I wore shorts the other day to get something from the market across the street. I was wearing a t-shirt so covered in marinara sauce, it was practically more sauce than shirt. I got hollered at three times.
And with that, I was reminded: hooray! It’s catcalling season in NYC! With the arrival of hotter weather, all the human slime that has been hibernating in the sewers comes out to play and yell at various women and people as they are walking to the CVS to get Pepto Bismol or something. Not that we don’t get screamed at in the winter. We totally do. It’s just harder to sit outside all day when it’s a blizzard, which is why I feel for catcall victims who live in states that stay hot all year round. No snow on Christmas and 365 days of catcalling? No thank you!
So what do we do? How do we enjoy the sun and not just sit in our apartments all day, because if we leave, some dude will follow us around the block asking for our number? I have some advice:
1. . Wear Whatever You Want
Oh, screw it. There’s literally nothing you can wear that won’t get you hollered at. I’ve tried. There was the previously mentioned marinara shirt. A t-Shirt with a giant cow on it. A dress I fashioned out of used garbage bags. I’ve gotten catcalled while eating a street falafel and let me be clear: I am not a pretty eater. I would imagine that Pizza Rat looks like a sexy model eating over me, who looks like a street rat eating pizza. I’m sure you already know this, but it’s not about what we’re wearing. It’s just the fact that people are bored, and instead of going home to pick their ingrown hairs, they utilize their boredom to strike a little fear into nice young women walking to work. So don’t be like me—I used to be afraid to walk in heels because I can’t run in them, or wore a jacket when it was hot out, all because I didn’t want to be screamed at. I got screamed at anyway. Look cute. You are cute. Your clothes have nothing do with catcalling.
2. . Follow Your Gut
When you have to walk around a lot by yourself, you have to start listening to yourself. Trust your gut. When you get that uneasy feeling, there’s absolutely no harm in listening to it. If you feel threatened or nervous by somebody who is following you a little too long down a street, stop into a bodega. Change your path. Move subway cars. Call a friend. Get out of the situation. Don’t just keep your head down and hope he goes away. If you see somebody ahead of you hollering at the people in front of you and it makes you nervous? Move! Be that odd little human that weaves back and forth between sidewalks and streets. Get Frogger With It. Also, you are not Frogger--watch out for traffic!
3. . Don't Worry About Being So Nice
I will be the first to say: not every single person catcalling you is an evil garbage troll. Sometimes, nice old men say good morning. Sometimes, nice young men say good morning. And honestly, who cares? I don’t go around screaming at random people to have a good day, because I’m a restrained person in society who can read social cues and social norms. We're human--we can feel the difference between a nice interaction and a threatening one, a nice smile and a leering one. Trust me to know the difference. And if I’m walking on some random city street, it’s not a normal thing to try to talk to strangers. It just isn’t. I don’t care if that makes me a jerk. I don’t go into a random store and offer people homemade cookies, even if it’s a nice gesture, because it’s weird to do it in the first place. The exception: do you live in a neighborhood where you see the same people every day? That’s cool. You can say hi to them. But that’s called familiarity. That’s not the same thing. Ugh. Don’t worry about being rude to random strangers you will never see again. You don’t have to smile and engage if you do not want to.
4. . Harness The Power Of Headphones...To A Degree
I love listening to music when I go out, and sometimes it’s nice to listen to music instead of the city streets. It’s nice to pretend you’re in a world where the only sounds are of Ariana Grande, not some rando guy who is calling you a bitch for not going home with him. But I think it’s important to note—never have your music on so loud you can’t hear people approaching, or talking to you, or any kind of pertinent noise to you. And that’s not just a safety issue---one time I had my music on so loud I almost didn’t hear this lady tell me I had dropped my Kat Von D liquid lipstick. That ish is $20.00. But it is important to be aware of what’s going on around you---because you do need to know if you’re finding yourself in a dangerous situation. So listen to the music and live a world with a soundtrack..just not too loud, okay?
5. . Talk About How Catcalling Bothers You
I’m not going to specifically tell you how to handle a catcaller face-to-face, because everyone is different and it varies in every situation. I usually say nothing. One time, a dude followed me for blocks, trying to get me to tell him how old I was. It was scary, and I chose to say nothing, and I got home and wished I had called him a million harsh names, or that I had gotten in his face and told him how out of line he was. I don’t know if that would have worked. I have friends who yell. Sometimes it elevates the situation. Sometimes it doesn’t. So here’s what I have to say: do what you have to do, but keep your safety above your anger or frustration. Be safe first. I’m quiet in the moment, but I’m not silent about it. I tell people my experiences. I write or talk or share how much catcalling freaks me out. And I’ve been met with things like “men are just being courteous” and “I can’t believe we’re not allowed to talk to women anymore without seeming like a threat.” And I’m telling you---when we don’t know you, we don’t know your intentions. It freaks us out. And maybe I’ve made someone rethink the position. Do you really need to say hi to people on the street? Do you really absolutely need to say hi to random strangers? Probably not. And if there’s one less person screaming at me on the street…well, that’s a good day. Marinara stains and all.