Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Reports from the longest day ever

-Class itself: fun. Sorting out the mystery that is online homework: less so. A work in progress, but to be resolved, I estimate, in the next 24 hours. I see how great it will be once it's going smoothly, but that time has not yet come. A sign, no doubt, that I am ancient. I think today's undergraduates expect this kind of assignment. In my day, French homework was written in hieroglyphics.

-"Hey beautiful," said some guys on Broadway near Penn Station. Not to me, but to the woman walking next to me. A foot taller, and about as much wider (but in all the right ways, I suppose), and, most saliently, wearing shorts about as short as bikini underpants, and heels. If I were under 25, this would just be a Slutwalk story about street harassment, in solidarity with this woman who had every right to go out on a hot and humid day in a revealing outfit. And that's a totally valid argument that I support intellectually (caveat being that as cat-calling goes, this particular remark is likely to elicit the least fury). But I'm close enough to 30 that this is also a story about being the woman not called beautiful. Even if my choice of attire (jeans, backpack, flats) may have mattered more than my haggard 29-ness.

-Crowds and delays at Penn Station, with a guy next to me eating (what else) a bag of artificial-butter-flavor popcorn. Upon finally getting a train (and not, mind you, the train I'd arrived in good time for and intended to get), I ended up in some sort of river of unclassifiable NJ Transit fluid, which has now soaked through much of my backpack and, alas, bike helmet strap. The real concern, though, is that this is some kind of omen about the trains, and my strategy of arriving in the city about an hour before I teach (a morning class, to be clear) is actually cutting it too close. Not enough of one to merit going in at 5am to be on the super-safe side. But still.

-Approximately three dozen smaller but cumulatively significant-at-the-time concerns I'm now forgetting because it's late.

-Was this all cancelled out by fish-and-chips and low-alcohol beer with the astrophysicists? I'm going to say yes. Getting out of the house, never a bad idea.


PG said...

I don't think it's just my 31-ness that makes me regard "Hey, beautiful" as not being harassment, assuming that the woman could completely ignore the man and the man would be OK with that. I don't think non-sexual compliments are intrinsically harassing. My grandmother routinely tells strangers that they have a "beautiful baby" (it's one of her better English phrases). It would obviously be supergross and creepy on multiple levels if my grandmother only said it to strangers who had their kids in some age-inappropriate "Toddlers & Tiaras" revealing get-ups, but maybe this guy was appreciating the tall stranger's "natural beauty" and not just the wonder of short-shorts and heels. Maybe he says, "Hey, beautiful" to women dressed conservatively but whom he thinks are beautiful.

Phoebe said...

The possibility that the difference between myself and this woman wasn't scantily-clad-ness but that she was simply that much better-looking was part of what made me include this in the longest-day-ever post! I can't say I saw her from the front, so I don't know how beautiful (or "natural") I'd have considered her. But I think it's tough to claim women in underwear-as-shorts don't get cat-called more often than average. We could discuss whether or not that's fair, but that's another issue.

And yes, as I allude to in the post, I agree that "hey, beautiful" is on the inoffensive end of the possible-harassment spectrum. But I would add that you never hear this yelled at men, when there are just as many beautiful men walking around as beautiful women, and more man-preferrers in New York (esp the NYU-to-Penn-Station stretch I generally find myself in) than women-preferrers.

Britta said...

But I would add that you never hear this yelled at men, when there are just as many beautiful men walking around as beautiful women

Well, this can be easily fixed ;)

Phoebe said...


Someone oughta. But by the time I'm hauling self, backpack, and bike helmet (and whichever only-in-NY groceries) back to Penn Station, I'm in no state to tell whichever male models something about themselves that I assure you they already know.

PG said...

I must have hung out in the wrong parts of NYC (and/or at the wrong times of day), as I saw beautiful women at a rate of once a day, but beautiful men maybe once a month. Or possibly I'm more critical and narrow-minded about male beauty because it has sexual possibilities, whereas my concept of female beauty is shaped by many other people's preferences and thus embraces a wider range.

Phoebe said...


The modeling agencies are around Union Square, or maybe just north of it. While models might not be the people I personally find most beautiful, the number of Beautiful People I pass by, no matter the hour, is staggering.