I’ve learned a lot of things working in the great city of Detroit. For one, I’ve learned I am, and probably always will be, directionally challenged. I’m not being self-deprecating here, just honest. Second, to speak more on practical matters, I’ve learned the best places to get coffee or which food truck is poppin’ at lunch time.
But when it comes to myself, I’ve learned…well…I AM learning how to interact with people more positivley. Let me explain.
On my lunch breaks, I’ll often leave my building and head to the center of downtown. I’ll either bring my packed lunch with me or stop and grab something to eat by the fountains in the park while I listen to whatever live band is playing that day. Sounds nice, right? Well ON my way to the park, I often am minding my own business when I’ll have a man lean out his car window to catcall at me, whistle or just say something straight up vulgar.
My initial reaction is to get pissed and not say anything. And I started out by doing that. But it didn’t take me long to realize this is not productive and these men, who just may not know how to speak to a woman, keep on with their…not so pleasant comments. So I’m really not helping anyone by doing this. Which got me thinking. There’s got to be a kind way to get it through to these people that 1. there are better ways to get the attention of women, 2. women are worth respecting and 3. you don’t want to cat call at me cause I’ll turn around and have a full-on conversation with you.
The first time I actually put this to the test was when I was attending a friend’s bachlorette party in Atlantic City. Before going to Atlantic City, I’d been to Vegas a year before so I knew what the “scene” was like. The night of the bachlorette party, we got all dolled up, had a nice fancy dinner and headed out to a club, as that’s what the bride wanted to do. To set the record straight, I am NOT a club girl. I love dancing and having some drinks with my girlfriends, but I can do that anywhere. In fact, I have done that anywhere. So when one of my close friends and I started to get tired of the club-mentality, we stepped outside for some much needed air.
It wasn’t long until 2 college guys who were well into their drinks for the night stepped right into our path and started trying to talk with us and give us every form of flattery they could think of, just so we’d go dancing with them. Everything from “you are the most beautiful person I’ve ever met” and “This dress looks great on you” and “Hey hottie!” and “You have nice legs”. While under some situations I feel some of these can be very nice compliments, I knew that the way they were saying them was not all that innocent. Eyeing us up and down didn’t help their case…
So I stopped them right there. I asked them ever so nicely, “Why do you keep commenting on our physical appearance?”. I truly didn’t want to ask in a condescending way but just 100% curious as to why they felt this was the best way to get through to us. They both stopped and stared. Speechless.
They went on to say that they thought we really were beautiful but didn’t know how else to approach us. This had always worked for them before and they just wanted an excuse to come up and talk to us. My friend and I went on to explain that if they wanted to talk to us, they should just come up and ask our names. Not make comment after comment about our appearances. Just talk to us.
So they started talking with us. Being very honest. We talked for a good 45 minutes about respect and how it goes both ways. They asked us for advice, how to just talk to a girl. I didn’t realize how nerve wrecking it can be for a guy until then. We explained how much more a girl will respect a guy for going up and starting up a conversation versus yelling some obscenity out at them. By the time we parted ways, they were thanking us for challenging them. No one had ever done that before, they said.
All of this got me thinking. It’s often the mentality that “I’ll respect you if you respect me. Disrespect me, and I’ll disrespect you.” Does anyone else think this is so twisted? Regardless of how we are treated I want to be able to say (no matter how hard it is) I am choosing to be respectful. 1. Because I respect myself enough to not let it slide when others disrespect me but 2. because we are all in this together (High School Musical style). If I don’t challenge others to respect me or even themselves, who am I to point the blame finger about how our world doesn’t know how to interact with others.
So since my trip to Atlantic City, I’ve had many, and I mean many opportunities to stand up and say something. Here’s a few things I’ve learned.
- Know what you deserve. And that is the very best. Do not let yourself become complacent with people oogling after you. You are more than your cute dimples or nice butt. You are you and that should be enough.
- Be kind. Always. I can’t even stress this enough. If you fire back with a snarky comment, what good have you really done? Sometimes I don’t always have time to stop and talk to these people so if they say something, I’ll turn, smile and give them a quick, “God bless!” They always look shocked that I said anything nice at all, but more often than not I’ll be walking away and hear a “God bless you too!” *Instant smile factor*
- Pray the Litany of Humility. I have a love/hate relationship with this prayer. After praying this, God always finds a way to humble me to my knees. But it’s so worth it. Going into any situation, know and truly believe you are no better than this person. They may have had an entirley different upbringing and just thought this WAS the way to speak to women. You never know the situation behind another person’s life so don’t imply to them or yourself that you do. Each person is just that, a person. They deserve respect as much as anybody else.
- Be brave. This, my friends, is hard. The first few times I talked with these men I wanted to barf I was so nervous. Pope Francis says, “Ask God what he wants from you and be brave”. Easier said than done, Francis. But try. I’ll be honest. It doesn’t necessarily get easier. I’m still a nervous wreck before I confront someone. But challenge yourself to challenge others. You’ll be so happy you did.
- Know when to step away. Please. Read the situation. If someone jeers at you, it’s often pretty easy to tell if it’s a good idea to say something or not. You never want to put yourself in a compromising or dangerous situation. I once was talking to a man and had to just get up and walk away. Go with your gut. Always always always.
In all situations though, just give it to God. Pray for that person before you say anything and after. You’re not going to get through to everyone. People very well may just continue/ start mocking you. That’s okay. Let them. Just know why you are going into this. You’ll be happy you did. So next time someone cat calls at you, I challenge you to challenge yourself to challenge others. Challenge accepted ?! ;)