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The Logistics of a Compliment

August 16, 2009 3 comments

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.

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Categories: Bars, DC, Flirting