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…).