Contemplating The U.S. Navel

Me, Chicago, Hollywood and The Federal Government

Becky Sarwate

Becky Sarwate
Location
Chicago, Illinois, USA
Birthday
December 31
Title
Marketing Manager
Company
Insurance Brokerage
Bio
I am about as liberal as they come, and please don't expect to change me, though I do sometimes sneak up on you with a surprise (pro-death penalty, for instance). Although gainfully employed as a full-time Marketing Manager, I keep my toes in the freelance pool as a journalist, theater critic, blogger and proud President of the Illinois Woman's Press Association. To read my work on this page is to find vignettes about Chicago, Hollywood, my own turbulent life, and of course, my number one passion: local and national politics.

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Salon.com
Editor’s Pick
JULY 15, 2011 1:29PM

Jumping the Shark

Rate: 22 Flag

Living in Chicago, some form of sexual harassment, however mild, tends to be a typical facet of the average woman’s day. I was inaugurated into this confusing and often humiliating world of gender politics at the age of 13, when I began to receive car horn honks and wolf whistles from older teenage boys and grown men as I navigated the streets solo, or with a girlfriend. For many reasons, I could not begin to comprehend the behavior of these gentlemen. I was cognizant of the fact that I was still a child, and not a very attractive one at that (then as now, I was a frustrating mix of social awareness and shallow insecurity).  

As with any minor annoyance, it began to recede into the background over the years, one of those tradeoffs you have to accept as a devotee to urban life. Boys will be boys and all that.

As I entered my 30s, and paradoxically gained more confidence in my overall appearance (Botox injections, adult braces and a brilliant hair stylist and personal trainer were undeniable assets), I noticed, with a surprising degree of disappointment, that the incidence of wolf whistling began to decrease markedly. Where I should have been grateful for the opportunity to traverse the streets in peace, I was instead petulantly annoyed that the Neanderthals of the Windy City had ignored my realization of true pulchritude capabilities in favor of younger, fresher targets.

My temporary salvation from increasing awareness that I am growing older, and thus less attractive to immature fellows seeking temporary diversion, arrived at a rather unlikely hour. Last night I left the gym after a strenuous group Russian kettlebell class, and took to the streets sweaty and unkempt. I was wearing a damp t-shirt, yoga pants and an exhausted look as I waited for the Northbound Red Line train that would take me back to my studio in Rogers Park.

I was engrossed in a copy of Jonathan Franzen’s marvelous Freedom, when out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a rakish, extremely drunken young man approaching me. He could not have been 25 years old, yet with his confident smirk and Max Headroom sunglasses, he instantly reminded me of Tom Cruises’ character Brian Flanagan from Cocktail. The boy was a staggering, inebriated wild card and I was mostly concerned that I was about to witness someone die via third rail electrocution.

However, Mr. Flanagan had other plans in mind for a sweaty and irritated yours truly. “Whatcha reading beautiful?” he slurred over my shoulder.

Since I have already exposed myself as a shameless, compliment-seeking source of vapidity, does it surprise you to know this brought a smile to my face? I quickly displayed the cover of my book and figured that would be the end of the over served fella’s attentions. Not so.

“You’re pretty,” came next. Clearly, in the condition which I have described, I was as far from gorgeous as my new friend was from sobriety, but he really was adorable. In another decade, this story may have had a different ending.

I thanked my suitor politely and turned my attention back to the book as the train approached. Mr. Flanagan went quiet as well as he weaved perilously close to the tracks. However, he was apparently just saving his strength for his next attempt to engage me. This was executed via a comical attempt to pretend as though he was opening the train car doors with superhuman strength, just for me,  as he loudly shouted “Move aside people, pretty girl coming through!”

The train was packed, as was the platform of would-be passengers, and by now, for a multitude of reasons, people were staring at us. They leered at Mr. Flanagan, curious as to how a young kid commuting alone could be so dead drunk at the early hour of 8pm. They were staring at me too, wondering what this disheveled aunty had done to arouse such attention.

And where I ought to have been embarrassed and revolted, I was instead pleased by this display. Clearly, this says nothing attractive about me whatsoever, but there it is.

The battle to achieve and maintain some sort of consistent self-esteem has been one of the prominent features of my time on this planet. My ego is a fragile as gossamer and subject to others’ approbation to a completely unhealthy degree. This state of affairs extends not only to my personal appearance, but my work, my social standing and family relations as well. I am introverted and standoffish by nature until I am teased out with some sort of approval. It is one of the parts of my character that I view with the most disdain, but I am actively working to resolve it.

Clearly however, my personal growth arrives in peaks and valleys. I had gleaned the wrong kind of attention from the wrong person for all the wrong reasons, yet I slept soundly knowing that I hadn’t yet jumped the catcall shark.

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Comments

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I could really relate to this. Good thing he was just a talker. I don't worry about the talkers, but the silent chasers. I think your photo shows a lovely woman. I never worried over catcalls, just when threatening stuff was said or when I was chased etc. The talkers ain't the ones we gotta worry about.
Good Bio. Good picture. Great writing.

Glad you handled the situation the way you did. You showed lots of class...and that is something a chemist, a stylist, nor a trainer can give you.

Don't make a habit of encouraging "come on's"...but the need of some folk to slap someone down for a harmless move is much overdone these days. Not that I have any first hand knowledge, but there is anecdote.

I
Why is it that once we feel good about ourselves the only folks to notice us are drunks or geriatrics? I feel for you. We don't NEED people to remind us that we are attractive, but we would LIKE it.
Take what you can, lest it lead you to danger. Nicely done.
Rated.
Pheromone (from Greek φέρω phero "to bear" + hormone from Greek ὁρμή - "impetus") is a secreted or excreted chemical factor that triggers a social response in members of the same species. Pheromones are chemicals capable of acting outside the body of the secreting individual to impact the behavior of the receiving individual

You got 'em Lady and he knew.
Pheromone (from Greek φέρω phero "to bear" + hormone from Greek ὁρμή - "impetus") is a secreted or excreted chemical factor that triggers a social response in members of the same species. Pheromones are chemicals capable of acting outside the body of the secreting individual to impact the behavior of the receiving individual

You got 'em Lady and he knew.
I also relate to this! I remember being in my early 20s in NYC and watching a women get howled out as she walked by a construction site. I was next in line. I turned around and went back the other way. Sexual harassment at work is so common and so offensive.
Interesting look inside one person's mind...
It doesn't click with me. I never have and never will understand women. It gives some measure of solace to know that women don't understand themselves any better than I do......

(ᴼᴥ̃)
.
I agree with Sean Fenley.
Thank a cosmic muffin?
Vacation Bible School?
It can be innocent here.
We talk to our children.
`
One beautiful child expressed with enthusiasm, and beautiful innocent animation. Bible school for grade school had ended.

One excited girl exclaimed:
`
Listen to my heart. Feel it!
She went calmly on and on.
En-Theos, but also calmly.
`
She insisted`
`
Fell my heart!
It's pumping.
Jesus is in my
heart. Listen!
God pumps.
My heart is`
pumping. It's
Jesus pumping!
God pumps hearts.
She is still so sane.
Nature is pumping.
Nature pumps heart.
Children make me so
very happy. I listened.
Her heart was pumping.
That would have made my day. Sounds like a cute kid. His behavior doesn't remotely resemble sexual harrassment. Very well written piece, but it pains me that we all our getting taught to beat ourselves up for things ... we ... shouldn't be... beating ourselves up about. Of course, you should have enjoyed it. If you didn't, in my opinion, you'd be a miserable prig.
I was in college at the height of "gender politics," and all that. Most of it was bullshit and downright dehumanizing, at times.
interesting analysis of a drunk :)
Who wouldn't be pleased by such gallantry? Only old men and baby boys look at me now. I don't mind the little guys.
Rebecca,
I still enjoy the comments of "Hello beautiful" I hear on the street, and I wouldn't categorize them as sexual harrassment. I think of them as men's various attempts at flirtation. When the comments cross a line and get explicit, that it another story.
age gives us an invisibility cloak. This is a great article.
Oh, I clearly remember whistles and catcalls in my twenties - I miss them too. Now I occasionally get the old man leer. *sigh* We all need validation.
if it's any comfort, being a gawky beanpole of a socially retarded adolescent boy had its own continual emotional abrasions.

but we survive, generally, perhaps replicate and add to the social wealth, and then fade away in the corner with a book and a beer. enjoy this delayed flowering, you're a long time dead.
If it's any comfort, I'm whistling at you from 800 miles away. And I'm sober! (As far as you know.)
there are a lot of militant feminists who are against any kind of out-there male type behavior eg catcalls or whatever & would almost like to criminalize it. Im serious, there are proposals. to them I say, "enjoy it if you get it, enjoy it while it lasts" wink
"The battle to achieve and maintain some sort of consistent self-esteem has been one of the prominent features of my time on this planet. My ego is a fragile as gossamer and subject to others’ approbation to a completely unhealthy degree. This state of affairs extends not only to my personal appearance, but my work, my social standing and family relations as well. I am introverted and standoffish by nature until I am teased out with some sort of approval. "

This could easily my bio. Great writing.
When you get older you start to enjoy the invisibility. You avoid all kinds of negatives and feel free and fine about yourself. I could care less at this point. You'll see.
Sigh! The other day I played along when a group of sun-wizened, beer-soaked 50+'s harassed me from across the road. I refused beer, a swim in the pool, sitting in the shade as I walked away and honked at them when I drove by in the other direction. I consider it all in good fun as long as I feel completely safe.