I read someone's Tumblr post today about hearing a man on some Manhattan street corner actually wolf whistle at a passing girl. The author wrote that she wanted to stalk over and ask him exactly what he thought would happen--- did he think the girl would be thrilled and give him her number, did he think she would immediately want to go home with him? She didn't, she wrote, and she regretted passing on the chance to shame the guy and "stand up to oppression". My first thought was that she'd also passed up the chance to do something even more to the point. After all--- a wolf whistle? If the author actually meant that, if she meant a classic cartoon wolf whistle and wasn't just using that as a generic term for cat-calling, then she really did need to ask the guy why that. How and why had he chosen that? No one's done a classic wolf whistle since...the end of the 1950s. Did the guy learn that from watching cartoons from sixty years ago? It's a terribly retro thing--- which might be the point. Maybe an actual wolf whistle would've been exactly the thing to attract a Brooklyn hipster girl.
No, I don't do a retro wolf whistle. I'm not even sure I know how. I was never very good at whistling. That classic moment with Bogart and Bacall in "To Have and Have Not" always left me feeling a bit wistful and out of the loop.
This afternoon at brunch one of the lovely young bartendrix girls was half-kneeling in tiny shorts on one of the coolers behind the bar and pulling one knee up with her hands. I looked at her over my reading glasses and raised an eyebrow. She shrugged and told me that she'd been playing volleyball all day yesterday and today her knees had been popping and her legs were shot. I smiled and told her that they were still gorgeous, though. She tossed her head back and grinned and thanked me. That's not cat-calling, I suppose. And while we neither of us know the other's name, I am a Sunday regular there at the bar, and flirting pro forma with the girls is part of Sunday protocol.
I don't cat-call, though there have been so many moments in my life since I was in my early or mid-teens when I wanted to tell some passing lovely stranger that she was beautiful or had beautiful legs. Did I expect that she'd give me her number or drag me off to the nearest assignation hotel? No, it was never about that. I'd have been thrilled if she'd smiled back in passing. It means something if someone takes something you say as a compliment. It means something if they regard you as being attractive enough yourself to be able to offer compliments. It means something if someone remembers you much later as having said something just in passing that brightened a day even a little. I do regret the times when I didn't say something, when I didn't offer up a brief and civil compliment in passing---- when I didn't pay some small tribute to the idea of beauty.
Tonight I do remain intrigued with the idea of the wolf whistle. If a lovely young girl did that to me, I'd be...impressed with her retro style and the reference to the young Lauren Bacall. I'd have to see if I could do a good retro-gallant reply. A lovely young girl looking over her sunglasses and doing a classic wolf whistle is something that can make itself part of my day anytime.