drained from his face and then, the clouds parted, "Excuse me," he said ever-so-apologetically. I nodded in acceptance and kept walking.
I've been by a few times since then. The gang of boys sees me coming and bow their heads as I walk by. I usually chirp them a "Good morning," but they still seem too afraid to answer. We'll see how that relationship develops in coming months since we both have to make up for what was essentially name-calling.

I fear I may have established a firm reputation which isn't founded in sweetness and delight. At the same time, I don't want to live in a place where I'm verbally harrassed at every corner. The kicker was just a few days ago as I walked Max to his Taekwondo practice. A man called out to me just after we passed and Max turned to me, "Mommy?"
"Yes, Max," still holding my head high (afterall, it is plain unwise to respond every time. Some situations just do not allow for my preferred kind of response or you could put yourself in a very sticky/unsafe situation).
"Why do men do that to you in the street?"
And I lost it again, "Because they have no idea how to act properly, so they act like animals. They were never taught that doing that is rude and demeaning to both the women they do it to and to themselves."
The tongue is a smoldering fire,** Rebecca. Watch it, lady.

So, what do I do?
I've thought about saying something like, "Please, kind sir, do I not deserve respect just as any other human being?" Then, whilst he is surely still deep in meditative thought, add, "And what are we teaching the children? They are, afterall, our future." Good, right?
Then everyone on the block will applaud. Maybe they'll even start a wave. I love those. And we'll all go back to my place for waffles with maple syrup and real butter to talk about how beautiful the world is now that we all care for each other so much in our lovely, mutually respectful relationships.
Or something like that.

*There is a word in Spanish, malcriado, which literally translates to poorly raised and is used generally to refer to someone who has no manners or lacks education. In my opinion, it's pretty awful to call someone since it's a direct insult to one's parents. I shouldn't use that word.

**Reference to: "He must … observe silence and refrain from idle talk. For the tongue is a smoldering fire, and excess of speech a deadly poison. Material fire consumeth the body, whereas the fire of the tongue devoureth both heart and soul. The force of the former lasteth but for a time, whilst the effects of the latter endureth a century."
(Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 264)

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