Boys, Books, and Dancing to the Beat

May 10, 2010 at 8:21 am (Uncategorized)

To my great surprise, earlier today I was catcalled by a group of young men passing by in a cab. They hooted and whistled and called out appreciative comments – including a relatively high score for my butt, especially surprising since I was not wearing my magic jeans. As I crossed the road, I gave them a half salute and said, “Thanks, boys,” which evidently delighted them, moving one to shout, “You rock” as the cab continued on its way.

All of this – the blatant objectification, the sheer banality of their commentary, the gaze of the masculine pack – goes right against my grain in so many respects, and yet… not only were they clearly just out for a fun day with the lads, joking with each other and utterly harmless toward me, there was a part of me that felt not only amused but undeniably a little pleased. Yes, it’s true. All those ‘Philosophy of Gender’ units at university aside, being heckled by a carload of young blokes put a bit of a spring in my step. Because you should have seen me: sweating, exhausted, struggling with grocery bags, bulging with the two breakfasts I’d recently ravenously consumed, wearing jeans and a plain shirt, no make-up, 37 years old and definitely going grey…I was so amazed when they shouted out something complimentary that I paused on the zebra crossing to take a hard look down at myself, wondering if they could possibly be talking to me. What the hell, I thought. I’ll take it.

Funny how my indignation has softened over the years – in my late teens and twenties I would have been so incensed I would have marched over to the cab window to give them all a loud streak of my feminist mind. Today I could only sigh – truly boys are such boys – and smile at their jovial incorrigibility. Where did all my outrage go? And how did it come to be replaced by this indulgent amusement? Part of my response was patronising – ‘Well now, aren’t they darling, the idiot little men?’ – but there was another part that was actually a little seduced by their dumb attentions. Moi? How ridiculous, vain and dangerous to be flattered by such a demeaning exchange – it was harmless, I say, but still not without its potentially more sinister significance. The balance is so very fine – perhaps that’s what the years have taught me. So easily does this exact situation tip into threatening territory, and I guess that’s why, even when it was as light-hearted in intention and receipt as it was today, there’s always a degree of ambivalence on reflection. There’s always more to it than meets their hungry collective eye.

In other news, I am devouring Madeleine St John’s The Essence of the Thing, which was loaned to me by my friend S on Saturday. S was one of my first readers, many MS drafts ago, and said she was struck by a strong similarity in tone or humour or something between St John’s work and mine. Naturally I was therefore incredibly curious to read it, although I wondered if I should in fact avoid it if it’s that similar. What would the implications be were the two stories disturbingly alike? Where would that leave me? Now that I’ve nearly finished it, my misgivings have entirely disappeared. I don’t think there’s really anything in common between the two pieces of writing…it’s extremely flattering to be compared to a published author whose work I am enjoying – it’s giving me some hearty chuckles and jolts of pure recognition – but I can’t see the resemblance myself. Not in any way I could point to and say, “There, that’s it.” I’ve been reading the novel with half an eye fixed on the question of to what was S referring, and even so, I’ve not yet discerned it. Not sure. And now I know there’s nothing to fear, because the stories are nothing alike, nor am I bothered. I’m just romping through it instead: good result.

And in Baby J news, I had my first appointment back with Dr F the obstetrician today. He did another scan and pronounced the tiny little heart still beating. He also said it’s grown a lot since the measurement Dr P did last week, and he said something else that was music to my ears: “I don’t think you’ll lose this baby.” He said I was over a bit of a hump as far as that likelihood went, and I said, “Well, that sounds good to me.” Full steam ahead, little friend, just keep chugging (I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…).



  1. Fugitive Pieces said,

    MILF status – already?! But now that we’re seasoned enough to discriminate between appreciative banter and threatening insinuation, we’re not often on the receiving end of the fun stuff…Bloody typical.

    • doctordi said,

      Ha, that’s what I thought too!!! Very funny.

      And yes, that is bloody typical. Everything about being female seems to revolve around really perverse timing.

  2. charlotteotter said,

    Keep chugging, Baby J! There’s a whole team behind you, real, virtual, all equally sincere.

    As for the catcall experience, Hot Stuff, well done for receiving it with equanimity. You’ve got style.

    • doctordi said,

      Thanks, Charlotte of the Burg – I am putting all Baby J comments aside in a little folder so that one day he or she will be able to read all the good thoughts that you and the others have made room in your busy lives to direct our way. It’s very humbling and moving for me, and I’m gonna learn that child some gratitude.

      It wasn’t hard being gracious – I was too busy preening.

  3. Grad said,

    Oh, what I wouldn’t give for a catcall (sigh). Although there was that old dude at the grocery store on “seniors day” who came up to me and said, “Excuse me young lady, I can’t seem to find the mandarin oranges.” When I plucked a can from the shelf, he said he needed to come shopping on Wednesdays more often since it was apparent that’s when all the pretty “girls” shopped. (I thought about whonking him over the head with a 32 oz. can of Pears In Heavy Syrup for his being so patronizing, but decided I’d just accept it as a compliment – compliments of that sort being as scarse as ostrich teeth.)

    And Di, “gonna’ keep that train a-movin’.”

    • doctordi said,

      Graddikins, it’s hard for a distinguished older gentlemen to catcall when he doesn’t have his own teeth… I think his attentions were as good as if not better than a wolf whistle, don’t you?! It’s so cute, actually, what an adorable old bugger.

      I make it a habit to actually GIVE people the compliments that pop into my mind when I see them – they’re just wasted otherwise, and who doesn’t enjoy ’em (even if we don’t quite know how to take them)?

      Pretty crazy to think this little caboose will be adding carriages for the rest of the year!!!

  4. David said,

    LOL @ Fugitive Pieces. MILF! More an E-MILF (Expectant … and the rest of the acronym.)

    I do have to wonder, though, why more men aren’t schooled in the art of the respectful compliment. I guess it’s a bigger risk because it requires closer proximity to say something more subtle.

    • doctordi said,

      E-MILF… somehow this makes me think of pornographic websites.

      Gosh, David, I think we could all use some schooling in the compliment department. Backhanded compliments are the forte of many women and at least guys really – sweeping generalisation alert – don’t go in for that.

  5. Lilian Nattel said,

    That is wonderful news about baby J’s heartbeat!!!!!

    I don’t get catcalls, but people always ask me for directions. I guess I look like someone who knows where I’m going. 😉

    • doctordi said,

      Thanks, Lilian, I think so too!!!! It’s crazy!

      Oh yes – directions. Me too. I am asked for directions constantly, especially when I am in foreign cities.

  6. kate salinger said,

    Ah Di, you must have that special glow 🙂 ! Every Baby J update makes my day. Keep up the good work and thank you for sharing!

    • doctordi said,

      I seriously doubt that, unless it’s indigestion…!! But thanks, Kate, and being able to deliver good news makes my day too. I figure getting the good stuff is the least you people deserve after copping all the grief.

  7. Norwichrocks said,

    Jolly exciting news about the doctor’s opinion on the baby’s robustness 🙂

    And I know what you mean about both the disappearing feminist outrage (mine’s pretty much been replaced by patronising amusement, too) and about how this seemingly harmless incident could easily tip over into something more sinister. For example, imagine the same incident taking place at night, rather than during daylight – somehow, that kind of attention to a lone female always seems more threatening in darkness.

    • doctordi said,

      He went out on a bit of a limb with that one, NR – but far be it from me to call him back!!

      Definitely – I started thinking about the elements that would have altered the exchange, and moving from broad daylight to cover of darkness was definitely one of them. Brrrr. Gives me a shiver.

  8. litlove said,

    Lilian and Fugitive – LOL! I’m actually with Lilian – if anyone is lost, or wants to beg cash, they go straight for me as if with a homing magnet. And there’s no reason why a catcall can’t sometimes be a compliment – not the most elegantly phrased, perhaps, but still a compliment. And those we are within our full rights to take gracefully. 😉

    Oh and fantastic baby J news.

    • doctordi said,

      No, exactly, LL, it was a harmless compliment – a little rough on the delivery, but who’s quibbling??!

      I can actually imagine your being someone map-bearers and can-rattlers approach… I bet you wear your kindness as obviously as those people wear The End is NIgh signs in disaster films set in New York.

  9. Jodie said,

    I’m also the kind of person people who have ‘lost their train ticket’ home in on + drunk people who just want to chat. After a train journey sat behind two unfortunate girls who caught the eye of some stag do lads (by the end of the journey one of them was having a very heated conversation about how her relationship was not going to end because her boyfriend was going travelling) I am very happy no one is really interested in ‘giving me a compliment’ sometimes.

    Hurray on the baby front – it must feel great to get over that hump.

    • doctordi said,

      Ah yes, the drunken conversationalist… where is Oscar Wilde when you need him, Jodie, where? Actually Winston Churchill would be my pick for the train home – he came out with genuine classics – as did Dorothy Parker. But the stag night lads rarely move the carriage to such heights of hilarity…. pity, that.

      Well, we’re still weeks away from the 12 week mark, but his confidence did wonders for mine!

  10. plumbean said,

    that is wonderful wonderful wonderful!

    i stopped by to tell you that i have an award (hopeless at linking but will learn i promise) for you at the plum bean as i love your blog!

    ps, ‘magic jeans’? genius.

  11. doctordi said,

    Plumbean, I think you’ve just inadvertently quoted my own reaction…!

    Magic jeans are a MUST and I am actually still in the market for a new pair… don’t really know what to do except wait until post-Baby J… January sales, maybe, although I doubt I’ll be denim-worthy or able by then…

    Thank you SO much for the award – you’ve been such a delightful addition to my blog friends, P, I’m really happy we’ve crossed paths.

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