The Reluctant Stylista


I was packing up my stuff at work, ready to call it a night, when a kindly co-worker thoughtfully suggested that I walk the opposite route I usually take.  “I’ve seen you the other night, crossing the street on that side,” he said.  “There are lots of cars passing by there, why don’t you try the other side? It’s safer.”

I paused, wondering briefly how to reply in a way that would make sense to a male.  “Depends on what you mean by safer,” I said.  “I don’t like walking that route. That side is a hangout for pervy bums and construction workers who have nothing better to do than catcall and holler and ogle.”

My boss, a British guy and the art director, who’s Spanish, both sat up and turned to look at me questioningly.  Of course, I doubt if the scenario I painted is a cultural exception, but all who were looking at me askance were men.  And unless it’s happened to them before, it’s usually an alien concept to men in general.  So I continued.  “After a long day, the last thing I want to deal with is a lasciviously-delivered ‘Hi Miss Beeyootipul’.” (And yes, I did use ‘lasciviously-delivered in an actual sentence.  I also found it weird, three seconds later)

Spanish art director then said, “Well, what if they were really just admiring, and they want you to know they think you’re pretty?”

“Admiration, when it’s sincere, is flattering, but when they look at you like you’re something to eat, it’s just plain offensive and scary.  Pervy remarks from scraggly strangers are the worst.”

All three men pondered this for a while, each voicing out his concern that they didn’t know this was the case.  Does every girl in the company go through that, they asked.  Well, as far as I know, any girl who looks anywhere between 15-30 years old walking around in the city get that every single day.  It’s hardly flattering.  Men don’t know about it because constructicons (as my sister and I like calling them) and the like don’t dare it when you’re with another guy.  Even if the guy you’re with is obviously gay (don’t ask me why, they just don’t!)  A guy friend has been so used to my using him as shield that when I automatically move closer to him, he already knows there’s probably a wolf pack up ahead.  I call it the Guy Shield.

The Guy Shield is the most effective ward, but there are other ways to cope if it’s not around, like:

1) Plugging in your earphones.  It doesn’t really matter if you’re actually listening to music, just so long as you’re wearing them.  I haven’t had my only mp3 player fixed for the longest time, but I wear the earphones anyway.  It discourages the scraggly strangers from dropping yet another cheesy line.  Even if it doesn’t, you either don’t hear them or if you did, you can pretend you didn’t and deny them the satisfaction.

2) Having an umbrella at hand. Literally.  The weather is always freaky in Manila, so bringing it along whether it be rain or shine won’t be weird.  If you spot someone who looks like a pervert coming near, just swing it around like you can accidentally poke them in the eye without looking like that really is your intention.

3) Walking with lolas or women who are definitely more mature, and look like they won’t put up with nonsense.  The stern-looking mother is my favorite.  She’s a pretty fast walker as she always seems busy, so you can easily keep up with the pace.  Pervs don’t want to mess with her, and they don’t want Auntie to think they’re hitting on her, either.  She’s a perfect cover.

4) Walking behind an eye-catcher.  Back in college, I once walked behind this pretty, fair-skinned girl who was was wearing a tank top and a skirt.  Everyone looked at her all the way to the jeep we both boarded.  And I don’t know who had the last laugh when I heard her pay “her” fare in a rich baritone.

5) Say it with Dorothy Parker: “Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses.” Incredibly, this rings true in the case of street bums.  It’s almost as effective as The Guy Shield.  Personally, I think the right pair of glasses is hot, and they give balance to an otherwise too sexy outfit.  But it’s either deemed inappropriate to drop cheesy lines on someone who looks intellectual, or it’s just plain intimidating.  If you want to up the notch, pair it with a tight bun.  There are only a few things more daunting than the Miss Minchin look.

Most of these techniques involve downplaying your usual style.  And while I don’t usually approve, this is probably the only instance I’d recommend it.

Why do these men do it anyway? And do they even expect an actual reply? I’ve often wondered, because it’s not like I know any girl who has actually acknowledged their boorish attempts. Yet everyday, walking that other route is just one of the many precautions I take just so I don’t have to go through it. What a nuisance!

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