I Miss The Catcalls

self esteem
Milenko Bokan / iStock

I know, I know—I can see the ruffled feathers on the fired-up feminists from here (incidentally, I consider myself one as well). I can hear the exasperated sighs and mumbled statements about being brainwashed by this terrible and misogynistic culture. I’m not saying that it’s right or politically correct or even rational in any way. I’m just saying, I miss them.

When you’re young, they come so often and from so many places, it’s easy to be overwhelmed and offended. I always felt so exposed and vulnerable, and my young self sometimes got irritated and just wanted to be invisible for a little while. All the attention can frankly just wear you down, especially when you’re 27 and you’ve already logged 14 years or so of being hooted and hollered at all the time. So ladies, I get it.

But then, somehow, those catcalls go from a steady and exhausting stream to nothing more than a trickle. Little by little, so slowly that you barely notice. And you tell yourself you’ve just gotten immune to hearing them all the time and maybe even congratulate yourself on rising above it all. But here’s the thing, and it’s a bit rude: You’re not not hearing them; they’re just not coming. And damn, that stings.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m still attractive. I take care of myself. I don’t wear mom jeans or stained and frumpy sweats. And so sometimes, I will get a man who stops to tell me that I’m pretty, and it’s nice. He may be an octogenarian, wearing trifocals, and running late to an appointment with his urologist, but it’s still nice. Okay, “nice” may be an understatement here. It’s not something I’m proud of, but I get inappropriately excited and happy when I hear a compliment like that. It may actually leave me with a spring in my step for several days afterward—I’m just saying.

Anyway, getting older and hearing less from the male peanut gallery can be a pivotal turning point for us, ladies. You see, some women choose their path, and it ain’t pretty: It’s the path of the plunging neckline, the too-tight jeans or too-short skirt, and the sexy dancing at the bar even before happy hour ends and the streetlights have come on. It’s the slightly maniacal anything-for-attention look, and it’s easy to laugh at those chicks when you’re young because it’s just so sad.

The other path sucks a lot less, but suck it does (at least a little). It’s the “I’m a wife/mom, and oh crap, I have to act like it” path. It’s the “Let’s meet at Chili’s for drinks at 7 in a cute top and jeans so I feel at least a little stylish, but I gotta be home at a decent hour to pack lunches for tomorrow” place. Sure, it looks really grown-up and mature, and it allows you to hold your head up high. But there’s no rush of adrenaline because you know you’re getting checked out by most of the male species in the joint, no basking in the attention of being appreciated as a hottie.

I hate to admit it, but the catcalls helped to validate me, helped me to know that I was attractive. And isn’t being attractive the end game? Aren’t most of us trying to use it to meet a nice guy and settle down with a house in the ‘burbs and two and a half kids? So now that I’ve got all that, you would think I be happy and enjoy it a little more.

And I do, the vast majority of the time. I love my life, my husband, and our boys. I had a good run for a nice long time. I’m (mostly) happy to pass the torch on to all the younger ladies out there. But sometimes, I miss the catcalls.