21 August, 2010

Dear Heckling Men, We’re never going to holler back, Love Innocent Females (or so I thought)

Last week I was moseying into town, i-pod loaded with pre-shopping tunes, smiling in the sunshine, basking in my own little happy fizz, when I was jerked back into reality by a group of people about 100 yards on. They were standing pavement side, in a beer garden, yelling across the road in offensively loud voices, whistling enthusiastically whilst also laughing, donning cocky facial expressions and making dramatic arm gestures at someone across the street. Pause Paolo Nutini.

What’s so unusual about that? I hear you ask. Remarkably there’s nothing remarkable about a group of men being obnoxious in public, and more than likely hollering at some poor wee lass making her way past. What was unusual, however, was the fact this group was in fact a gaggle of pretty, lovely looking young females, dressed in summery cotton frocks and cool sunglasses with beautiful tumbling hair and Cheryl Cole smiles. Dear Description, You do not fit Picture. Please kindly explain. Regards, World.

Upon further investigation, I realised what these girls were doing was responding to the same thing being done to them on the opposite side of the street, by a group of fluorescent jackets, grubby jeans and beer bellies, who looked as though they’d had one too many last March and decided to carry on.

This caught my attention because recently I have had a recurring heckling man problem: there is a group of fluorescent jackets and vans by the park near my house, laying down what appears to be about 1.7 bricks a day (and therefore showing no signs of buggering off any time soon). And unfortunately they have recently realised about 6 months in that the same girl who runs past them every morning at 6.30am looking an absolute mess, is in fact the same girl who saunters past them an hour and a half later on route to work completely transformed. And my god is it fuel to their simple fire. The taunts, the yells, the jeers.

I find hollering builders, road-workers, van drivers, lorry drivers, juggernaut loaders and roadside beer bellies a real pain the a**. I’m no feminist, and I really don’t mind the cave man-esque appreciation of the female form (and as it would appear any form that breathes). I even occasionally enjoy it if they’re particularly good looking or remotely in my age range. What bothers me is not so much what they’re doing, whistling and chortling away like they’ve grown up in a monastery and they’ve just been given news that there’s no tomorrow, no what really gets my goat is what do they really think is going to happen?

It’s like they’re convinced that an over-weight, grimy cave man is the most appealing thing in the world, especially when they’re waving an egg butty around. Moreover, they’re utterly certain that the highest compliment a girl can receive is either “waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay” or “fancy bringing me some tea sweetheart” and that therefore we’re going to turn to them in a glorious halo of light, flee into their arms and cry “My Hero! Thank god you found me! Please take me to a Premier Inn right away!” I mean, if they weren’t sure this was going to happen one day, why would they keep doing it?

Even when I can get passed that conundrum, and occasionally I do put it to a corner of my mind and focus on other things, I am permanently stumped by the recurring question of just what are you supposed to then do with yourself when heckling starts and you’re forced to walk past (or even run in my case) in your suddenly uncomfortably tight work clothes? (Aside from wear a boiler suit to work and change when you get there, I have already considered this option).

Do you scowl disapprovingly? Do you smile good-naturedly and therefore look like you might be remotely interested/a bit of a slut? Do you turn your nose up dismissively and look like you’re completely up yourself and just sooo used to that kind of attention, therefore provoking louder sniggers and cries of “cheer up laaaaaaaav!”? I never know. I’m liable to hastily swinging between all of the above, because it is one of the few things in life that I find nearly impossible to ignore. You can hear them, you’re uncomfortable, they know you can hear them and they know you’re uncomfortable. They win. You lose. Every single time.

But apart from move house, emigrate or act out a Bond-girl-esque sneaking past them disguised as a granny every morning, there’s not a lot we can do. I tend to opt for the ‘i-pod turned up, sunglasses on and lips pursed’ approach, so as not to flinch in any way. (Though usually I just crack up laughing and ruin it). Yes I look like a prat-ette for twenty seconds of every day, twice, but I find it the only way to avoid buckling under the pressure.Except my ‘no-reaction’ couldn’t look more like a reaction if it tried.

This is why I was so struck by the response of these jeering girls en route to town the other day; it was a stroke of genius! Just Do It Back. The one thing that will throw the pesky men right back into their dusty automobiles and screeching for the safety of the nearest greasy spoon. What’s less attractive than a loud, jeering, crude man? A loud, jeering, crude female. Except, to do this in the safety of your girly clique is fine, as there’s a high chance you’re all just really cool, clever and funny, but to do this on your own at 8.00am when trying to emulate Young Professional, there’s a higher chance you will just look MENTAL.

So until I’m brave enough to act like a mentalist in public (when soba) I’m going to keep my earphones firmly in, stock up on giant sunglasses and pray that soon it will be too dark in the mornings for them to see me. Either that or pay to hire a different army of builders to do their job in one night (as the bricks seems to be now getting fewer instead of more), send the charming horde packing and do everyone a favour.

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