Home > Bars, DC, Flirting > The Logistics of a Compliment

The Logistics of a Compliment

I put on an above-the-knee silk dress and brand new heels. I applied eyeliner, eye shadow and mascara and hurried out the door into the warm summer evening. I arrived at the Columbia Heights Metro stop and a kind woman pointed me in the right direction of my final destination. And so it began.

On the way to the bar, only two honks. But it was still daylight, and not yet 6 pm. By the time I said my good-byes to friends and friends of friends at the Wonderland Ballroom, it was 9:45 and night had fallen. That’s when the fun really began.

It started with a man on a stoop who pushed his lips together and created a squeaky noise that I believe he meant to be an air kiss. Next it was a very loud whistle from a passenger in a white car who I avoided eye contact with. After two blocks, I was greeted with an enthusiastic, but polite “hello” and “nice dress” by another man on a stoop. Then a quick and dirty honk. Finally the walk climaxed with a car speeding past, and a deep voice yelling, “In those heels, I’d do anything to you girl!”

While I enjoy the attention of men, especially when I’ve put the effort in to apply paint to my eyes and stilts to my feet, I am perplexed as to why it feels not-so-nice when I’m shouted at by passing cars. The man who said “nice dress” went over much better than the dude who was going to dirty things to me because of my heels. But I have to admit none of any of the various sounds that came at me walking four city blocks made me feel comfortable.

As a single girl, I love a compliment, but where’s the line? Am I discriminating against the men who decide the best way to tell me I look pretty is to honk or whistle? Why do I feel more threatened by them than I do by the guy who comes up to the bar while I’m waiting and buys me a drink?

It can be a terrifying world for a single 27-year-old female. I’m not naive. I have heard the stories, some from friends. I understand the importance of being self-aware and safe. But on a busy city steet when a man on a stoop greets me and compliments my outfit, even if he is overenthusiastic, I can take the compliment with a polite smile and maybe even a hi back. I’m not sure I want to live in a world where I shouldn’t do that.

Categories: Bars, DC, Flirting
  1. Caitlin
    August 17, 2009 at 9:39 pm

    In my opinion, the street compliments are so unsettling mostly because of their very location – walking alone, in the dark, makes you feel vulnerable. If you’re in a crowded bar, unless you’re drugged, odds are fairly good you’re not gonna get attacked or bothered in any way that can’t be immediately solved by several people around you.

    On the street, you’re alone, and so even niceties come with that unsettling sense of “will this compliment turn into a rape or kidnapping?” and loud noises like honks make us jump and, well, a honking horn is usually a sign something bad’s about to happen.

    If you ask me, that’s what makes all the difference, and why it’s perfectly natural not to be able to relax and take the compliment until you’re home safe and thinking about it later.

  2. Peg
    August 18, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    I blogged about this very thing a while ago, but it was about my experiences nearly 40 years ago. I had hoped the women’s movement had discouraged men from such behavior. I’m afraid far too many boys simply don’t want to grow-up into men!

  3. lady&herboysclub
    August 22, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    Thanks to both Caitlin and Peg for the thoughtful comments.

    I agree with Caitlin, I’ll wait to to take the compliment (or shall I say react to the compliment) until I get home.

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