On being catcalled on my walk into the newsroom

This blog was published on gazette.com June 9, 2014.

“Good morning, sweetie,” he says.

He’s dusty. He wears dad jeans — the faded kind with a thigh hammer holster — and his eyebrows raise at knees left unprotected by my fingertip length floral skirt.

This is who greets me first thing in the morning on the one block walk between the parking lot and the Gazette newsroom in downtown Colorado Springs.

He means it as a compliment.

I was so frustrated I wanted to punch myself in the throat.

He honks at me as I pump gas on my way to the gym. He has a shaved head and I memorize the license plate of his maroon GMC Envoy. “The Way” by Mac Miller is distorted by his radio’s suped up bass.

“Girl,” he says. “You wearing those spanx.”

He means it as a compliment.

I stopped complimenting acquaintances’ outfits last year. I don’t fill silent elevator rides by pointing out cute yet versatile flats. Unless she asks for my opinion, I’d let my roommate leave for a dinner date wearing pajamas.

I stopped telling her I like her hair curled and blonde because I know she prefers it straight with blue and red streaks. I stopped policing how my friends wing their eyeliner.

I stopped commenting on peoples’ appearances altogether.

Yes, your mint blue nail polish is rad. Yes, that dress is a flattering cut for your body type. Yes, your teeth are white and orderly. Sure, you’re pretty.

But you don’t need my opinion. You don’t have to care if I think you’re pretty. Especially not as you walk into the morning cops and crime shift at work.

It’s not a compliment. It’s a statement that your appearance is open for public comment. As if his opinion about your smile is important information you need to know.

It’s an assertion of power.

“Have a nice day,” he says.

The “I” in his “nice” is why my old R.A. always told me to have a buddy to walk home with freshman year of college. He’s on a cigarette break, sitting on fire escape stairs in an alley. I grip car and house keys strategically between my first, middle, and ring fingers.

He means it as a compliment.

Emily Donovan is an undergraduate student at the University of Kansas from Kansas City, Kan. Follow her on Twitter @emdons.



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