My name is Sydney. Based on the demographics of the Proud Boys, I’m probably not like you. After 24 years of observation, I’ve found that despite having a hard-earned degree in ancient languages and extensive experience in publishing, it is my blonde hair and full lips that have given me that extra nudge towards my career goals and personal matters.
I was never sold on the idea that being unhealthy or controversial is what crafts a well-developed human being. So I wouldn’t exactly contribute to an “everyone-is-beautiful” narrative. As a millennial born in 1992, I don’t consider myself a “special snowflake”. Rather, I see myself as more of an “ordinary sunbeam”: something with an obvious potency, but only as powerful when I’m working with others. One sunbeam barely does jack shit; many sunbeams illuminate the universe.
So physically, I’m not like you. I, however, think a lot like you, and this plays into my life routinely.
I don’t consider cat-calling sexual harassment.
It’s more irritating than harmful, especially since it doesn’t involve groping by definition. Cat-calls are compliments that come from all the wrong places. They are indecent and rude, but they’re not traumatic. As Gavin McInnes so poignantly put it:
“if, as a woman, you’re upset about cat-calling; you’re gonna be much more upset when it stops.”
Last year I lived in Harlem. 131st Street. Right in the middle of this metropolitan wasteland. April is the cruelest month, breeding glares at my chest without its Burberry scarf, mixing grotesque epithets with swear words, stirring double-takes and resting bitch faces.
Now here in Boston, whenever I tell someone about my previous residence it’s always met with an immediate “well I heard they’re gentrifying, I heard it’s actually pretty nice now.”
No, It’s fucking not. That’s why I liked it. Harlem is the dive bar of Manhattan neighborhoods. Just my style: warm, inviting, and welcoming without pretense. I can’t be bothered to be dragged to the Gansevoort one more time.
Can you imagine? Myself a pale, blonde, 23-year-old. I stuck out like a sore thumb.
Well, not too sore after all. Whether I was in gym clothes or a dress and heels, simply walking by men elicited some eloquent (racially informed) verbiage, including names like snowflake, white girl, and ice princess. There were also the more general easy-reaches like sexy, beautiful, and so forth.
At stops before crosswalks, during cigarette breaks, and even during quick trips across the street to the local Pioneer grocery store; I’d get even more elongated versions of advancement. All to which I obviously replied with a firm “no”.
Walking by the Adam Clayton Powell projects late at night; men whom I probably should have been petrified of (alcohol makes us brave, doesn’t it?) would try to make their moves. Oh, and by the way, it was admittedly pretty stupid of me to walk around those parts at night. I came out unscathed, though.
These random, unsolicited advances were annoying while also the teensiest bit flattering. The men in this neighborhood are quite good observers, and the compliments were pretty spot-on based on how I looked at that particular time.
I had some issues in London when I lived there for a short time. I loved it 95% of the time but was often critical of certain aspects; a coinage-heavy currency being foremost (I felt like a leprechaun carrying that money around). As a guest in their country, however, I didn’t complain.
For most of my time there, I lived in South Kensington. Arguably the poshest neighborhood in the entire city. Though, not too many Brits. Mostly Americans and other assorted internationals and expats. The latter usually being from various Middle-Eastern nations.
In England, it’s legal to consume alcohol publicly. So on occasion, I’d take some pinot, my Benson & Hedges, and a Kingsley Amis novel to sit by myself in Hyde Park. I can say without exaggeration that every time I did this a man would approach me. He’d either trying to start a conversation, ask me out, or even just ask to take a photo. A Massachusetts accent in the UK is considered somewhat exotic. So that probably worked for me as well.
Usually, I was engaged in innocent conversation or mild flirting, though sometimes it went too far. In this case, I’d just get up and leave. Again, I would obviously never date a psychopath who just approached me. Of course, once in awhile, I’d want to just start saying curse words. Maybe I’d yell something like: “Get the flip away from me, loser”. Or more unassumingly, I’d be my typical ice princess-self and give him a dead-in-the-eyes glance of indifference. My time with That Uncertain Feeling is precious.
This being said, there is a certain amount of respect that needs to be honored when you’re a guest in someone else’s country. Although Harlem is an American borough, it has an entirely different culture. Each cat-call that shouldn’t be met with a full-fledged tirade. While I don’t encourage it, it really wasn’t the worst possible thing that’s ever happened to me. SARS is a much more frightening epidemic.
Though it definitely made me self-conscious in a negative way. Don’t get me wrong. Do you know the feeling? When you know you look really unattractive. You’re out for a hungover trip to Starbucks, hoping you don’t run into anyone you know. This was pretty frequent. Don’t tell me to smile; I feel gross.
The only people who ever sexually harassed me were cab drivers. It happened twice and that’s a different story. But I can say that cat-calling never “triggered” me. It didn’t cause any emotional harm, and it certainly never led to physical damage. But please, don’t get me wrong. I absolutely did not enjoy the cat-calling.
I think when I move back to New York, I’ll carry a stash of business cards for a reputable Swiss finishing school. Until then, I’m just going to carry on not being offended.