Once, I was walking in my neighborhood with my husband, and we were behind two very young girls, maybe 11 or 12. It was a beautiful spring day, and the girls were wearing shorts and tank tops, letting their pale, vulnerable legs get some sun. They were at that delightfully awkward age where their limbs seemed like they just grew 5 inches, and they were walking like baby deer. Everything about them screamed, "I'm new to this world and this body." Suddenly, someone driving by yelled out at the girls and honked the horn. Afterwards, I overheard the girls talking about it. Who was that? Was it Samantha’s dad? He doesn’t have a car like that, does he? What was he saying?
I felt my rage building on behalf of these beautiful baby deer girls, and I told my husband that I was going to go teach those girls the correct and only response to that: the middle finger. I thought about explaining to them it's not Samantha's dad, but even if it were, he would understand why you gave him the middle finger (or he wouldn't but who cares?) But, not wanting to appear like the crazy woman I am inside, I let the moment pass.
Later, I thought about the countless times that same situation has happened to me and the fear and uncertainty it always provoked--Did I do something weird? Am I wearing something too sexy? Am I safe right now? I also thought about my 10 year old neighbor girl and my 8 year old goddaughter: girls I have watched grow since the day they were born; they, soon, will be experiencing the same thing.
I wish someone had taught me the proper response to catcalling because I spent years just trying to smile at it or not respond at all. Even now in the few times it happens, my first reaction is to not confront but to placate the person, as if I don't want to hurt their feelings even as my heart is racing, and I am left feeling small.
This is just a small slice of life of what it is like to be a woman, walking around in a woman's body. I hope I can teach the girls in my life to wear it even more bravely than I have.